Uncanny X-Man

DJ pioneer Rob Swift of the X-ecutioners turntable crew isn't just spinning his wheels

While the other three members have each made names outside of the group by DJ'ing for high-profile hip-hop acts, it's Swift who has become the most recognizable X-ecutioner, garnering critical praise for his 1999 solo masterpiece, The Ablist. Unlike his partners, he sees no need to play the backup man for an MC. "My goal is to establish myself as an artist," he explains. "I'm glad that I'm able to go out there on my own in the world and just express myself as a DJ. I always felt that DJ'ing for a rapper is similar to 'You can work at a prestigious company, or you can own the prestigious company.' I'd rather own it and be the one to call the shots."

One could argue that his decision to appear in a television ad for The Gap earlier this year with Shortkut of Invisibl Skratch Piklz was fraught with mixed materialistic messages. Ultimately, however, more exposure for Swift means more exposure for turntablism. "We had Gap clothes on, but we were all cuttin'," he relates. "We used "The Matrix' by Dizzy Gillespie -- we're scratchin' over it, getting busy -- and to me, we were being ourselves. Nothing about the commercial compromised our integrity. It was just us up there -- and the beautiful thing about that is that we were able to reach a lot of people that haven't seen DJ'ing at that level. It's already reaching the mainstream."

Rob Swift: One of the four world-class, title-winning DJs who make up New York's X-ecutioners.
Rob Swift: One of the four world-class, title-winning DJs who make up New York's X-ecutioners.

Indeed, in the past decade, hip-hop has permeated every aspect of American culture, from clothing to a rappin' can of Pringles, but will the masses ever accept the turntable as the musical instrument it is? Swift thinks so. "My goal is to kind of keep breaking doors down so that at some point in the future, you'll see DJs like myself performing at the Grammys or the American Music Awards. I saw Mixmaster Mike on the VH1 Awards, and they kept cutting to him before the commercial breaks -- they'd show his hands and he'd be scratching. But hopefully in the future, it will be on a larger scale, where it'll just be Mixmaster Mike by himself. No Beastie Boys, no rappers, just him."

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