Artist Spotlight: Diplo

Last week marked the 10 year anniversary of the release of Diplo’s first album, ‘Florida’. So much has changed for Thomas Wesley Pentz since then, and he has gone from making beats in his mom’s house to achieving international notoriety. Not only this, but he has also evolved enormously as an artist. This is his story.

Recently, Diplo opened up on his Instagram account about his reflections on Florida:

“I was working late nights and taking a bus through the city every night, smoking some weed, putting on headphones & just making things I never heard before and could just imagine.. making this record created an entirely new world for me. Now that I think back it’s a very strange beginning and it’s crazy it’s been 10 years since it’s first release but really this record represents my first 23 years of life.. what I had inside of me and where I came from so I’m excited to revisit it..”

For the average EDM fan, this first 2004 album will be completely unrecognizable. Some songs feature totally stripped-down beats, with simple drum rhythms and piano or cello interludes weaving through trippy vocals. Other songs, such as ‘Into The Sun (feat. Martina Topley – Bird)’ is oddly reminiscent of the XX. At first it is very difficult to tie these tracks to anything that he has created in the past 5 or so years. However, it is important to remember that Diplo is an artist who is constantly reinventing himself. At the time of its release, ‘Florida’ was new territory, different from anything that had preceded it. Pentz is an innovator, first and foremost. As a man says at the beginning of the song ‘Money Power Respect (feat. P.E.A.C.E.)’, “I just want to write a song about what’s happening today”.

One of the projects that Diplo is most famous for is his work with M.I.A. on her first mixtape ‘Piracy Funds Terrorism Vol. 1’, which effectively launched her career. The album was groundbreaking, gaining recognition from establishments like the New York Times and Pitchfork. Through M.I.A. and their continued collaborative work, Diplo met DJ Switch, with whom he created the hit song ‘Paper Planes’. This track propelled M.I.A. into international stardom and cemented Diplo’s place as an up and coming producer.

Since it’s creation in 2005, Diplo’s record label Mad Decent has collaborated with countless artists such as Gucci Mane, Lil’ Jon and Santigold. The label also organizes annual Block Parties. Although these started out as actual block parties, they have grown into massive concerts, featuring artists from the Mad Decent label and beyond, and playing in cities all over the United States.

Another one of Diplo’s successful projects is Major Lazer, which he created with DJ Switch. Using influences from Jamaica’s dancehall scene, they created the album ‘Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do’ in 2009. The massive success of this album led to the creation of the EP ‘Lazers Never Die’, which was then followed by Major Lazer’s second album ‘Free the Universe’ in 2013. Again, Diplo worked with a myriad of artists, from Elephant Man to Bruno Mars. In this last album, however, Diplo took a different direction with his music, transitioning into EDM.

Time and time again, Diplo has shown himself to be an innovative and versatile artist. Over the last 10 years, he has constantly redefined himself and his music, which is a skill rarely seen in the capricious music industry.

Words: Sophie Vandenbroucke