Truly a gem in any collection of turntablist efforts, Rob Swift's Soulful Fruit bore a Stones Throw label when it first dropped in 1997. As a member of a New York deejay outfit called the X-Men (and later called the X-Ecutioners), Swift's first solo effort is a lengthy roll call of crusty soul and hotel lounge breaks, manually trimmed into brief, funky, scratch-heavy loops.
The intro snippet on Soulful Fruit is from Mr. Holland's Opus, and even though Richard Dreyfuss doesn't stay on board as mixtape host, it's still worth a listen. From there, Swift spins slow, understated soul, offering blends of things that would be or have been eventually cribbed for beats anyway. His "Itchy Vibes and Drums" features some nice low-key beat juggling, and he handles a nice snare loop while inserting and yanking out a small section of vibes and bass. He slices up the drums and scratches up a vocal sample before giving way to "Cutting with Class," which moves in the same sluggish manner, complete with scratches and drum cuts.
These two pieces set a precedent for the tempo and generally relaxed feel of Swift's set. Unlike the quirky motion but memorable kitsch of Demolition Pumpkin Squeeze Musik, a manifestation of turntable expertise from DMC world champ and Invisibl Skratch Piklz contributor Q-Bert, Swift focuses on creating seamless late-night post-party breaks with occasional bumps upward into celebratory vibes.
Other than his dazzling scratch routines featured in most of the entries here, Swift's interesting choices are noteworthy vocal interludes. Beat Junkie and Dilated person Babu chats about his decks on "Interlude 1: Babu Speaks," and former X-Men member and EPMD deejay Diamond Jay offers a live twisted cut-fest from a radio-show recording. Even Bruce Lee gets a spot.
The most talked about guest on Soulful Fruit, though, is the one who goes round and round with Swift in a genial battle setting. The Roots' human percussionist, Rahzel, years before he would sound out the lush rhythm tracks for Bjork's Medulla, engages in a call-and-response to Swift's live breaks and scratches. Although Swift is evidently agitating the tables into a frenzy of what he so competently illustrates elsewhere on Soulful Fruit, the blue ribbon would probably go to Rahzel.
In lieu of citing what this mix has done for turntablism and noting that Swift's achievements here mark the efforts of an undeniable still-present entity who's recognized inside and outside of hip-hop, all conclusions point to another (though less noteworthy) quality of the deejay's work: After nearly ten years, the complex turntable antics and warm, earthy mood of the lethargic Soulful Fruit is still stunning.
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