Rating: 3 out of 5 Potholes
While it was once the norm, the one MC, one producer album has become a rare breed – despite critical acclaim. Blu & Exile crafted a classic disc with Below the Heavens; Fashawn teamed up with Exile for last year’s excellent Boy Meets World and Freeway and Jake One’s The Stimulus Package is one of this year’s best-reviewed releases. In fact, Marco Polo, the producer behind The eXXecution, is no stranger to the formula – having released Double Barrel with Torae in 2009 – and is looking to equal the success of that album.
According to the Toronto-born producer, The eXXecution was born out of a “simple studio session to play beats that turned into Ruste Juxx recording nine songs. The joints came out so crazy that we said let’s turn this into a full-length album. Nothing was forced. Ruste came through, heard beats, wrote, recorded…done deal.”
The eXXecution opens with the simple sounds of a piano and Ruste Juxx offering up the dictionary definition of an executioner – and then the heavy-hitting drums make their first appearance. Ruste’s lyrics don’t stray far from braggadocio, but his gruff delivery works nicely with the beat – and the song definitely fits into the Duck Down discography. The addition of DJ Revolution on the 1s and 2s doesn’t hurt the track either. The trio returns for “Death Penalty” and all three actually up the ante on this boom-bap track. Marco Polo’s beat hits hard and suits Ruste’s menacing lyrics perfectly (Last LP I said death to all my enemies/now I’m sending them…the death penalty). But it’s DJ Revolution who almost steals the show; the scratched chorus is a perfect example of just what a DJ can lend to a track – and his work to close the track is mesmerizing.
On “Rearview” Ruste gets his chance to flex some lyrical muscle over another hard-hitting track; his repetitive raps, by design, ride the beat perfectly – even if his content is still focused solely on his skill. Ruste shouts out Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Doug E Fresh and Dana Dane – which is appropriate for this old-school-style banger. On the surface, “Take Money” is essentially a crime story, but the combination of Marco Polo’s frenetic beat (that still hits hard) and outstanding contributions from Rock and Freddie Foxxx (no surprise here) make the song a success.
Ruste Juxx’s ode to his hometown, “I Am On It” also doubles as a chance for him to flex his Boot Camp affiliation (Rappers can’t f*$k with me/I don’t need Ruck with me/Bet I got a Steele and a Tek that’ll Buck with me) over a minimalistic beat (that, again, features hard-hitting drums). “Let’s Take a Sec”, with all three members of Black Moon, opens with DJ Evil Dee introducing the cut and offering up some scratches before the three MCs (5ft, Ruste Juxx and Buckshot) represent the real hip hop – as the chorus suggests. The song is both an ode to hip hop and an abbreviated history of Duck Down Records – and is a resounding success.
Sean Price opens “Wings on Your Back” with a few words before Ruste rides the slower, synth beat – and he absolutely kills it. The drums are still hitting hard, but the song is much different than what we’ve heard from Marco Polo to this point. Braggadocio is still the focus (Ruste Juxx reign of destruction over MP production/Nasty! Simply disgusting/The track too sick, the rhymes so venomous/Slick Rick the Ruler bow down in my eminence), but it sounds too good not to nod your head. Sean P shows up again on “Fuckin’ Wit a Gangsta” to drop a verse; Marco Polo offers the MCs a rolling, heavy drum track that hits hard and suits the Boot Camp representatives perfectly. As expected, Sean Price steals the show lyrically – but that is more of a testament to his skills than anything else.
Unfortunately, the album isn’t without missteps – at least from the MC. “Bread on Ya Head”, “Nobody” and “Watch Yo Step” all feature great production from Marco Polo (especially “Bread on Ya Head”), but suffer from either an uninspired Ruste (“Watch Yo Step”) or braggadocious repetition (“Bread on Ya Head” and “Nobody”).
The album, however, does end on a high note. “You Can’t stop Me” opens with an almost sinister or cinematic introduction and finds Ruste Juxx in an introspective mood. His lyrics detail the people he’s lost to “the game” and he experiments with a change in style in the chorus – where he is almost singing. The song looks forward and the braggadocio from early in the album isn’t present as the album winds down. It’s an interesting way to end an adrenaline- and testosterone-filled album, but one that definitely works.
Boot Camp Clik fans will recognize the formula for this album (hard hitting beats and hard-hitting lyrics); The eXXecution definitely fits into the Duck Down discography. Marco Polo fans will count this as another success for the producer – and will eagerly await his next project. And they should. After all, there is a reason his name is first on the album cover.