Ill Al Skratch: Where’s My Homies?

When Nas asked where are they now to some of rap’s pioneers, Ill and Al Skratch heard their names shouted out once again by the QB veteran. A longtime fan of the duo from Uptown and Brooklyn, Nas wanted people to ask Ill and Al Skratch “Where My Homiez?” the title of their 1994 hit […]

When Nas asked where are they now to some of rap’s pioneers, Ill and Al Skratch heard their names shouted out once again by the QB veteran. A longtime fan of the duo from Uptown and Brooklyn, Nas wanted people to ask Ill and Al Skratch “Where My Homiez?” the title of their 1994 hit from their debut album.

Although they’re no longer as active in the rap game as they once were, the duo has a genuine love for Hip-Hop and promises to make a return to the spotlight once they can make it pop-off exactly the way they want it to—with no BS getting in the way of creating good music close to the essence of the culture they played an important role in bringing to the forefront it is today. Although they have a few regrets as far as the business end of the game, the two have nothing but warm praise for Nas, music and, of course, each other. They wouldn’t be homies if they couldn’t recognize how they each make themselves better rappers through a little healthy competetion. Nas asked where they were. We found them. Read on for an exclusive featuring two heavyweights of the 1994 era. I want to know what the two have you been up to since the ’94 era you debuted in. What have you been up to since then?

Al Skratch: We’re in the studio right now. We’re just listening to a lot of different tracks by up and coming producers. We’re working with a cat out of Queens called Landlord [and] Coptic. We got some other people we’re working with but we don’t want to let the cat out the bag, you know what I’m saying. I’m producing a couple of joints too.

Ill: As far as the music is concerned, we buy a lot of music. We love Hip-Hop. We love rap music. We’re always checking who’s coming out on the mixtapes. We’ve been doing that for years. A lot of people have complained that Hip-Hop has changed and it’s become commercialized. But it’s good for the game. It opened up a lot of doors for more entertainers, which, to me, is a great thing. It’s interesting you say that, because a lot of people would think the opposite. But one rapper who’s been around since then till now is Nas, and Nas has always shown the two of you love in his songs. Most recently, he gave the two of you a shout out on Hip-Hop is Dead. What was your reaction when you first heard it?

Al Skratch: Real recognize real. That ‘90s era is a certain part of Hip-Hop that will probably never be captured again because the street was directly connected to the radio. That’s a part of a change that takes place now because a lot of the things that are out now may not be, you know, just street. The music may be the same, but the rawness of rap may not be the same. But as far as Nas, we have nothing but respect for Nas.

Ill: A lot of people might recognize [it] now, but Nas has always been real with everything that he did. I always respected Nas. I always had a lot of love for Nas. I understand where he’s coming from as far as, like, the game being changed. From the aspect of the [new] artists coming out, they’re just destroying it. You know, going against each other and stuff like that. But a lot of times, [beef] was done in more of a fun way. Now, it’s more commercialized. People look at it differently. But [at the same time] the game is what it is. It’s always been that way. Look at LL and Kool Moe Dee. All the dudes from back in the day used to diss each other. That’s good for Hip-Hop to me. Do you guys ever feel healthy competition with each other?

Al Skratch: It’s always been like that with me and Ill. That’s how we first met, actually. I got on a record that Ill was doing. He was like, “Yo, I love your energy man. Bring that energy that you did for you, and bring that on my remix joint.” That is a part of the chemistry that a lot of people saw that we had with each other. It’s like, he elevated me in that way, you know what I’m saying? How long were you guys rapping before you got the deal back then?

Ill: I was rapping for a while. I wasn’t really trying to get a deal. I just loved rhyming, music and kicking something that people liked. I just happened to hook up with a couple different people that was producing in the studio. They were putting it down and working on some songs. That’s when I got down with Al. He already had a deal structured and the people he was working with liked the way we sounded together, so they kind of just put me in there with Al. We just took it from there. I think we sound good together. Would you agree with that Al?

Al Skratch: I would completely agree with that. I think that’s what Ill Al Skratch is about. Not even to mention that fact that Ill is from Brooklyn and I’m from Uptown, that could be like, a Black and White thing. But just to put it together, and it sounds good. I got the melodic flow, what have you, that Uptown flow. He’s got that Brooklyn swag…you know, mad confident with it. To bring it together and make it sound good [is an accomplishment]. We came together and we gave people a taste of Ill by himself and Al by himself. Speaking of the album, Creep Wit’ Me, it was a good album. If you could do something differently, what would it be? I would say the quality was there, but maybe the business end with the label was not. What do you think?

Al Skratch: Do you wanna build on that a little? I would say that maybe the promotion was off, or maybe Polygram didn’t market you enough. Do you agree?

Ill: No. I would think that we definitely had a little buzz going. I think that they put our music out there. But I don’t know about the availability of the product. The distribution, I don’t know if it was actually in the right areas, or at the right time and stuff like that. They kind of had us all over the road, bouncing all over the place, instead of focusing on like one market. At the same time, the label had a bunch of different projects going on. We kinda had to do it ourselves.

Al Skratch: Ain’t no love lost though. I got love for everybody we worked with in the past, you know what I’m saying? Would you maybe, knowing what you know now, have done things a little differently?

Ill: I probably would have brought a couple extra people in just so they could stay on top of the label. We was out there trying to work the music, meet the fans and deal with the people. A lot of times we didn’t have nobody there making sure that everything was popping off the way that it was supposed to be popping off. I think what we should have did is probably have a couple more people more involved in the project from a managerial point of view to stay on top of the label. What advice would you give someone who’s just starting out in the industry, as far as that business end goes?

Ill: As far as the business end? Make sure that they get the right people working with them. Get an attorney, get a lawyer and make sure they fully understand everything that they’re getting into. Make sure that whoever they get down with has love for the project.

Al Skratch: Make sure they believe in their project. Don’t half-ass it. Go in. If you’re gonna go in, go in for real, man. ‘Cause back then, a lot of people…even though a lot of labels believed only half-assed into a project, the artists believed in it. Or the manager of the artist believed in it so much that he knew he could do it. That’s how Hip-Hop got here. Somebody was like, “I know what this is. I know what this is gonna do.” They kept pushing and pushing and pushing. Now we’re running labels. That’s all a part of the vision.

Ill: I would also add that you gotta love what you do. You gotta get rid of that artificial love! Exactly. So, I’m taking it that you guys have been rapping ever since?

Ill: I mean, you know. Everybody got a little rhyme book. Let’s not front, Chris. You probably got a little rhyme book stashed somewhere, you know what I’m saying [Laughs]. You might write notes, you do poems and all that. But as far as getting up there and grabbing the mic, and commanding the show and all that? It’s been a minute since ‘94, ‘93, ‘92. Did y’all take a hiatus?

Ill: As far as the music, I haven’t really been out there trying to promote anything like that because we really didn’t have the material or stuff like that together. Just recently, we decided that we’re gonna go ahead and try to mash out something. But from that aspect, we really haven’t been out there touring or doing any kind of shows or anything like that.

Al Skratch: We gotta a lot of offers, I mean, not a lot, but we got a couple of offers that’s on the table that we can take advantage of. But we gotta come out there and come correct. It’s like what Ill was saying before. It’s not like we’re like “Yo, we gotta get this money.” If we’re gonna do it, it’s gonna be done the right way. We already walked dogs when everything wasn’t properly in line. We gotta do it in a way where we’re loving to do it. I want to shift gears just a little bit. I remember that video you had with Brian McKnight back in the day, I think it was called “I’ll Take Her.” And I remember the video, it was like, you had this groupie and you were taking her backstage, you know what I’m saying. So I want to just ask you, do you have any crazy stories from being out on tour? Like, from all your memories, what sticks out the most?

Al Skratch: The memory that sticks out the most? Being on tour could be wild and crazy, you know what I’m saying? But I have a couple of memories when we was out with Big and Puff. But I think the most memorable one was me, [Ill] and Nas and we just at the back of the hotel. We was in the pool.

Ill: Oh yeah.

Al Skratch: Nas had the Henny and he was like, “Yo, come up, man.” That’s like, to me, even though we was on tour, it was like, we was back on the block. You know what I’m saying? It was like, “Yo, let’s get this Henny. Let’s just find that peace moment.” That was beautiful to me. Is there anything you want to say?

Ill: [Rhyming] I’ve been down since your vision was Coleco/What up to Stretch and Bobbito/Will Smith, Charlie Mac back in ‘86/That’s about the same time I met Mark Pitts/What up Alex/I knew some n***as from the West as well/They kept it jingling baby, big ‘ol butt for L/Back when Busta was in the other studio with Mickey D/Come on n***a, that was me/OK, when KRS did “The Bridge is Over”/I was standing right there/Chris Lighty worked in Union Square/I never met the teacher but he dope though/ My n***a Tron came up with Puff’s Logo/ I did a joint with D without the Run/I did a joint with Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jack-son/Homie so hot, I can make the same hit/Or I can hit you with a thousand bars, on some Game s**t.”