Album: Built From Scratch
Rating: 7.5 / 10
The problem with turntablists’ albums has always been converting the artist’s technical ability, great at a live show, into a format that is appealing to people other than merely fellow DJs. Many have tried, with varying results, but next up to bat, following their diverting debut set “X-Pressions,” are the X-Ecutioners. “Built From Scratch” has been several years in the making and you can immediately tell listening to the album; the team have clearly put in the hours, not only perfecting their skills, but also trying to find the, so-far, allusive balance of sufficient turntable trickery and pure entertainment.
The good news? They’ve almost got it just right; one can appreciate the four DJs’ talent on the Technics, without it hardly slipping into self-indulgence, and the seven ‘normal tracks’ are, for the most part, banging. Particularly impressive are the Large Professor produced gem, ‘XL,’ featuring Extra P also on the mic, and the storming ‘Let It Bang’ featuring the irrepressible M.O.P who seem to turn everything they touch to gold these days. We also have a final appearance from the late Big Pun, collaborating with the returning master Kool G Rap, on ‘Dramacyde,’ but the track just lacks that something extra you’ve come to expect from these two heavyweights.
One final thing must be said about ‘It’s Goin Down’ featuring the rapper and DJ from thoughtful nu-metallers Linkin Park, who prove not only that turntables and guitars can go together, but also that the guys have got the talent to make them stand out from the ever expanding modern rock stable.
On the turntable side of things, special mention must go to the blazing ‘Intro’ featuring Vinroc, Apollo and Shortkut, ‘3 Boroughs,’ which cuts up everyone from MC Shan to Big L to Jay-Z, and the sublime ‘X-Ecution Of A Bumrush’ featuring the mighty Babu and his Beat Junkie buddies.
As with all albums, however, there are several miss-fires, namely the disappointing appearances from Everlast on the underwelming ‘B-Boy Punk Rock 2001’ and Biz Markie on a 2002 update of ‘Genius of Love.’ The tracks are not only fairly average, but severely ruin the flow of an otherwise very solid album. Finally, there’s not much left to say about skits that hasn’t already been said, but ‘Who Wants To Be A Mother Fuckin’ Millionaire’ deserves a special mention for being so dire; the concept is played out already and the Arsonists did a much better job of it on their last album. Please, record companies, stop allowing your artists to waste our time with these pointless interludes.
Criticisms aside, this is still one of the best examples of how to do a quickly growing sub-genre well. DJ Revolution managed it two years ago, and “Built From Scratch” is almost as good. Head and shoulders above most other rival crews, their incredible deck skills evoke amazement and the guest MCs, for the most part, are equally impressive. Hopefully this will be the encouragement needed for others, such as the Beat Junkies, to finally step up with a similar album of their own…