Screechy tells the stories behind his most essential recordings:
I used to listen to different kinds of music, and I always loved country. I always tell people country music and reggae is related. I realized that from since I was a kid growing up. Country music is telling things in actuality, talking about stuff they did this morning, and I find it closely related to reggae. That’s why if you take a country song lyrics and put it on a reggae beat, it just sits like it belong there. When Mr. Easy do “Rhinestone Cowboy,” that sounds like it was originally a reggae song.
Back then, when we used to come to Biltmore Ballroom, people used to anticipate what I would come with next, because I always came with weird, out-of-the-box lyrics that I wrote myself, or adapting certain things reggae artists don’t really touch and switching them up. I even used to dress weird, like how you see Lee Perry.
I heard Hank Williams sing, “I went down the river to…” and I said you know what, nobody knows this song, and I love to take chances. The first time I did it was 1984, in Biltmore. And the whole place went crazy. And since ’84, up until now, it never fails, every time I do the [yodels] O-lay-lay-ye-yah-O-lay the whole place just buss. Anytime I perform it, I always change up the words.
It was in 1992 that we finally record it, but it wasn’t in a studio, it was in [producer] Sting [International]’s bedroom. He used to have this half inch tape, reel-to-reel, and we voiced “Goonie Goo Goo” at the same time. Sting is a genius. That’s how I ended up doing the yodel.
That’s a next freestyle I recorded coming from jail. It was an overnight thing, I came out the following day. I think I called Red Fox and they told me they were already heading to the studio in Manhattan [with producer Sting International].
I started creating my own reality that day. I was acting. I exaggerated just to be creative. I wasn’t in prison, it was just an overnight lock-up but I exaggerated like I was this ex convict in for years who needs some pum pum. It was creating a story behind me getting locked up the night before, and I’m acting like I’m telling a girl I’ve been in jail so long, and I need some. That’s what the song was about. I told her the oil was caking up in my nut. It was getting hard up, like coconut milk!
I had two songs on that track. There was the one with Baja, “Big Bills.” That was like a part two for “Pose Off”—that summer, girls-wearing-shorts type of songs Those were wonderful times in the studio, man, the whole crew was just rolling tight.
We had the idea for “Pose Off” from Labor Day, it wasn’t written. We was on President, the blcok where we had Vital [Sound]. It’s close to Eastern Parkway, so every Labor Day we had the set outside, 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. And Fox said, “Yo, let’s link up Sting!” Sting was on his way to mix Dirtsman’s “Hot This Year.” We got to Philip Smart’s studio, [HC& F in Freeport, Long Island] and Sting said, “Before I do anything else, voice that song.” It Me and Fox were on the same track, in the voice room at the same time. We was just having fun. Philip Smart is big in the business, with all of these outlets and connects [other labels didn’t hae]. And “Pose Off” went boom, that was it.
“Pose Off” was released in ’93, when Buju Banton was dominating the charts. There was this one song giving him problems. Because of Buju, “Pose Off” did not move to No. 1. Buju was No. 1 and No. 2 and “Pose Off” was No. 3. Buju was blocking us out! We tried to elbow him out the way!
Sometimes my friends [sing it] so they can get girls. The type of person I am, I would not approach someone and tell them I’m Screechy Dan… But girls knowing who I am, and that I did that song? Ohhh Jesus, it provide a lot of pum pum.
Kenny Dope and Todd Terry used to work with Sleeping Bag Records, and the owner was the brother of the owner of [Screechy’s then-label] Signet Records, Ben Socolov. Todd Terry and them used to be in the building on the same floor. Todd Terry said I got this sample from A Tribe Called Quest, see if you can come up with something on that. Which I did. I wrote about seven bars, and spit the rest freestyle. That was really my first hip-hop reggae type thing. Last year when I went to Europe, people would shout “Boomin In Ya Jeep,” and I would try to remember it. “Boomin In Ya Jeep” wasn’t a part of my regular routine.
The whole setting [of the video] was organized by me. I said let’s go to Jones Beach. People think it’s Jamaica. You know how on the beach, you find branches from the trees? I hooked it up so it looked like coconut trees. I brought some sheets and two old pants and we set up a clothesline. I’m good like that. People always ask me to decorate. I could draw, too. I think I just have this wide imagination, and creative mentality.
Screechy Dan plays the Sweet Spot Festival with the Rice and Peas crew at Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem, New York, Sat. Aug. 17.