X-Ecutioners - X-Men Reunited
Reforming, The X-Ecutioners may not know what the future holds, but those who witness the resurrection at manning bar will see that time has dulled none of their turntablist superpowers. 3D’s Cyclone talked to the mighty Swift.
One of hip hop's greatest turntablist cliques has reformed. Australia will witness The X-Ecutioners - or, at least, the current line-up of Roc Raida, Rob Swift, Total Eclipse, Precision and Boogie Blind - for the first (and possibly last) time this month.
And, says Robert Aguilar, aka Swift, we have Raida, a regular Aussie visitor, to thank for it.
“The reunion was Raida's idea,” Swift affirms, never having toured here himself. “He does an annual DJ competition called The Gong Battle, and this is his first time bringing it to Australia, so he wanted to do something special for the competition out there.
“He called me and he wanted to know if I'd be interested in appearing at all the competitions with him and the other guys from the group. It was a no-brainer for me - I was like, ‘Yeah, let's do it!’”
“Oddly enough, when I left the group, it was two weeks before we were gonna go to Australia. So now finally after five years, we're coming out there to make up for the cancelled tour.”
The New York turntablist collective began as The X-Men back in the ‘90s as rivals to Clark Kent’s Supermen. They were later compelled to switch their name to The X-Ecutioners for legal reasons.
The posse was initially fluid, with over 10 DJs at one stage. But in 1997 the classic X-Ecutioners roster - Raida, Swift, Eclipse and Mista Sinista - premiered on San Francisco's Asphodel imprint with the evocative X-Pressions. They showed that turntablists could make inherently musical albums.
The X-Ecutioners then signed to Steve Rifkind's Loud, home to the Wu-Tang Clan, and dropped 2002's bombastic Built From Scratch. Rifkind styled The X-Ecutioners as turntable rock stars.
By time The X-Ecutioners followed with Revolutions, Loud had been absorbed into Sony. The corporates didn't 'get' turntablism, with Rob feeling increasingly irritated.
Outside of The X-Ecutioners, Swift was already pursuing a different trajectory. He was always a cerebral DJ, studying psychology at college. Raised on jazz, the Queens native delved into the emerging 'illbient' as early as 1997's solo debut, Soulful Fruit, on Stones Throw. However, during The X-Ecutioners' major label years, Swift's avant-garde tendencies were at variance with their MTV rock. He needed to experiment.
The X-Ecutioners had started to fragment with Sinista's exiting. Swift quit next. In fact, the collective never formally broke up. “I wasn't happy with the label we were on. I felt creatively the group wasn't really growing. I just felt bored. I wanted to do different things, so I was like, it's time for me to leave.”
The reunion has meant that The X-Ecutioners have come “full circle.”
Rob doesn't envisage The X-Ecutioners enduring once they depart Oz, but he's not adverse to their doing more in future.
The X-Ecutioners have two new recruits in Boogie Blind, a Pharoahe Monch tour DJ, and Precision, yet Swift has no clue where Sinista is. “Sinista currently lives in Virginia. Originally, Sinista’s from NY, and we used to bump into him here and there after he left The X-Ecutioners. But, since he moved, we don't see him anymore. I'm not exactly sure what he’s up to now, to be honest!”
WHO: The X-Ecutioners
WHAT: Play Manning Bar
WHEN: Saturday 11 October