X-Ecutioners Built From Scratch

From the moment you catch sight of the cover, it's obvious the X-ecutioners want to take you to school. The photo, a homage to Public Enemy's Yo! Bum Rush the Show cover, features the X-ecutioners along with hip-hop's founder DJ Kool Herc and Grand Wizard Theodore, the man who fortuitously invented scratching when his mom walked on him playing music too loud. As well as referencing old school throwbacks on "Play That Beat" and "Genius of Love 2002," Roc Raida, Rob Swift, Total Eclipse and the recently departed Mista Sinista look to push things forward as well. For the group, this means building on their 1997 debut X-pressions, and the decision here has obviously been to make their vinyl-shredding more palatable than the experimental bent of that record, yet preserve the essence of the art form. It's a thin line, but the crew walk it very well, soliciting cameos from fellow turntablists (the Beat Junkies and Triple Threat), producers Dan the Automator and DJ Premier, and missing-in-action MCs like Large Professor and Biz Markie. While a record with such a plethora of guests could easily fall flat on its face, the focus on the turntables anchors the record, and mercurial cut and splice routines like "3 Boroughs" and "A Journey Into Sound," a collaboration with human beat-box Kenny Muhammed, are among the many reasons the X-ecutioners say a whole lot on this shrewdly conceived album without having to open their mouths. (Loud)