Eight Riddimentary Questions For The Evil Genius Behind Major Lazer

Before last year’s Major Lazer movement rewrote the rules, the chances of hot-stepping into a Kingston nightclub like Fiction and hearing a set of “electronica” was pretty much zero. But since the runaway success of “Pon Di Floor,” Diplo packs them in at parties like Brand New Machine, mixing Ibiza-ready beats for outernationally-minded Jamaicans. That’s why the new anthology, Riddimentary: Diplo Selects Greensleeves, comes as such a surprise: is this the same evil genius who made Jamaica safe for Yankee hipsters by replacing all those Chiney Ks with laser beams? Instead of pushing towards a futuristic fusion of surf rock and low-budget animation, Riddimentary finds Diplo rewinding it all the way back to the foundation with some tastefully chosen vintage dub and reggae cuts. It seemed like a good time to ask: what up with this dude? So we beamed eight questions up to Diplo’s fortress of solitude, and he spilled his guts—goat guts, that is.

1. What was the first reggae record that blew your mind—and why?
Memories” by Beenie Man… It’s just the energy and the lyrics and the attitude and power of that scene back then when I was comin up as a DJ. It was always a part of the scene growing up in Florida.

2. Riddimentary sounds very different from the Major Lazer album. Is there a connection?
The roots of ML is the ’80s and the attitude and flavor of reggae/dancehall. We just make it with modern sounds.

3. Did Jamaica welcome you with open arms when you first began to work on ML? Why or why not?
Maybe not in the beginin but we were prety drunk we didint notice..[sic] Now we have a good time with everyone.

4. What is the common denominator that links all the diverse styles of music you are drawn to?
me

5. What is unique about the best Jamaican music of all eras? (Ska roots dub ragga etc)
It’s always taking outside influences and completely mashing it to pieces for 50 years. Jamaica does everything with its own style. It’s like a big sponge.

6. How would you define “pop music” in 2011? Does that term even have meaning anymore?
Popular? I think that right now everything is a sort of lowest common denominator and formulaic but i like that I can weave in and out of it.

7. In the Riddimentary liner notes you say 80s reggae is the blueprint. What do you think of reggae circa 2011? Do you hear any influence of “Pon Di Floor” and Major Lazer in current JA music?
Yes definitely… at least when I DJ there a lot of producers are more open to house and dance music and dubstep.

8. What was the craziest situation you’ve gotten into while working or chilling in JA?
Man, I dunno know but I think that I’ve done just about everything from country clubs to cuttin sugarcane. I’ve got stuck on a cliff, rode on a cruise ship, hung out with Chris Blackwell, gutted a goat … u name it.

Here comes a dubwise selection without objection from the late great Joe Gibbs: “Satta Amassa Gana Version”