Friday, April 11, 2014

Deep Into the Blackwatuz

See how "1. Radio Edit" and all are
off-center? I bet there was a 3. Inst
removed at the last minute.
In yesterday's post, I mentioned that "you might not've heard of" Blackwatuz. Well, you see I never intended to just leave you hanging there, because today's post is going to explore the depths of the Blackwatuz, particularly focusing on their only other 12" single, "Da' Kitchen" on Cipher Records and Echo International.

So, yes, Blackwatuz (as in "black waters") was a Jersey crew; it consisted of Vegaroc (MC and producer), Cyklopz (MC), Nasteeman (MC) and Greg G (producer). They produced the entirety of that Imperial Guardsmen EP. Dahead Beatuz Productions team (here credited as Da' Head Beatuz)? Yeah, that's Vegaroc and Greg G, and naturally they handle all their own production on this single, too.

This single here predates The Imperial Guardsmen (1999), and interestingly, it also features Sakinah "Sah-B" Britton. In fact, that connection is what first lead me to their record back in the day. Unfortunately, she doesn't really have a verse; she just does part of the hook, and her classic, high pitched voice sounds pretty watered down and generic here. In other words, they could've gotten any girl to fill her small role; they didn't tap any of her potential, so it's not a 12" to pick up if you're just a Sah-B fan.

So it has to rise or fall based on the strength of The Blackwatuz themselves. And it mostly rises. The production isn't amazing, but it's effective enough (and interestingly, not in the style of the Imperial Guardsmen stuff). The concept of the A-side is strong, talking about making love through the metaphor of a soul food kitchen. "Can I cook in your kitchen, baby?" However, some of the lines ("the way you slob on that corn of the cob makes me throb") really fall short of their ambition here by being just too juvenile and on the nose. But if you can get past that, it works; and it has a really cool instrumental vibe that helps sell it despite its lyrical missteps.

"No Boundaries" is the harder-edged B-side you've gotta package a high concept song like "Da' Kitchen" with to keep the heads happy. Everybody's rapping harder and faster, kicking just raw freestyle rhymes. But the instrumental is still unusual, with a very slow, atmospheric vibe and a sung chorus by Lil Debbie (no relation, of course, to the White Girl Mob's latest starlet). Not the kind of thing you'd expect at all for a rugged street-targeted B-side, but it's pretty good. And the MCs definitely come off more impressively here as traditional spitters than they did saying lines like "I'll go diving for fish; won't need a knife and fork when that fish is on my dish" on the A-side.

For what it's worth, the track-listing here is a little off (typical Echo!). The label lists Radio and Street versions of "Da' Kitchen" on side A, and Radio and Street versions of "No Boundaries" on the B-side. Really, both Radio versions are on side A, and both Streets are on B. So you get all the right stuff, just in a different order; no biggie, just thought I'd point it out.

I'm sure they recorded some more, unreleased tracks; but I don't think Blackwatuz out anything  out after this and the Imperial Guardsmen. I think that's less about how strong they were as artists, however, and more about how they just got to the game a bit late. By 2000, the market for indie 12"s like this was being shut down by the internet, and the tides were turning towards glossier, pop rap dudes. And this isn't any amazing, mind blowing, next level stuff; but Blackwatuz did manage to make some respectable random rap for heads to uncover if they're feeling venturous.

No comments:

Post a Comment