A LargeUp Exclusive Webisode – Words by Eddie STATS Houghton, Photos and Video by Martei Korley.
Unless you been living under an internet-sized rock, you’re probably already aware of Wesley “Diplo” Pentz’s restless, jetsetting activities as a DJ, producer, label-head and laser-equipped cyborg. Since bussing out with his Philly-based party Hollertronix in the early 00s he has established himself as an unparalleled breaker of underground sounds, from Brazilian baile funk to UK grime. Likewise the list of inspiring new artists that he’s had a hand in discovering and exposing–from Baltimore club auteur Blaqstarr to South African rockers BLK JKS–is global in scope and alphabetical in length.
In keeping with the universal law of ‘scratch a music head, find a reggae fan,’ Jamaica has always held a special place within this superstorm of influences. Wes voiced future dancehall king Vybz Kartel on his 2004 album Florida, back when MIA was still just a glimmer in FADER magazine’s eye. Vybz and Wes reunited on 2009’s “Pon De Floor” from the leftfield dancehall Major Lazer project, which also featured Jahdan, Mr. Vegas, Jovi Rockwell and Ricky Blaze. “Hold the Line,” a Major Lazer cut featuring veteran dancehall deejay Mr. Lexx alongside Santogold earned a VMA nomination and introduced the sound of dancehall to a whole new MTV generation. More recently, Diplo was enlisted by reggae authority Greensleeves records to curate the new Riddimentary compilation, hand-picking classic 45s from their back-catalog.
Accolades, however do not often come without some backlash and, as hardstyle DJ Venus Iceberg X reminded Diplo recently (at some length) new sounds and underground artists don’t always want to be discovered. Diplo’s collaborations with Jamaican artists have sometimes inspired similar reactions, the video for “Pon De Floor,” for instance, sparking novel-length flame wars over the politics of daggering and dancehall representation. Love him or hate him, Diplo’s genius clearly lies in his ability to dive into scenes far below the mainstream sonar and resurface with a creative/destructive ‘fight for your right to party’ energy that is universal in appeal. Never ones to rely on he-say, she-say, LargeUp got the story straight from the source, catching up with Diplo for a brief touchdown in Kingston, Jamaica. In between a DJ gig at Mojito Mondays, taping a Travel Channel pilot with Sacha Jenkins of EgoTrip fame and taking meetings for the forthcoming Major Lazer sequel, Wes found time to chop it up with us about the sometimes humbling experience of working with Jamaican artists, the links between dancehall and 80s pop and the genius of Brushy One-String.