Paul Wong

Built From Scratch


With the recent breakup of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, the X-Ecutioners (formerly X-Men) have been left standing alone in the hip-hop spotlight as arguably the best DJ crew in the business. To follow up their groundbreaking first album, New York’s finest have released Built From Scratch, further testament to the instrumental possibilities of the turntable. Much to their credit, the X-Ecutioners have managed to craft a sound that is entirely their own, a sound characterized by abrasive, bass-heavy beats and skillful scratching. They are no longer simply mixing music but creating it, and they have managed to quiet all the music bigots who still insist that the turntable is not really an instrument.

Unfortunately, for all their talent, the X-Ecutioners join today’s long list of talented musicians (MCs and DJs alike) who, for some reason, merely produce half-assed hip-hop. Built From Scratch is an album that possesses plenty of quality scratching and experimentation but lacks much of the creativity and musical insight that made X-Pressions so great. The several big-name MCs that grace the tracks only offer some uninspired battle rhymes to balance out all the scratching. Perhaps some metal fans will enjoy the collaboration with Linkin Park on “It’s Goin’ Down,” but any self-respecting hip-hop head can steer clear of this four-minute serving of dung. The only impressive lyrical performance comes from Pharoahe Monch on “The X (Y’all Know The Name).” Intermittently placed between the tracks are a couple of skits (brought to you by the same people who create the WHATFM skits), which should have people reaching for the skip button on their stereos.

Fortunately, Built From Scratch is saved by a number of worthy tracks. “A Journey Into Sound,” innovatively combines beat boxing by Kenny Muhammed and bizarre scratch samples. On “Premier’s X-Ecution,” producer DJ Premier offers pleasant beats to go along with some quality scratching. Aside from that, there remain a bunch of decent songs that smoothly combine all the elements of turntablism and should find their ways onto future mix tapes.

The essential fault of this sort of album is that provides a poor venue for the art of turntablism. Most of time, the four DJs are forced to hold back their skills so that they can all contribute in harmony. Consequently the scratching and juggling on this album are certainly impressive but hardly spectacular. In addition, an album cannot convey the important visual aspects of turntablism. We cannot witness Rob Swift’s creativity or Roc Raida’s incredible beat juggling tricks. It is difficult for anyone who isn’t highly knowledgeable of dee-jaying to appreciate what is taking place.

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