A New Documentary Sheds Light On The Secret History Of Ill Al Skratch (Video)
There are plenty of Hip-Hop artists whose moment seemed too short. The creators left us music that we still play and celebrate, but some of us do not know the story behind the work as well as higher-profile acts and artists.
A new documentary by TRB2HH puts a spotlight on mid-1990s duo of Big Ill The Mack and Al Skratch, collectively known as Ill Al Skratch. While this group was not quite a “one-hit wonder,” its time in the limelight was relatively brief. Most Heads of a certain age will remember their big singles “Where My Homiez? (Come Around My Way)” and the Brian McKnight-assisted “I’ll Take Her” with nostalgic fondness, but very few know their history and what went on behind-the-scenes.
Some of the more interesting details revealed in this doc are those about Al’s music career leading up to linking with Ill. In the late 1980s, he was the DJ in a decidedly commercial Hip-Hop trio called Party Posse with MCs Ted Love and Fabulous. They were signed to Jive Records and released a debut titled It’s Party Time. The group was short-lived, but Skratch and Tedd Lewis continued under the new name, The AlnTedd Experience. By this time Al had transitioned to rapping and was already starting to develop his melodic flow. The pair made a little noise with a single titled “Boom! This In Your Vehicle,” which was released by Fader/Mercury Records. However, when Tedd also decided to step away from music, the lyricist born Alphonso Constant was left with a major label deal and no partner.
Equally intriguing is what Ill was up to before music. In this doc, the group’s former road manager, Alexander Knotts, tells the interviewer that Ill (which stands for I Lyrical Lord) had a well-paying Wall Street job before becoming serious about rapping. But in 1993 he was featured in The Source magazine’s “Unsigned Hype” column, and his buzz quickly grew. On one fateful day in the studio, while recording his demo with producer The LG Experience, he was introduced to Al Skratch. He knew of Al’s “Boom! This In Your Vehicle” cut and was hyped to have him jump on a song. That record was “Creep Wit Me,” and it established their R&B-tinged street sound. This signature sound would be carried on with smash hits “Where My Homiez?” and “I’ll Take Her” featuring their fast-rising R&B label-mate.
At the height of this twosome’s popularity, they recorded songs with The King of Pop Michael Jackson and Shaq.
Unfortunately, according to the speakers in the doc, these two artists were financially taken advantage of by their production company and record label. According to the film’s sources, Mercury did not market Creep Wit Me properly, stifling sales. Meanwhile, the label quickly shifted its focus to their latest New York City acquisition, Blahzay Blahzay. The MC of that group, Blah, confirms as much in this film. Ill Al Skratch did release a sophomore album with Mercury titled Keep It Movin’, but much of the market seemingly did just that. Like so many artists with a few great singles in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, tides shifted.
It is worth noting that these native New Yorkers did resurface and release new music in 2012 under their alias Brooklyn Uptown Connection. However, for a collective that never got its proper recognition, this documentary takes the time to tell the story.