The first time I heard the name Ill Al Skratch, I immediately thought he was a deejay. It wasn’t until after seeing the video for “Where My Homiez?” that I realized Ill Al Skratch was a duo, consisting of Brooklyn native Big Ill (“Ill” being an acronym for I Lyrical Lord) and Harlem’s own, Al Skratch. This is a misunderstanding that a simple ampersand placed between Ill and Al could have cleared up, but whatever. Al started in the game as a DJ and then morphed into an emcee after a few different group situations didn’t work out. While working on his solo demo, Al met Big Ill (who was already gaining momentum in New York for a freestyle he kicked at a Big Daddy Kane party, where he apparently dissed the party’s host, and a feature in The Source‘s once highly coveted “Unsigned Hype” column (June of 1993 issue)) at a studio working on his demo as well with a producer named LG The Experience (who is the younger brother to Easy Mo Bee). Al would bless Ill’s demo and things would progress until the two formed a group and eventually inked a deal with Mercury Records, where they would release their debut album, Creep Wit’ Me in the summer of 1994.
For Creep Wit’ Me, Ill (who is Puff Daddy’s doppelganger) and Al would call on LG The Experience and Lorider to handle the album’s production work from beginning to end. The album produced a couple of well-received singles, but shockingly didn’t move enough units to earn the duo a gold plaque, which the group has openly blamed on Mercury for not giving the album the proper promotion to make it a commercial success.
But here at TimeIsIllmatic, we don’t care about commercial success. We’re only interested in if the music is good or not.
Random Factoid: Ill Al Skratch were tapped by Michael Jackson himself to spit a verse on the remix for “They Don’t Care About Us” from his HIStory album.
They Got Love For Us – A simple Intro with Ill and Al performing their first single “Where My Homiez?” live, to very receptive crowd, hence the reason they used it for the album.
Where My Homiez? (Come Around My Way) – This was the lead single from Creep Wit’ Me. Big Ill and Al Skratch send this out to each other and the rest of their homeboys. LG and Lorider build the instrumental around an interpolation of Barry White’s “Playing Your Game, Baby” and chase it with a touch of r&b; and it goes down pretty smooth. Neither Ill nor Al display great lyricism, but the catchy hook and smooth groove help qualify this as a hip-hop classic in my book.
This Is For My Homiez – Sticking with the “homiez” theme, the storyline for this one has Al free on the streets while his buddy Ill is incarcerated, leaving them both with a bad case of the lonelies. As the story goes, this was actually the demo that Ill was working on the first time he met Al, and “Where My Homiez?” is subsequently the remix for this song, which explains the similar hook, melodies and adlibs. LG and Lorider use the same formula as the o.g. version, this time using an interpolation of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Devotion” and giving it a hip-hop twist. The instrumental is a cool melodic groove, but the content is repetitive and should have at least been placed later in the album’s sequencing.
I’ll Take Her – This was the second single from Creep Wit’ Me. Ill and Al were clearly looking to win over the female fans with this one by bringing in Brian McKnight to sing the hook and adlibs, while our hosts boast about snatching up your chick if you don’t treat her right, over a heavily r&b flavored instrumental and a clever EPMD vocal sample. Speaking of Brian McKnight and snatching up the next man’s chick, my brother actually lost a girl to Mr. McKnight back in the day, but that’s a story for another day. This one may be too r&b for some of you hardcore hip-hop heads, but I liked this one back in the day and I still enjoy it 25 years later.
Chill With That – Ill and Al talk their shit over this solid mid-tempo bop. That’s all I got.
Where My Homiez? (Come Around My Way) (Dub Version) – Ill and Al wrap up the first half of Creep Wit’ Me, completing their three piece “Homiez” Suite with this dub mix of the original.
Creep Wit’ Me – The title track finds our hosts along with their guest Mike Real doing their best Onyx impersonation, and as you probably expected, it’s mad corny. To add insult to injury, the instrumental is way too clean and melodic for the fellas aggressive animated antics.
Get Dough – What would a hip-hop album be without an ode to making money (and another rapper misquoting I Timothy 6:10, this time by Al Skratch)? Our hosts invite the incredibly dope and underrated vocalist, Lisa Fischer to sprinkle some adlibs and sing the hook on this one. I would have loved to hear her sing a verse over this slick instrumental, but the song is still solid, as is.
Uptown Connection – Zoundwavez and LRC join Ill and Al on this cipher joint, and the hosts rap circles around their guests. But the true standout on this one is the dope LG/Lorider instrumental. I absolutely love the organ breaks on it.
Classic Shit (Ill’s Solo) – Ill gets the first solo joint of the evening, and he’s talkin’ big shit in a distorted vocal tone over a decent backdrop. On his final verse, Ill spits what may have inspired the late great Big Pun’s iconic “Little Italy” verse from “Twinz”: “Even if you’re large I’m breakin’ you down little, and brittle, it’s not a riddle, your shittle, be in a hospital” (your thoughts?). The instrumental is a little subdued for Ill’s aggressive rhymes, but it’s still a decent listen.
Summertime (It’s All Good) (Al’s Solo) – Al uses his solo joint to celebrate summer time in New York city, which pretty much revolves arounds the ladies. LG and Lorider attempt to capture that breezy summertime feel with the instrumental, but it comes off cheesy, and the singing on the hook borders on annoying.
I’ll Take Her (Brian’s Flow) – This a dub mix of the 0.g. mix with just Brian McKnight’s adlibs and hook. It would have dope to hear BM add a couple of verses to the track, but that didn’t happen. And we’re done.
Creep Wit’ Me feels like Ill and Al knew they had two hot singles (in “Where My Homiez?” and “I’ll Take Her”) and then added the rest of the tracks just to fill out an album (which might explain why they felt the need to also include the dub tracks for the first two singles). Neither Ill nor Al are superb lyricists (but Ill is clearly the stronger emcee of the two) and their subject matter is extremely limited, but LG and Lorider rescue what could have been a potential train wreck with some pretty solid production work. LG and Lorider create their own unique sound, blending soul breaks with hip-hop sensibilities and sprinkle a futuristic sophistication on it. Creep Wit’ Me is a decent debut, and entertaining enough to peak my interest to listen to its follow-up.