Thursday, April 10, 2014

New Jersey's Imperial Guardsmen

This is an interesting record right here, especially for Jersey heads; but really anyone into the 90s indy vinyl scene should be intrigued by this line-up: Raggedy Man, Sah-B, Blackwatuz (okay, you might not've heard of them) and Nocturnal (the same Nocturnal I posted an interview with a couple months ago). They all came together to release The Imperial Guardsmen in 2000, an indie EP on Tribal Child Records, the label Raw Elements used to be on in the 90s.

Now the production, provided by the mysterious Dahead Beatuz Productions team, is... interesting. It seems to be based on just looping single, big chunky samples over a beat. I kinda like it, but it's not the kind of thing that impresses you and makes you want to seek out more of their stuff. It's enjoyable, and is more effective on some tracks than others... Overall it's pretty engaging, if a bit low-fi sounding.  But that's how we like our indie 12"s, right?

First up is Blackwatuz and Sah-B with "Black Summa," and if your mind is immediately leaping to Sah-B's debut single, "Summa Day," you're on the right track. Instrumentally, it's pretty dissimilar, but conceptually and lyrically it's like "Summa Day" part 2. But of course, this time it's got the Blackwatuz guys on it, and lyrically it might even be a little stronger. The production's at its catchiest here, too; and there is a singer (Judith LeTemps) adding a hook, but it's only in the background behind the Watuz doing their own hook. She winds up sounding more like a sample in the background, which is cool.

Then the Blackwatuz return for "Da Floods," which is their lyrical skills flexing track. The beat loops up a classical record, sounding like a Stoupe beat, even with a similar change-up in the music every so often. No Sah-B this time, disappointingly, but otherwise it's all good.

Raggedy Man's track is next. His was my most anticipated song before I actually heard this, but now that I have it, it's my least favorite on here. I could still see it being some peoples' favorite, though. It's a bit different, going for a more playful, Grand Puba vibe. The beat's a nice rolling piano and Judith LeTemps is back doing her chorus behind the MC's own chorus vocals, but this time she doesn't sound like background. The track is a nice rolling piano loop I haven't heard used before, and Raggedy is bringing the clever wordplay and personality... but maybe it's the drums? I'm not sure; for some reason it's just not clicking for me.

We end with "Money-N-Power" by Nocturnal, featuring Vega (of Blackwatuz). Nocturnal comes off on this one and the track has another Stoupe-ish feel (though not as close as "Da' Floods"). So it's a good, solid way to end the EP.

You get all the songs on side R, and then clean, radio edits of each on side PG. It might take a little searching, but overall, this is a cool, sleeper 12" I'd recommend for most fans of the indie 90s 12" days, with an added appeal of historical interest for this into the Jersey underground scene.

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