Each morning as I make my way to work, I find myself flipping through the various local radio stations and select one based upon my mood. If I am feeling that I need a jolt to get me going I may stop on a college station; they're great for punk and metal even at 5:30 AM. But if, on the other hand, I'm just looking for something to play in the background as I make my way, I'll pick something a bit softer, maybe one of the adult contemporary or classic hits stations. Of course there are the mornings where I am running late and need something up tempo to match my driving, and that's when I turn to hip/hop. Hell, sometimes I even stumble upon techno and electronica. Combine all these diverse styles and you'd get something that resembles General Patton vs The X-ecutioners.
In one of the oddest pairings since Turner and Hooch, the multi-talented Mike Patton and world famous turntable crew The X-ecutioners (DJ Rob Swift, Grandmaster Roc Raida, and DJ Total Eclipse) have teamed up for an inspired release. So how did this all come to light? Patton approached them following one of their improv performances with the idea of doing a record together. He then sent the turntable-workers some choice selections from his personal vinyl collection for them to construct into their own arrangements. The results were sent back to Patton for him to add vocals and manipulate however he felt necessary into what we now have before us.
There are three distinct song styles that came out of this battle of the musical wits: 1) those that straight up demonstrate turntable skills and little else, 2) those that mix both Patton's unique vocal skills and the scratching techniques of the X-ecutioners but lack any definitive song structure and 3) those that combine both parties' skills into traditional song arrangements.
The first two tracks fall into the first group - featuring Patton's industrialized beats and the scratching skills of the X-Men, as they are affectionately known. In order to add some personality to these cuts, included is a sample from an old school kung-fu flick. These are followed by "!Get Up, Punk! 0200 Hrs. (Joint Special Operations Task Force)," which is one of the few tracks that follows traditional song-structuring. The bouncing beats and playful keys/synths supply the main structure of the song. Patton rhymes his verses with a snarling voice and the X-ecutioners scratching is filtered into the background. I found the chorus of this track to be especially catchy, even finding myself singing it throughout my workdays.
The latter portions of "!Kamikaze! 0500 Hrs. ("Take a Piece of Me"), follow a similar pattern. However, the song does begin on par with a Wu-Tang opening. If it's the X-Men's side of this offering that has drawn your attention, then you'd likely get your thrills from "Improvised Explosive Device 0300 Hrs" and "A.W.O.L. Block Party Brawl 0600 Hrs." These pieces are fairly untouched by Patton and are exemplary evidence of what can be done with a turntable. However, the X-ecutioners' contributions are somewhat limited and spattered throughout the record so buyers beware.
Things do diverge into the abstract, which is to be expected when dealing with an eclectic musician like Patton. Spaced out over the course of several tracks, he unravels a wide variety of sounds. Patton mixes everything from jazz and lounge with early pop and funk. This is then carefully intertwined with the handy work of the X-ecutioners. There are some really strange combinations, not something that I would expect the average radio listener to enjoy.
Patton and the X-ecutioners circle back to near-song form on "!Fire in the Hole! 0400 Hrs. (Joint Special Operations Task Force)." Here, Patton is backed by eerie background noises as he croons, creating something not unlike material from FantÃÂ´mas' The Director's Cut. Other personal favorites of mine are "L.O.L. -- !Loser on Line! (Hate the Player, Hate the Game)" with its infectious vocal harmonies, and "Battle Hymn of the Technics Republic," because of the Star Wars sound effects that were sampled.
I have to give it up to The X-ecutioners for going through with this collaboration; this is definitely left of center. Outside of the traditional Patton fans that likely purchased this anyways, I would look for fans of Rhazel and the currently buzzing underground hip hop scene to be into this. Those that enjoyed the Jay-Z/Linkin Park effort might also fancy this, but I wouldn't recommend it to just anybody.
7.0 / 10
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