The Goats Tricks Of The Shade (Sony Music) AT the time of the L.A. riots last year many rappers were, in no uncertain terms, saying ''we told you so''. It's ''the CNN of the streets'', controversial rapper Ice-T once described rap music. If that's true, then from where The Goats are reporting, theStates is looking a little sick. Filing their latest news item via their debut album Tricks of The Shade, The Goats, from Philadelphia, are probably set for a scoop in the world of hip hop - politically speaking at least. It's safe to say that the number of male rap artists prepared to defend gay rights, abortion laws and the civil rights of native Americans, could be squeezed in to the back of Ice T's Jeep. So move over boys, here come Oatie, Madd and Swayzack, and they are not as their opening track blurts Typical Americans. As a point of reference, the CD is formatted a bit like De La Soul's debut album, with a narrative that mocks American society, punctuating the tracks. But the comparison ends there, as this is a sour humour with a whiff to suffocate De La Soul's ''daisyage'' sentiments for good. The off-track narrator, Chickenlittle, finds his mother imprisoned in Prolivin Prison for planning an illegal abortion while his new-born brother Hangerhead is a mutant. The orphans looking for support are told to go to find their uncle down at the fairground, Uncle Scam's Federally Funded Well Fair and Freak Show. What follows is a series of satirical skits sandwiched between 14 seriously uncompromising tracks. To say this multi-racial band have it in for Americana is more than a mild understatement. ''Anyone who wears a cowboy hat and talks about apple pie and hot dogs, Chevrolets and the American way is a goof racist''. They claim. They champion Leonard Peltier, a native American community leader jailed for the murder of three FBI agents in 1973, who they say remains incarcerated and guilty in the eyes of the law despite mounting evidence that proves his innocence. The band are signed to Ruff House a subsidiary of Sony Columbia, and one would have thought they would be a hot potato worth avoiding for the music giant. The inside cover of the first single to be taken from the album, Do The Dig's Dug?, does shed a little light on their bravery however. Already The Goats have garnered credible press including Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Village Voice, Serious Hip Hop . . . the list goes on to list a few more noteworthy publications one cannot help thinking as if to spread the blame. And the music? It doesn't have the chaotic clout of Public Enemy, but most of the tracks are full of innovative harmonies and hip hop tricks that pull together soul, rock, reggae and even a bit of Irish folk here and there. For their efforts, The Goats have been dumped in that odd grouping ''alternative hip hop'' which they say neatly puts them in the wilderness. Tricks Of The Shade is certainly entertaining but the wall-to-wall and often single-paced raps saturate and sadly overpower the musical subtitles that lay beneath. There is not a great deal of live instrumentation on the CD but on stage, as much of Europe will find out this summer, they are live and electric. In the world of hip hop which is increasingly conscious of its own image in the face of criticism from those who deny its artistry, anything new is seen as a milestone and a mould-breaker. Tricks of The Shade, though, undoubtedly is the real thing. Its success in the eyes of the hard core elements of hip hop culture, however, remains to be seen. They may not be quite ready to take on gay rights and the rights of their sisters who they so often refer to as ''bitches''. As you would expect the boys have a theory. ''If we were all white then there would be this major hoopla about us, if we were black we'd be up there with Paris or Public Enemy. But you can't mix up and diss the government because that's not the plan. Racial harmony's not part of it.''