The X-ecutioners 

Built from Scratch

It's well past time to acknowledge that the promise of a "turntablism as pop music" phenom has so far fallen flat on its face. While the craft itself deserves all the light it can get -- DJs with the hard-earned skills and talent need to make a living, after all -- the idea of a Top 40 superstar scratchmaster showing you around his record-strewn crib on MTV seems a bit ridiculous.

With that said, one crew out in scratch-land seems poised to raise the bar on mainstream acceptance. Unlike their sci-fi-induced brethren on the West Coast, the X-ecutioners have brought the kind of straightforward old-school hip-hop style to the game since 1989, as exemplified on their second album, Built from Scratch. While fellow battle champs like Qbert and Mix Master Mike have gone on to make albums that chronicle the adventures of octopus people and cosmic assassins, New York's four-man turntablist squad bring a focused, no-nonsense Gotham bump to the game.

Built from Scratch exemplifies the grit of Big Apple funk like few albums do anymore. From its deconstructions of city classics like Marley Marl's "Marley's Scratch" or the Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love," to their effective and vocal-heavy scratch-song structures throughout the album, the X-ecutioners have turned out what many could consider a miracle: a solid scratch DJ album with minimal filler. But not all of Built works: "Y'all Know the Name" becomes top-heavy with MCs like Xzibit and Inspectah Deck, and "It's Goin' Down" -- a collab with alt-metal idols Linkin Park -- "goes down" as derivative hard-rock rap crossover. Overall, though, these guys might just have built a new scratch-craft manifesto.

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