Back In The Day, Ill Al Skratch Made An Anthem For Real Friends In Every Hood
Hip-Hop has had a connection to R&B since its inception. From shared session players and producers, to artists being on the same labels or under the same management, to straight up collaborations, the two genres have gone hand-in-hand for decades. However, there is a keen difference between putting an R&B singer on a Hip-Hop song and making music that combines elements of R&B and Hip-Hop. Ill Al Skratch’s legacy is recognized as the latter, and the group’s debut album was a high watermark for R&B-flavored Rap.
The duo of New Yorkers Big Ill and Harlem’s own Al Skratch stepped on the scene in June of 1994 with the single “Where My Homiez?” (embedded below) which was a minor hit on Billboard’s R&B and Rap charts. Then they came with the follow-up “I’ll Take Her” a few months later and with an assist from platinum crooner Brian McKnight on the hook, this cut broke Billboard’s Hot 100. McKnight was not considered Hip-Hop in the slightest, but the song was a hit with Heads and radio alike. Conveniently, he was Ill Al’s label-mate at Mercury, before a Motown tenure.
Riding off a strong buzz, major label Mercury Records released the group’s debut Creep Wit’ Me in August of 1994. Fully produced by LG (aka The LG Experience) and his partner LoRider, the album exuded an East Coast Funk along the lines of EPMD. The project was well-received by critics at the time and still holds up today.
While the offering was anchored by its singles (there are two versions of both “I’ll Take Her” and “Where the Homiez?”), the album cuts were far from filler. The standout of the bunch was a joint that was the unofficial sequel to “Where My Homiez?,” “This Is For My Homiez.” This chilled out tune continued the twosome’s celebration of close friends. Al sparks it off with his trademark rasp, and a verse about his locked up brother. I Lyrical Lord (ILL) follows with a quick stanza and then the Brooklyn Uptown Connection bust some solid trade-off bars. Clocking in at 5:26, this song would be considered epic in length by today’s standards. So, press play and do remember when Ill Al Skratch bridged the gap between raw Hip-Hop and polished R&B.
In 1997, Ill Al Skratch followed with final LP, Keep It Movin’. During this decade, the pair re-appeared as B.U.C. (Brooklyn Uptown Connection). That name stemmed from another Creep Wit’ Me track.
#BonusBeat: The “Where My Homiez (Come Around My Way)” music video: