he X-Ecutioners, hailing from New York City, are a turntable crew that is renowned for their ability to juggle beats, scratch, and produce tracks better than almost any other group east of the Mississippi. The group that created the CD contains four members, Roc Raida, Rob Swift, Total Eclipse, and Mista Sinista. Sinista left the group closely preceding the release of Built From Scratch, but was probably the least visible member of the group, and therefore will not cripple the group in their future endeavors. Built From Scratch was delayed nearly four years, both for reworking and due to problems with the label. The recently folded Loud Records was a master at pushing albums back forever and then giving them no promotion, claiming that the promotion budget had already been spent. This previously happened to Mobb Deep with their album Murda Musik and Xzibit’s 40 Dayz and 40 Nightz. So, would their album be regarded as an artistic success like both of the two previous records, or would it be both a commerical and artistic disaster hampered by its four years worth of delays? Well...Built From Scratch is a decent album, borderline excellent even, but it doesn't quite live up to the expectations produced by four years of waiting.
The album doesn’t reach its true potential due to a lack of cohesion and stability. For example, the first single, “It’s Going Down”, was obviously recorded in the latter half of the recording cycle, due to its heavy fusion of rap and rock. Mike Shinoda, the MC of Linkin Park, is the featured artist on the track, and since LP only became popular recently, it is highly unlikely the X-Ecutioners recorded with such a mediocre MC before his band blew up. However, to his credit, Shinoda delivers a solid performance over a rocking track, featuring a dominating guitar riff during the hook, and some amazing turntable magic by the X-Men, specifically Roc Raida. Many would question the value of the group to the song, since they did not produce or rhyme on the track. This was the case on most tracks of Built From Scratch, though. One only needs to listen to the track to find out what the X-Ecutioners bring to each song on the album, and why it is truly their album. The group is very adept at the art of scratching, which molds a track in a special way, making it more dynamic and interesting to the average fan. Without the X-Ecutioners, the track would be just another Linkin Park song, instead of an excellent fusion of techno, rock, and hip-hop.
It is odd, however, that the CD would be delayed so much since most of the production is done by other artists. Dan the Automator produces the group’s theme song, aptly titled “The X-Ecutioners Theme Song”, and brings a very boring beat that even the group can’t really fix. The Automator's track is simply not memorable in anyway- the bassline has no forward momentum and the beat is the standard hip hop cliche 120 bpm schlock. DJ Premier, on the other hand, brings an excellent beat, reminiscent of his non Gang Starr production work, that is wasted on the lack of an MC on “Premier’s X-Ecution”, but the group members make up for it. The instrumental songs are nearly perfect, however, the lack of MCs often make them leave the listener waiting in vain for the rapping or singing to begin. This is probably due to the fact that the group is a DJ collective. Instead of having MCing obscuring the turntable antics going on, the X-Ecutioners opt to leave them out.
The tracks with MCs shine, however. “Y’All Know the Name”, featuring Pharoahe Monch, Inspectah Deck, Xzibit, and Mad Skillz, was actually recorded before the song that the new version samples, “Simon Says”, came out. "XL", featuring Large Professor, is obviously an outdated track that sounds straight out of Extra-P’s late 90's work, instead of his recent lackluster minimalist work. "Let it Bang", featuring current “in” guest-stars M.O.P. sounds like it was recorded right around the time that the CD was released, making it feel more current, but it just doesn’t fit with most the rest of the CD, which sounds like it is two or three years old. If all of the CD featured "Let It Bang" type tracks, the whole CD would be more consistent, and although reminiscent of a few years ago, still excellent. The new tracks are even better than the older tracks, but they still don’t fit in with the older material. All of the MCs on every track, including a posthumous Big Pun, Kool G Rap, and Biz Markie bring their best, which is excellent, but it still can’t save the inconsistency and lack of flow. Big Pun’s verse for his label mates was recorded before his untimely passing, and it simply sounds dated. This is the way the CD works: excellent songs that could belong on a classic album, but sound only like a little bit of the rest of the very dynamic album. While dynamic work is usually welcome in hip-hop, too much can create a very inconsistent effort, like we have here in Built From Scratch.
Reviewed by: Brett Berliner
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01