There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Turntablist culture puts a premium on head-to-head competition, and many of today’s DJ legends first found fame at national scratch-offs. So it seems logical to assume that the average pro turntablist would be just as cocky as an MC of equivalent status. Somehow, though, it’s just not so. Check the evidence: It takes only a few listens to Built From Scratch, the second disc from New York’s X-ecutioners, to understand the inferiority complex that apparently comes with being a DJ for life. The four-man turntablist collective has existed in one form or another since 1988, but it wasn’t until 1997’s bare-bones classic, X-pressions, that the group put its style firmly on wax. Unlike that disc, which had only underground aspirations, Built From Scratch is an unabashed kissy note to the hiphop marketplace. The grooves are first-rate mixtures of vinyl acrobatics, live instrumentation, human beatboxing, and electro samples, but the guest stars serve as a depressing reminder that even scratch masters must rely on MCs for splashes of charisma. Best moments: The weird, teeter-tottering “A Journey Into Sound,” in which the only mouth noise comes from ace beatboxer Kenny Muhammed, and “Premier’s X-ecution,” in which a DJ Premier-produced beat serves as the backdrop for a nostalgic five-way scratch-off. Worst moment: Giving the lameasses of Linkin Park more than a few seconds of recognition on “It’s Goin’ Down.” Indeed, whenever the rappers (Large Professor, M.O.P., Pharoahe Monch, and Kool G Rap, among others) swoop in for their microphone time, the subtext is that their couplets are a necessary evil. On a disc as instrumentally strong as Built From Scratch, such pandering is a shame; it’s almost enough to make turntablism’s lost-art-form status seem more self-fulfilling than self-proclaimed. —Joe Warminsky