The X-Ecutioners represent a facet of hip hop that has been shortchanged since before the Fresh Prince's career eclipsed DJ Jazzy Jeff's. Too often, the shadowy figure behind the turntables is ignored (by all except the fellow DJs in the audience) in favor of his attention-grabbing cohort with the mic. Recent years, however, have seen a revival of disc jockey appreciation; witness the popularity of artists like RJD2, who let vocal samples, the occasional contributing MC and, of course, their skills do the talking.
Like any other cultural phenomenon worth playing to death, this recognition has trickled down to the mainstream enough for the accomplished (and well-connected, judging from this record's guest artist roster) X-Ecutioners to release their work on a major label. And Revolutions is pretty breathtaking. There's a huge variety of styles here, from the infectiously old-school "Like This", featuring Anikke's JJ Fadd-reminiscent vocals, to the laid-back but busy "The Truth". X-Ecutioners like their distorted guitars as well, and for the most part incorporate them without creating shameful echoes of Kid Rock ("Let Me Rock", in which up-and-coming pop-punkers Start Trouble cement their reputation for banality, is an exception).
The abundance of high-to-medium-profile artists on Revolutions produces mixed results. On a reworking of "More Human than Human", Rob Zombie is completely blown away by both the X-Ecutioners and Slug from Atmosphere. On the other hand, even Cypress Hill can't fuck up "Get With It"'s fist-pumping guitar grind. And while X-Ecutioners sounds for all the world like the name of a gangsta rap group, they've chosen to work with people who avoid the stereotype-perpetuating shite about cars, money, women and crime; the lyrical focus is mainly on music.
Revolutions is catchy enough to make the most malled-out young suburbanite ask Mom and Dad for a deck for Christmas, but has the substance to impress the jaded as well... as long as you're not such an elitist that a few MTV names will scare you away.