The Billy Goats aren’t changing the hip-hop world, they’re making their own 

The Billy Goats are, um, different—not quite short bus different, but the sock puppet on the cover of their debut album There's No U In Team could make you think otherwise. It's not the motley combination of race, gender and hairlines in their clique or even the fact that their record is being released by local rock purveyors Spat! Records rather than Shiny Lens Flare Hustlaz Entertainment Productions Inc. or something of its ilk—though both facts set them apart from the greater hip-hop scene. No, what makes the Billy Goats different is that in a world of rappers trying really, really hard to impress you with either their excessive consumer spending or their excessive positivity, the Billy Goats are all sorts of busy not giving a fuck.

The Billy Goats—MC Iller, MC/producer 24/7 and DJ/producer Etticut—are a "warts and all" kind of crew, equal parts self-deprecating humor and surface noise from the dirty dollar-bin records that constitute the bulk of their samples. Granted, there's still plenty of the braggadocio that's been in hip-hop's heart since the beginning—Iller isn't afraid to "rap about how big [his] cock is / To a room full of indie rock kids" or "lay you down and make the mattress melt," but every boast is as likely to be followed by an admission of alcohol-induced idiocy as it is a reaffirmation of its author's awesomeness.

On tracks like "Hey Girl" and "Last Night" Iller subverts the typical "rapper as world's greatest lover" tropes revealing the half-drunk, half-hearted attempts at honesty of a dude just trying to dip his wick. Hell, the entirety of 24/7s vocal contribution on "Nina, Sing Me to Sleep"—a jaunty, playful bit of piano bounce—is spent reminding Iller that he is, in fact, embarrassingly desperate. What you'll find is that The Billy Goats offer some of the most nuanced and complicated takes on relationships you're likely to find in contemporary hip-hop, shy of Kanye West's pity-party masterpiece 808s & Heartbreak. Of course, the Goats never really get as sad sack as Mr. West—there are too many dick jokes to be made to get caught up in the bullshit of floundering love.

Musically, The Billy Goats are graduates of the Diggin' in the Crates/J-Dilla school of highly melodic, texturally rich beats that bring a lot more funk than the carefully quantified, overpolished productions you'll hear on the airwaves (or the half-assed imitations that clutter most of the mixtapes and MySpaces across the hip-hop nation). The hallucinatory, swirling strings of "Boys Amongst Wolves," the woozy horns of "Black Magic" and the wah-wah funk of "Special Sauce" exhibit a group more concerned with their own musical exploration than kow-towing to contemporary tastes or the mores of micro-genre parochialism. I'd be willing to wager that neither Atmosphere nor Gucci Mane would be able to rock the staccato string plucks and the Cowsills sample that form the core of "Life Is a Whore" and maintain a sense of dignity, never mind make a dope, dope track. As Iller puts it, "There's no game in his shame."

The Billy Goats might not be the most revolutionary group to pick up two turntables and a microphone—and I wouldn't argue that they're trying to be—but they are a welcome relief from so many of the self-serious, self-congratulatory rap outfits that populate the rap world, backpack, big time or otherwise. On There's No U In Team The Billy Goats have created a musical world that's all their own, where it's always last call, the beers are always two-for-one and even the bald guy with glasses has half a chance of going home with someone who's not completely damaged. It's world where poppin' bottles probably means Kentucky Tavern, flossin' refers to teeth and backpacks are meant for carrying PBRs—and that's why the Billy Goats are different.

Email music@nashvillescene.com.

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