Diplo Takes on Reggae, Chris Brown, KPop and Hard Miami at Grand Central Tonight
Miami loves nothing more than a good ol' Florida boy who can DJ big bass and has a tattoo of a manatee holding a machine gun on his chest.
Mr. Wes Pentz was here only a couple of weeks ago with his hybrid dancehall outfit, Major Lazer, at the Marley Fest. And now he's back again to go, well, really hard for Hard Miami, an Ultra week orgy taking over Grand Central this Thursday.
Crossfade got a chance to catch up with Diplo as we discussed his past, present and future projects -- and how he pretty much wants to do everything.
Crossfade: So you recently came out with a unique reggae compilation project on Greensleeves Records called Riddimentary that features some classic roots reggae joints and rare Jamaican records. How did that come about?
Diplo: Well, Greensleeves rolls with VP Records and they're like one of the biggest reggae record labels out there. They helped me out a lot with clearing tracks for the Major Lazer project. And so, I owed them a favor and they offered me to do this project. I'm not like a big selector. I don't play all the
new stuff and that's kinda like what Greensleeves wanted - to penetrate my fanbase more than me go to the reggae fan base. It was more
like bringing new kids to reggae music. For labels like that they
just wanna have new fans 'cause reggae's so exclusive. Even old-school reggae, they wanna invite more kids in. So all the
kids can go "Oh wow - there's more to reggae than Sean Paul!"
Major Lazer has been a huge success for you. But it's also been a really big undertaking. Were you intimidated by the whole project?
The Major Lazer project was definitely intimidating in the beginning. Nobody really wanted to fuck with our project. Lots of kids go to
Jamaica all the time -- kids from Europe or America, they do one-offs,
y'know. Everybody goes there and does records. But we wanted to do a proper serious record! A lot of those guys, we
had to sell our project to them, y'know. The first guy that was really
into it was Mr. Lex. And he was kinda, not really popular when we were
recording. But I loved his voice, so I took sweat off it and did some
bigger records with it in the next 2 years. Most of the artists were like, "Whatever, give us some tracks
and give us some cash," and we just did the best we could out of it.
The Major Lazer album took several years to make. How was the process and would you do it again?
Back when we recorded the album, we only had skeletons of the record. We barely had any beats. We just made stuff in the car on the way to
the studio and we would just flesh them out a month later when we sat and
worked with the acapellas. That Vybz Kartel track was a whole track
with a whole other riddim. But I cut out that "Pon de Floor"
part and made a track out of that little bit of it.
Now this new record, everyone's
really cooperative. Now people are really into it and wanna be part of
the project. The new one we have a lot of pop artists like Dirty
Projectors, Vampire Weekend, and the OGs of dancehall -- Bugle, Beanie Man, and Sean Paul. So this record is more of the record I wanted to make, a weird crossover with weird
indie rock and hardcore mixed in with reggae music.
Are you kinda looked upon as the the "bridger" of that whole hipster indie scene with reggae?
Nah, no way. Hipsters, Jamaicans, everybody played that "Pon de Floor" record. It was all over Jamaica. On mainstream radio here in the States.
Were you surprised that it caught on?
It wasn't that weird to me and Vybz
Kartel is such a big star that any record you do with him just breaks. So
timing was really good ... With Skerrit Bwoy doing the video, the culture
around the project really grew. We just got lucky with timing.
Major Lazer - backstage at the Marley Fest 2011
Photo by Alex Markow
And how are you managing your time as just a general producer without all your other side projects?
Everybody in LA writes records all the time. I recently did a Chris
Brown record that got pretty big called "Look at Me Now" with Lil' Wayne and Busta Rhymes
that's getting played on the radio. So some things are hit or miss.
Are you still a fan of being a producer or do wanna do more than that?
I wanna do everything! I wanna rap! I wanna dance! I wanna sing! I
wanna do everything! I was talking to Pitbull in
Trinidad two weeks ago and his manager was like, "Yo, you
guys doing more house records on the new album?" And I was like, "Yo! We
do it 'cause the lane's open!"
With Major Lazer, we opened a new lane. We
just do what we do! I do everything. I made a documentary. I've written for magazines. I've done everything. I produced a punk
record last year. I produced a pop record for this guy in Europe. I just do
whatever I can do ... I produced two records for Snoop Dogg on his last
album. Whatever ... People wanna collaborate!
The music world is different now. It's
not like you have to practice and be a good pop producer or rock
producer. Everything is everything. Look at Dangermouse. The guy
produces Gorillas to the Black Keys to a new record with Jack White who's on some spaghetti western shit. It's like being an ideas person, really. So I hope I keep having good ideas.
I love KPop! I just did a KPop record ... Produced this single called "Knock Out" for this Korean rap group called TOP and GD. It's a wicked
song. The video's crazy. I love Korean rap right now. So yeah, I do KPop ... In fact, I'll do KHall.
Korean Dancehall. We just created a new musical genre here. Shit, why not?
Note: Diplo wasn't kidding. Check out his latest producing adventures in Korean Pop Music below.
Hard Miami with Diplo, Tiga, SebastiAn, and more. Thursday, March 24. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. Ages 18 and up. Visit hardfest.com.
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