He’s the hip-hop Bobby McFerrin. Well, not as cheesy but definitely as magical with his mouth. “I don’t consider what I do just beatboxing because that makes it limited,” explains Scratch as he enters his label Ropeadope Records’ offices in NYC. “I say crazy vocal abilities.” Just check his first track with The Roots, “? Versus Scratch” for proof of the insanity. “I came up with the title of my album, The Embodiment of Instrumentation a year before I did anything on the project. I wanted to make the title come to life. It’s self-explanatory. The Roots were out with Things Fall Apart, Rahzel was about to drop his album and I was thinking that I wanted to do something creative, something different, something of my own apart from The Roots projects. This is for people who don’t know who I am or what I do.”

Scratch does more than make music. He’s on a mission. “I want to bring out beatboxing as an art more than people have ever accepted it,” he points out. “People always treat it as a here or there thing and never give it true appreciation. It’s an art form that started along with hip-hop when the hip-hop foundation was first created. I grew up a part of that but a lot of listeners didn’t experience the old school artists and all that hip-hop music history. All they know is what’s being spun around the radio now.” Many rap devotees would consider this a shame. “Hip-hop inspired me in the late ’70s, early ’80s, early ’90s and then the inspiration stopped. The art form became less appreciated. It was an expendable type thing like the way it is now, like microwave music. You pop it in today, pop it out and it’s hot for a second. Artists like Kurtis Blow, Eric B., and Rakim, Run DMC-they had an impact and were doing something they loved. Now it’s about dollars. It’s materialistic and that plays with how people live every day. I want to bring back the old school sound that makes you want to hear my music for years.”

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Whether spitting beef or beats, Scratch’s mouth is constantly working. “In my childhood, I was always around the house making noise. I would check out what DJs were doing and mimic the radio or my mom’s 45s. I listened to my uncle play with his band. I didn’t have things of my own so I made sounds with my mouth because it seemed easier. Since I was 6 or 7 years old, everyone encouraged me to do records. It’s a God-given gift. And I just try to do my best to master my craft and bring it to the forefront.” Tracks like “U Know The Rulez” featuring Black Thought, Malik B, M.A.R.S. and Co-op and “Exhibit One” with Malik B hit you in the chest and leave your brow twisted at his “crazy vocal abilities.” But according to Scratch, it’s the raw funk of “Square One” with Bilal that sets the standard for the entire album. “That’s one of the first songs I recorded and then everything else had to be just as tight.” Working with a cast of predominantly Philly heads, Scratch matched the textures of his choice artists’ voices to his beats, like fitting a puzzle’s pieces together. “I wanted to make my songs hot,” he assures. And to measure the levels of heat, he uses the head-nod meter. After 15 seconds, if your head is moving back and forth, you’re feeling the song.

“I hear a record and I can emulate almost anything on that record,” explains Scratch about his craft. “I make you feel like you’re seeing a DJ. I’m distinct from Rahzel. He’s more mechanical. I also like Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie. They got skills. Super Latin in Cali is tight. He did “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa and caught me off guard. In Paris, there’s a guy named Eclipse that I worked with for a couple of weeks doing live stage shows. We made it seem like there were four turntables on the stage. There’s Eminon, DOA beatboxed in a Wrigley’s Spearmint commercial. I like people who bring something new and fresh to the table. I deal with the undeniable. I’m trying to set a mark and set a standard.” It’s obvious Scratch appreciates, loves and sacrifices for his art. Like the time he beatboxed in a show even when his lip was split. Or the numerous sore throats he’s suffered through when the weather changes or he’s overworked. With plans to head out to Europe soon and appear on the Smokin’ Grooves Tour, plus promote the Roots’ latest CD, Phrenology, Scratch concludes with his current game plan: “I’m just trying to do it all.”