Even nine years after his horrific murder, DJ Uncle Al's name still rings heavy in the streets of Liberty City. In what was said to be a case of mistaken identity, Al's death on September 10, 2001 was overshadowed by the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Four years after the fact, a suspect was charged with the murder, but then those charges were dropped in 2007.
Ahead of his time in more ways than one, Uncle Al's albums elevated his career and made him an underground celebrity. He served as DJ on a short-lived, but popular radio show with Luke and Freaky Red on 99 Jamz. And his ultimate goal of Peace in the Hood still runs vibrant today.
What about DJ Uncle Al's legacy? DJ Krunch One of the Street Connect DJs was one of Al's closest friends. He was also one of the original members of Al's crew, the Sugar Hill DJs, which was named after the Sugar Hill projects in Liberty City where they all grew up. Krunch One thinks there's still a lot that need to be done in order to preserve Uncle Al's memory and his legacy.
"We're trying to turn NW 15th Avenue between MLK to NW 71st to DJ Uncle Al Avenue," Krunch One says. "Everybody knows how much [Al] meant to the community, but nobody is really doing anything. Let's give back to his kids who still live out here. Let's set up a foundation for them, help them and really keep his legacy alive."
While we know the above is easier said than done, we definitely wish them luck. We can at least tell you that Uncle Al and his memory still lives strong. Over the last week, New Times was able to ask a few of the faces of Miami's hip-hop scene what they remember most about Al and his legacy. Here's what they said:
"Uncle Al was for the people. He is a Miami legend! Uncle Al was my friend and was one of the most humblest person I know. He represented Miami "
- DJ Khaled, DJ/Producer (99 Jamz/We The Best Music Group)
"Uncle Al is a Miami legend. He is Miami. He is 305. He is Dade County. What I loved about Al is that he didn't care if you were Cuban, black or white ... lo que sea. He would look out if you repped the crib [and] that's why he will forever live in the streets of Miami and in the hearts of those he helped, including myself. One time for Uncle Al, mix it up!"
- Pitbull, Recording Artist (Mr. 305, Inc/Polo Grounds)
"I remember Uncle Al being a very generous and fun guy. He was a beast of a DJ! He was someone that always kept a smile on his face and greeted me like his little sister!! He was a very kind and gentle guy. If he was at the party, you knew it was gonna be rocking. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him!"
- Trina, Recording Artist (Slip-N-Slide Records)
"Uncle Al was the truest embodiment of everything Miami. From music, fashion, politics, and lifestyle, Al was a true representation of this city and he still is to this day. R.I.P., Uncle Al."
- Cool & Dre, Producers (Epidemic/Cash Money Records)
"Uncle Al was influential, definitely a 305 pioneer. He set the standards and tone for everybody in Miami. There were no block parties better than the ones he threw."
- Brisco, Recording Artist (Poe Boy Records/Cash Money)
"Uncle Al served as more than just a DJ for so many people in Miami. He was hope. Since he showed so much love for hometeam, he had the potential to take a lot of male artists off the streets corners to using their talents to get out of the hood. He was truly the democratic DJ we needed. There have been many false prophets claiming to be for the people of Miami, but have proven to be for themselves. Truth is, there will never be another DJ Uncle Al. R.I.P., homie. Gone but never forgotten!"
- Jacki-O, Recording Artist/Author (Jackmove Entertainment)
"Greatest DJ ever. The DJ Screw of Miami. A DJ in Miami who paved the way for all DJs."
- Billy Blue, Recording Artist (Poe Boy Music Group)
"Uncle Al had an incredible spirit that made people feel good. He brought fun and laughter through his music that he lived and died for. He had the cunning ability to take any popular hip-hop song, speed it up, and cut in his own lyrics on the spot. He is a legend in pioneering bass music, which eventually shaped the Southern hip-hop scene. He was a man of the community who provided kids smiles and hope, in often dismal circumstances. Most of all, Al was a guy who you could count on to show you love. Whether it was promoting a no-name artist who dreamed of making it one day, or DJing a hole in the wall spot. Even when Al gained fame, he never changed. I will always remember his fun, vibrant, gold-tooth smile."
- Gil Green, Director (305 Films)
"Al and the Sugarhill DJs were a staple of Miami music in the early '90s. Although his death was untimely, his charisma will remain forever transcendent"
- AnonymsOne, Miami DJ/Personality
"One of my first reporting assignments at the Miami Herald was to cover the annual DJ Uncle Al Peace in the Hood block party. That experience took me to the soul of Miami and introduced me to the core of what Al stood for. Al was laying down the soundtrack to Miami's inner city as one of its unsung pioneers."
- Peter Bailey, Journalist/Author
"Growing up, I remember Al just had so much energy and mic presence that till this day, he' second to none. He was way before his time. And now that I'm grown, I can realize that. He represented Miami and brought people together through good music and great DJing. R.I.P., Uncle Al."
- Jigg, Recording Artist
"Shutting down 15th Avenue every Sunday where thousands of people would be at is what I remember most about Uncle Al."
- E. Class, CEO (Poe Boy Music Group)
"I was too young to go to Sugar Hill parties back in the '90s, but I definitely heard the stories of how live they were. I remember being a kid, going to the teen clubs, though. And whenever Al's 'The Uncle Al Song' would come on, watching girls go crazy. Uncle Al's music made people want to dance and have a good time, He was definitely just as important to Miami's hip-hop scene as Uncle Luke or JT Money."
- Mark "Fresh N3rd" Maturah, CEO of C9isTheFuture
"I remember Uncle Al as a city icon, our DJ Kid Capri, our Grand Master Flash. From underground radio to commercial airwaves, he did it his way, against the grain."
- Ramzez (Valholla Entertainment)
"What I remember most about Uncle Al, other than him being a humble person, was that he always showed locals love no matter what race, color, or creed. He was all about showin' Miami-based artists lots of love without asking for anything in return."
- U.B., President of Maybach Music Group's Latin Division
"Uncle Al is and will forever be Miami music. His legend lives on in these streets. Period. The end."
- Phatz Mcfly (Valholla Entertainment/Fly Or Die)
"The first time I ever heard of Uncle Al was when Irie played mix it up at Hot Wheels when I was in middle school. His music played a huge role in my life growing up in Miami. I can still play his music today with no problem, anywhere in my city."
- DJ Ideal (Miami, Florida)
"Phase 2 parties were nothing compared to Phase 1. Anybody who knew Uncle Al knew that Phase 1 was coming. His set up was Phase 1."
- Freezy, CEO of Strong Arm Management
"My memories of Uncle Al take me back to Henry H. Filer Middle School and listening to 'Hoes In This House.' I remember booty dancing at the Hialeah Race Track when they threw that Springtime Fair. And now I'm embarrassed for saying I used to booty dance, but it was a huge party and Uncle Al made it fun."
- Fillup Banks, 305hiphop.com
"Uncle Al opened up doors and broke down barriers for DJs such as myself in the Florida market. You will never be forgotten, Al. R.I.P."
- DJ Smallz (Southern Smoke/Fear Factor Music Group - Tampa, FL)
"I never had the pleasure of meeting DJ Uncle Al. But I can assure you, if you were born in Miami-Dade County, you came up on his music. There wasn't one house party, after school dance, or 5 o' clock traffic jam that you wouldn't hear 'Mix It Up' playing. Until this day, everyone still goes bananas over his music and for years to come, I don't think that will ever change. There is no doubt in my mind that if he were still here with us, he would have been the biggest thing coming out of Miami."
- DJ Obscene (Miami, Florida)
"Bottom line, he was and will always remain an inspiration to our community. When others were just acting hard to gain attention, he utilized his true street cred to make a positive difference. The tragic irony only scares away those not willing to lead by example."
- Dennis "Semp" Paredes (So Flo Entertainment/Public WIzard)
"Growing up, the hip-hop scene and the bass scene were two different scenes. But you could not go to a club or house party without jamming out to an Uncle Al track at some point. Even though I was a die-hard hip-hop head, I had a lot of respect for bass music 'cause it was Miami's very own homegrown creation. The first time I saw Uncle Al perform, and I say perform 'cause thats what these DJs did, was at a battle between Sugar Hill DJs and Jam Pony Express. I left that party with mad respect for what those DJs did and especially for DJ Uncle Al. I finally got the chance to meet and speak with Uncle Al during an interview for a magazine (Trife Life Magazine). It was at Studio 183 during a Goodie Mob concert and Uncle Al was the DJ that night. What I remember most about that conversation was him telling us that he supported everything that represented Miami. It didn't matter if it was bass, hip-hop, R&B, black, white, or Latino, if it was representing Miami he would try and support it. He was a real humble, down-to-earth dude. And regardless of having national success, he still kept himself grounded in his neighborhood."
- DJ EFN (Crazy Hood Productions)