Finding The GOAT Group: A Tribe Called Quest vs. Public Enemy. Who Is Better?
“Finding the GOAT Group,” the fourth installment of Ambrosia For Heads’ annual competition series features Hip-Hop’s greatest collectives vying for the #1 spot. Sixty-two groups have been pre-selected by a panel of experts, and one slot will be reserved for a wild-card entry (which has been determined), including the possibility for write-in candidates, to ensure no deserving band of MCs and DJs is neglected. The 2018 contest consists of seven rounds, NCAA basketball-tournament style, leading to a Top 32, then the Sweet 16, an Elite 8, a Final 4, and so on, until one winner is determined. For each match-up, two groups are pitted against one another with a ballot to decide which one advances to the next round. Though there will be an enormous amount of debate in comments, on social media, in barbershops and text messages, which we encourage, only votes cast in the official ballot count.
The first match-up of the Final 4 is a face-off between two of the most respected brands in Hip-Hop: A Tribe Called Quest and Public Enemy. P.E. had already released three game-changing albums by the time that A.T.C.Q. dropped its first. From statement albums to in-house production squads, Public Enemy influenced Tribe, so much so, that the group put Chuck D on its Midnight Marauders album cover. While both crews have walls of platinum and gold, it could be argued that Quest’s ’90s mainstream success was not available when P.E.’s messaging was its loudest. Both groups have proven to be masters of album-making, with handfuls of essential Hip-Hop singles, and words that forever altered the Rap lexicon. Both acts have ’80s roots and yet have carried their flags into the late 2010s. Both groups have soundly beat all opponents, but the margins have narrowed as the championship approaches. Only one legendary New York outfit can reach the final round. Your vote decides which one it is going to be.
A Tribe Called Quest
A.T.C.Q. stands tall as one of Hip-Hop’s most trusted and consistent sources of music. For nearly 20 years, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad (and sometimes Jarobi White) released six distinctly-themed albums and two handfuls of additional songs via soundtracks and Native Tongues features. In all of it, Tribe oozed originality. Lyrically, they covered unique and universally accessible subject matters with whimsically inventive rhyme routines. Songs about lust, resisting oppressive governments, and coping with stress were intermixed with elite Rap illustrations about collecting props and besting lesser MCs. In step with their song themes, the group was at the forefront of free-form sampling, eventually drawing extensively from Jazz in a way that re-purposed record crates for producers across the genre. Lou Reed, Funkadelic and Ramsey Lewis records were sliced precisely in a way that showed respect for musical forefathers, without relying on their grooves. The interplay with Tip and Phife epitomized chemistry with distinct voices and personality, as Ali spoke with crisp cuts. The Queens, New York collective produced its music, especially the biggest hits. Through the journey from teenagers, to proven Rap stars, and reunited family after an 18-year hiatus, Tribe was on a Quest to be something different in the musical space. All six LPs achieved gold or platinum status, with 2016’s We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service earning a #1 on the group’s final award tour. Having retired the group in the wake of Phife’s death, A.T.C.Q. is an immortal Hip-Hop brand that made the Rap group like its coolest in four different decades.
When Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Public Enemy formed in the mid-1980s, their mission was to disrupt the status quo of not just the Rap industry, but all of Pop culture. During the Long Island, New York collective’s formative years, the Black community was being ripped apart by rampant drug abuse, political disenfranchisement, and lulled by the apparent whitewashing of mainstream media. True to their name and logo, P.E. stood out as targets for combating these forces with truths—about oppression, inequality, and a media agenda. Chuck D stood as the front-man and the booming voice of power. Flavor Flav played hype-man and a jester in the commanding court. Meanwhile, martial arts expert Professor Griff led the group’s military aesthetic including S1W soldiers. DJ Terminator X’s scratches matched the energy of the delivery in this high-powered demonstration. P.E. debuted with an iconic hat trick of three LPs: Yo! Bum Rush The Show, It Takes A Nation Millions To Hold Us Back, and Fear Of A Black Planet. The groundbreaking sampling techniques of their in-house production crew The Bomb Squad on songs such as “Don’t Believe The Hype,” “Fight The Power” and “Welcome To The Terrordome” pushed the boundaries for Rap music. In more than 30 years, P.E. has never slowed its roll or ceased operations. On the road and in the studio, the group with more than 14 albums continues to deliver a message to the masses.
So who is the better Hip-Hop group? Make sure you vote above.