Going back to the late 80’s and early 90’s there was a crew of DJ’s that used to assemble in assorted bedrooms and basements all over NYC and practice body tricks, unorthodox scratches, and ill routines using multiple turntables at once. They were called the X-Men and their ranks contain the creator of the art of beat juggling, “Superman” Steve D, Sean C (AKA Sean Cane), Diamond J, Dr. Butcher, Boogie Boy, Rob Swift, “Grandmaster” Roc Raida, Mista Sinista and Total Eclipse (at least at the time of these recordings..Precision has since joined the ranks as well). They were successful in several battles and individual members racked up accolades and respect on the turntable battle/demo circuit. They’d been immortalized on the seminal tuntable documentary “Battle Sounds”. The Supermen Inc. Battles For World Supremacy, New Music Seminar battles, DMC and ITF battles had all been conquered, the final frontier for the crew was to sucessfully apply the medium of turntablism to wax.
The X-Men were forced to change their name after signing a deal with indie label Asphodel Records in order to avoid a legal battle with Marvel Comics and they tightened their membership to just four members, Rob Swift, Roc Raida, Mista Sinista and Total Eclipse. The newly christened X-Ecutioners recorded their first album “X-pressions”on the heels of the success of Bomb Records “Return Of The DJ” and OM Records “Deep Concentration” compilations ( available for download on this blog) in 1997. Later on the same year, Rob Swift released his project “Rob Swift presents Soulful Fruit” on Peanut Butter Wolf’s Stones Throw label. Both albums were successful and well recieved as the X-Ecutioners once again hit the demo circuit and toured the world.
In 1999, Rob Swift returned to Naut Humon and Mitzi Johnson at Ashodel Records to record his album “The Ablist”. The project featured guest spots fromhip hop band Dujeous, Rhymes from Pharoahe Monche, Gudtyme and a jail freestyle from Ganghis Khan, and production from Johnny “Juice” Rosado, Dr. Butcher, Dujeous, Dan The Automator, and Rob Swift himself. Rob’s motto for this album was “The Will To Do Something Different”...Rob Swift was ready to do some different shit (and he executed it extremely well). “The Ablist”was a turntable masterpiece that measured up well to the other landmark turntable based albums that came out around the same time (some of which will be available for download on this very blog in the near future).
A landmark moment for turntablism happened in July 2000 at the week long Lincoln Center Festival when the X-Ecutioners performed a 40 minute piece called “The Deconstruction Of Blues On Four Turntables” during an exhibition called “The Turntable As Ensemble Instrument”. While us hip hop heads were more than familiar with the versatility and creativity of tuntablists, the spectators at said event were awestruck (I take it they never heard of Portishead). It made such a huge impact that they recieved a long standing ovation, converted several previous non believers to the beauty that is Hip Hop as well as receiving a big write up in the July 18th, 2000 edition of the New York Times. Roc Raida and Mista Sinista released individual projects (Roc Raida founded Cor Adair Entertainment) and they appeared on several documentaries, most namely the video series “The Adventures Of Grandmaster Roc Raida”. Shortly afterwards, the X-Ecutioners signed a deal with Loud Records to release the project “Built From Scratch”.
The X-Ecutioners released “Built From Scratch” in early 2002, the project featured guest appearances from beatboxer Kenny “The Human Orchestra” Muhammad, Large Professor, M.O.P., Dan The Automator, Linkin Park, DJ Premier, Pharoahe Monch, Xzibit, Inspectah Deck, Skillz, Tom Tom Club, Biz Markie, Everlast, The Bum Rush Bros. (Babu and J.Rocc of the World Famous Beat Junkies), Kool G Rap and a posthumous verse from Big Pun. The albums cover was inspired by Public Enemy’s classic debut “Yo! Bum Rush The Show” and it features the X-Ecutioners with Kool Herc, Grandwizard Theodore (the creator of the scratch), and Grandmixer D. ST (his cuts on Herbie Hancock’s “Rock It” introduced a whole generation to the art of scratching). The album is the culmination of 5 years of battles, tours, exhibitions, and recording that helped change how the public at large viewed the culture of hip hop as a whole and in particular, the art of turntablism. All four albums, X-Ecutioners “X-pressions”, “Rob Swift presents Soulful Fruit”, Rob Swift “The Ablist” and X-Ecutioners “Built From Scratch” all all available for download below.
For full tracklistings, cover art or more general info on these uploads check out http://www.discogs.com or do a regular Google search. All uploads are Zip files, download and enjoy ‘em:
Rob Swift presents Soulful Fruit (1997)
Rob Swift-The Ablist (1999)
X-Ecutioners-Built From Scratch (2002)