The dancehall hooligan is Major Lazer's ace in the hole.
Mon Mar 29 2010
When Aziz Ansari visited Jimmy Kimmel Live! in January, he could have plugged his new stand-up album, Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, the hip-hop mixtape he’s been threatening to release as “Raaaaaaaandy,” or perhaps his hit TV series. But all the
While Ansari encountered him in Sydney, of all places (they were there performing at the same time), Skerrit’s home turf is the West Bronx. A kind of MC, DJ, dancer, promoter, stuntman, performance artist and comedian rolled into one, the 26-year-old Skerrit, whose real name is Dale Richardson, has been the New York dancehall scene’s most colorful character for nearly a decade. The Antigua native also claims a role in the recent popularization of “daggering,” a coed dance craze of sorts that could more accurately be described as a highly animated and greatly exaggerated simulation of sexual intercourse. (The dagger in question is the male participant’s package.) While the practice has, understandably, become a source of some controversy in dancehall’s home Jamaica turf, Skerrit’s approach is perhaps too comedic to elicit much backlash. Using props like ladders, wheelbarrows and, yes, mattresses (“There’s no way you can have a mattress in the club and not have it pop,” he says), the diminutive showman has been known to create a circuslike environment at gigs.
“I just always liked jumping off of stuff— that’s the way we do it at block parties in the Bronx,” Skerrit says. “I don’t call myself a dancer. A lot of people out there are real dancers, man. I’m just a dude that goes to parties and wiles out. The whole daggering thing started when all these male crews were dressing alike, doing synchronized dancing and stuff. I wasn’t interested in that. I was just interested in dry-humping chicks, rubbing on butts and getting it popping. When the 'girl songs’ came on, all the dudes were chilling in the corner waiting for the dancing songs to come back. That’s when I came out. Boom! We just started doing it harder and faster, and going crazy with it.”
Skerrit’s bold approach to partying was documented in Temporary Sanity: The Skerrit Bwoy Story, a2006 film by reggae video director Dan Bruun that played at somefilm festivals before becoming a YouTube phenomenon. But Skerrit’s involvement in Major Lazer—whose well-received 2009 debut, Guns Don’t Kill People...Lazers Do, blended Diplo and Switch’s global electro with more traditional reggae influences—has given Skerrit’s outsize personality an even broader platform.
“We got our inspiration from that early dancehall scene in the ’80s, which was sort of punky and revolutionary in terms of attitude, and that’s kind of what Skerrit represents now,” Diplo says of the loose-knit, Gorillaz-esque project, which plays Terminal 5 on Saturday 3. “Guys like 77Klash, Ricky Blaze and Skerrit all represent Caribbean flavor, but what they’re doing is very much a New York thing. They take the dancehall influence and do something different with it. Major Lazer is not a Jamaican thing. We’re more like what they are, outsiders to the scene.”
Initially a fringe member (he doesn’t appear on Guns Don’t Kill People or an upcoming EP, Lazers Never Die), Skerrit solidified his role as Major Lazer’s live-show frontman after a memorable turn in the innovative video (directed by Eric Wareheim of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!) for Guns Don’t Kill People single “Pon De Floor.” In the tradition of the Jamaican sound-system DJ, he is more of a hype man than a proper vocalist. “We can count on him to get the people really crazy,” Diplo says. “When we toured Australia people thought he was Major Lazer, which is pretty cool.”
Major Lazer’s current tour will keep Skerrit on the road in the coming weeks, but New Yorkers willing to trek to out-of-the-way Caribbean clubs in the Bronx and Brooklyn can typically catch him every couple of days. “I can’t tell you the last night I didn’t hit the streets,” Skerrit says. “Even when I’m not partying, I’m partying, man.”
Major Lazer plays Terminal 5 with Boys Noize and Buraka Som Sistema Sat 3.