In the early 1990s, Screechy came together with fellow Brooklynites Shaggy, Rayvon, Red Fox, Baja Jedd, Mr. Easy and Nikey Fungus to form the Ruff Entry Crew, a massive conglomeration which could be described without exaggeration as the Wu-Tang Clan of dancehall. “I gave the crew its name,” Screechy says. “I was saying, [the music business is] not an easy entry at all, it’s rough.”
Though they never came together for an official project (Their lone recording as a unit is “Dancehall Scenario” from Red Fox’s As a Matter of Fox LP), the crew terrorized live venues across New York and the Northeast with their high-energy performances.
“We used to bumrush the stage,” Screechy says. “Fox would always go up as the energy—he’s like the original Energy God— and wake the crowd up. And after that, I’d run on and [yodels the tune of Hank Williams’ “Lonesome Blues”]. We used to do it to keep the crowd on their toes, without any rest.” Among the classic combination tunes Ruff Entry Crew members recorded with one another are Screechy and Red Fox’s “Pose Off,” Rayvon and Shaggy’s “Big Up” and Red Fox and Rayvon’s “Bashment Party.” (Here’s a clip of Screechy stepping in for Rayvon and performing the latter, alongside Red Fox).
In fact, Shaggy’s second-ever recording to be released, “Woman Yuh Fit (Big Bus),” was the B-side to Screechy Dan’s classic reggae version of Hank Williams’ “Lonesome Blues,” in 1991. “Shaggy was still in the Marines,” Screechy says of the artist who would soon become dancehall’s most commercially successful ambassador. “He would get off from the Marines, come up, voice, and go back.”
With that record, Screechy became the first dancehall artist (and perhaps the first Jamaican) to yodel on record, but he is best known for “Pose Off,” arguably the genre’s definitive ode to girls in tight shorts—an area with much competition. (See also Buju Banton’s “Batty Rider” and Pan Head’s “Punny Printer”). As with “Lonesome Blues,” the track saw the always innovative Screechy pull from another genre—this time the melody of Kaoma’s “Lambada,” years before J.Lo did the same— to bring a unique flavor to dancehall. While his earlier records generally featured his deejaying talents, “Pose Off” showcased him as a singer.
“We had the idea for ‘Pose Off’ from Labor Day,” Screechy says, referring to the West-Indian American Day Parade, the highlight of the calendar in Caribbean Brooklyn. “We had the set outside, on President Street, and a lot of girls was passing in them little pum pum shorts. And me and Red Fox just started freestyling. I said “whoah, dem girls so sharp,” and start using that Latin melody.” Another song released around this time, “Goonie Goo Goo,” was inspired by a skit from Eddie Murphy’s Delirious.
Off the success of “Pose Off” and “Skin Out,” on Sting International’s Big Up riddim, Screechy was offered a record deal by Patrick Moxey’s Payday label, at that time distributed by London Records. The deal, which briefly made Screechy labelmates with a young Jay-Z, seemed attractive at the time, proved to be something of a non-starter. But it did give him the opportunity to release his lone full-length LP, 1994’s The Mission.
“That didn’t work out very well [financially], it was a good experience, though,” Screechy says. “To rub shoulders with knowledgeable people, and listen to what they say, I embraced that more than anything else.”
While Screechy says he’s never performed on a major stageshow back home in Jamaica, his talent hasn’t gone unnoticed by the broader music world. Most notably, Foxy Brown shouted him out in a classic line from her 2001 single with Spragga Benz, “Oh Yeah.” And Complex magazine recently noted Screechy’s yodeling talents in their “Most Underappreciated Skills in Music” roundup.
The Foxy shoutout was particularly satisfying for Screechy, who counts himself a huge fan of the Brooklyn MC.
“I was in my kitchen cooking and I heard a new song from Foxy Brown start play, so I turned the radio up because Foxy Brown is definitely my favorite female rapper,” he recalls. “I was like yo, this beat is hot and Foxy is eating it up, [then] she said “Gangster, pose off like Screechy Dan.” I was like oh shit, she bigged me up, too. It hit me so surprisingly, I was trying to rewind the radio. I forgot it was the radio, not a CD!”
Back in the ’90s, Screechy used his advance from Payday/London to form his own record company, called Brick Wall. Currently he’s working on establishing a new one, called Top Don, through which he plans to finally issue an LP showcasing the totality of his talents.
“People day in and day out complement me on my writing skills,” Screechy tells me as we cross out of Prospect Park and head over to Flatbush Avenue for a snack at local landmark Peppa’s Jerk Chicken. As we walk down the Ave, person after person stops him to show their respect. Screechy greets them all with an infectious smile. “I never used to see what they were talking about. Until I got a little older. That even fertilized my interest more. I’ll never stop writing. Every day I write. If I should write all the ideas that I have, I probably would have a song for every artist in the world.”
Read on for Part 3, as Screechy Dan tells the stories behind his essential records.