Skerrit Bwoy Puts Down the Dagger, Picks up the Cross
May 1 2012
Skerrit Bwoy aka Dale Richardson, the daggering icon of the world, has given up daggering in the name of God. He says he will no longer practice the rhythmic dry hump that took him, and the dance move, out of Bronx dancehall parties and into the international spotlight. He will not jump off ladders unto women’s spread legs and hump with a choreographed expression of agony. Nor will he swear or listen to music with swear words.
In the last few weeks, that last vow led him to delete—to his own estimation—between $30,000-$50,000 worth of dubplates from his hard drive. His musical cleanse includes the 2009 electronic dancehall track, “Pon Di Floor,” by the DJ duo Diplo and Switch otherwise known as Major Lazer. Skerrit Bwoy was the Major Lazer frontman, and it is in this video that he and daggering was first introduced to popular culture.
“Pon di Floor got to go,” he told me over the phone.
The transformation happened during a trip back home to Antigua. The Antigua Observer ran the story on December 2, 2011. The article reported he was cancelling all shows but was to keep his signature triple-pointed yellow Mohawk.
I was surprised. He was giving up a lot.
Though dancing is an integral part of the dancehall scene, outside of Caribbean Culture, no one before Skerrit Bwoy, had received individual attention for this practice. His animated likeness was being drafted a show on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, Jimmy Kimmel was joking about him on his show with Aziz Ansari, he had a daggering instructional video, and he was touring the world.
But I wasn’t just surprised by his massive career shift—he had defended daggering to me as an art form only a few weeks before. This was after a show at the 18+ event, Throwed, in Cambridge, MA, where he was selecting tracks and conducting a banana-eating contest. At the time, I was working on a piece about another controversial Jamaican comedy act, Twin of Twins. I called up Skerrit the next day, asking if he could speak to similar misperceptions about his art.
And he did call daggering art: “When you hear people talk about it, it’s like 'ooh that’s nasty, can’t believe they are humping in the club,' you know, but when you’re actually there you are just in it, there is a lot more comedy than nasty, you know, it’s not pornography or nothing like that, it’s just art.”
Months later he came back to Throwed. It was his second show since he had given up daggering. We met for pizza. He told me I was not about to see another banana-eating contest. He also told me about his religious transformation.
He was at church in Antigua, attending service by a Pastor named Upert Murray. Pastor Murray was talking to a woman about how she was prioritizing sex, money, and popularity over God.
“It wasn’t voices, it wasn’t no one told me nothing, or nothing like that. It was just a moment of realization where everything just made sense.”
In this moment he was overcome by the feeling that he was leading others astray.
“It was like, seeing myself in rule of a kingdom and setting up armies of sexual—amongst other sins—immoral solders to kill innocent people. I know it sounds crazy but that’s the best way I could put it.”
I thought I was going to leave thinking Skerrit was a fanatic and hypocrite. He is fanatical—be it for God or dry sex—it’s part of what makes him who he is. But try as I could to corner him into a contradictory statement—after spending the evening with him driving around listening to Caged Elephant on the radio, holding his giant cross necklace while he stagedived into a crowd of partially dressed teenagers, dancing to house music at a nearby club, and later over phone calls and email, I could not.
That’s because Skerrit said his own feeling about daggering hadn’t changed, it is his feeling about the impression he leaves on others that is evolving.
“When you hit a stage and it's like 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, however many, a hundred people, looking at you, you can't go to each one of those people and go, 'listen, you see this daggering thing, man, it's just entertainment, it’s not meant to be anything sexually explicit.'”
And he said behind his ladder dagger performances with Major Lazer was a club scene taking the art form to some unseemly heights—a legacy he did not want to pass on.
“Would it be cool if 15 years from now, 16 years from now, I’ve got a son in the club with his penis out in his hand trying to rape some girl in the corner? And that’s what it turned into.”
HQ Squad aka Fitzroy aka Ursher Collins, Skerrit Bwoy’s longtime friend, handler, and fellow Bronx selector said he watched Skerrit’s religious transformation unfold on Facebook on his Antigua trip.
“He was daggering to the soca and right after this man come back and start preaching to me. I said, 'What happened in Antigua, yo?'"
But Skerrit’s move to the church didn’t seem so dramatic to those who knew him best. HQ Squad tells me that from Skerrit’s early club days at Club Savoy, God was still a part of his life even after a long night of Saturday-night partying, “In the morning, he would say, 'mi a go church.'"
These days Skerrit Bwoy is going to a church called the Brooklyn Full Gospel Tabernacle and studying to become a producer. He tells me he wants to make gospel tracks that can be listened to casually and played in clubs.
He called his show in Cambridge an experiment—it was one of his first shows using Ableton Live.
There he played a sample of what he says will be his first track, “I See Hell," a warped mix between Luciano’s classic, “Lord Give Me Strength,” and Max Romeo’s chorus, “I Chase the Devil.”
He has a few gigs lined up in the Bronx this summer, where he says he will prove that he can still DJ without slack dancehall music.
And he says we should expect “The Skerrit Bwoy Gospel Fest” in two years time. “The Coachella of Gospel music,” he explains.
“Just imagine all the Churches of New York City just getting wild crazy full of the Holy Ghost power, just getting crunk off updated gospel."
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