Hometown: New York, New York
Joints to check for: “Ugly People Be Quiet,” “Like This (Full & Fresh)” and “Product of the Environment (Remix)”
Previous mixtapes: Although this is their first mixtape, the turntablists have released a bevy of albums, including Built From Scratch and X-ercise.
The 411: In the era of exclusives, some hip-hop purists complain that you don’t have to have real skills on the 1s and 2s to make street-savvy mixtapes. And while DJs who only use DATs and CDs may serve as evidence for their criticism, there are still some turntabilists who make their compilations the traditional way — with wax.
The X-ecutioners built a reputation for being one of the most adept crews on the wheels of steel with such projects as 2002’s Built From Scratch and their stint on Eminem’s Anger Management Tour last summer. However, the three-man collective of Rob Swift, Roc Raida and Total Eclipse (Mr. Sinista has left the group) have actually been doing their thing together since 1989. And their love of the art goes back even further. On Scratchology, they not only compiled records to show which artists inspired them, but they also set out to school the masses on hip-hop history.
“The CD was something that I personally wanted to do for a couple of years, but I didn’t want to make a CD that would only reach that underground market,” said Rob Swift, explaining why the group opted to release its mixtape on Sequence Records rather than just giving it to the streets. “Scratchology is a way to explain that scratching isn’t something that came about in the last five years. Scratching and the DJ, [they] helped launch hip-hop.
“There’s basically three periods of scratching,” he continued. “There’s the genesis with Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc and guys like DXT. Then there’s the middle school with people like [DJ] Cash Money and Pete Rock. They basically helped the art grow from where it was invented. Then you have today’s [scratchers], [people] like the X-ecutioners and Mix Master Mike. We just played music that reflected those three eras [on our mixtape].”
Some of the cuts that serve as a musical history lesson are “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel,” where the DJ legend cuts up such records as Chic’s “Good Times.” From there, the New York troupe reintroduce Herbie Hancock’s ’80s dance hit, “Rock It.” Midway through the mixtape, the X-ecutioners take a more hands-on approach, actually adding their own scratches to the Pete Rock remix of Public Enemy’s “Shut ’Em Down” and Gang Starr’s “DJ Premier in Deep Concentration.”
Another track starring Primo is also featured later as the mixtape comes to a close. Built From Scratch’s “Premier’s X-ecution,” which features an original beat by the producer/DJ along with Roc Raida’s “I’ll Kick Ya Ass,” are among the tracks on the disc’s finale.
“Some of the early songs we played in their original form, like [the track by] Grandmaster Flash and ’Rock It,’ ” Swift explained. “A lot of people were hearing these songs for the first time. I wanted people to really hear the song in its proper context and see how [the art] has grown. Later on in the CD we started to do more manipulating on records because people are more familiar with those cuts.”
And while familiarity is always good, the X-ecutioners say they want more people to become more familiar with them on their next album. Swift and the rest of the gang, who are currently in the lab, said that they are about halfway done, but so far no guest collaborations have been made.
“Right now we’re really trying to make a strong effort to do songs that are a 100 percent reflective of the X-ecutioners,” he said. “We felt it was important to show people we can stand on our own two feet, but mad respect to everybody like Linkin Park and M.O.P. who were on our last album.”
Although Swift says Linkin’s Mike Shinoda probably won’t rhyme on their new project, he did say there was a possibility that they would get a beat from him. Swift estimated the new album should drop no later than January 2004.
For you mixtape junkies that prefer to hit up your favorite local bootlegger rather than go to a store, there are several selections that just arrived this past weekend, one of which comes courtesy of the Roc. The key word here is “sequel”: DJ Clue just released Desert Storm 2 in conjunction with Jay-Z. S. Carter has several freestyles on the mixtape, while his estranged homegirl Foxy Brown is featured via “Why You Hating.” Also DJs Kay Slay and Big Mike follow up their joint Racial Profiling effort from a couple of weeks ago with a part 2 as well. 50 Cent, Scarface and the LOX’s Styles team up for “Most Hated” and Fox Boogie pops up again, with yet another street offering on “Why, Why, Why.”
For a full-length feature on mixtape culture and the role of mixtapes in making a rapper’s career, check out “Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry.”
For other artists featured in Mixtape Mondays, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines.