Words By Ben Detrick; Photography by Jeaneen Lund (click here for a full gallery of Diplo's Complex photoshoot.)
Despite the happy nature of his profession—spinning records at parties, making beats, and traveling the globe in search of exciting music—Wesley "Diplo" Pentz can't help stirring up minor shitstorms. Lately, the 31-year-old Florida native has had a controversial video banned from YouTube for a nipple-slip, was branded a "cultural rapist" by veteran Philadelphia DJ King Britt, and publicly questioned M.I.A.'s talent—while producing records on her latest album. Even if the furor isn't entirely planned, Diplo is comfortable with chaos: He's working on another project with his dancehall crew Major Lazer; linking in the studio with artists like Kid Cudi, Vampire Weekend, and Santigold; and managing the label Mad Decent. The very busy dude still found the time to chop it up with Complex for the "Shotcaller" feature in our October/November issue, where he spoke about his new music, recording in Jamaica, and the wonders of Lil B...
Complex: After doing so many remixes for other artists, what are you planning for your solo album?
Diplo: I did a record five or six years ago called Florida that was sort of a trip-hop record. I've done a lot of club records, but I think I'm bringing it back to that vibe, more down-tempo and more about the vibe. I'm really into stuff like Beach House. I might sing on some records.
Complex: You're known as a discerning music guy, but you don't have any qualms about working with the Black Eyed Peas or Britney Spears.
Diplo: If I don't want to do it, I won't do it. But the Black Eyed Peas are different. Even the most egotistical dude, when "Boom Boom Pow" comes on, you can't really hate on that record. Someone like Tiësto, I never thought I'd collaborate with him. I didn't even know what music he made, but when I met him, he was super-cool. Some people are superstars and their vibe is ice-cold. I don't work with robots; I don't work with A&R factories that pop out records.
Complex: Do those still exist? In hip-hop, the era of the super-producer is dying.
Diplo: Those guys got so corny. Hip-hop in general is talking so much about what they have that people can't connect with it anymore. People don't want to hear about fucking selling crack and wearing golden shoes or whatever. If you do it and you do it good, like Clipse or Gucci—I love them, their lyrics are amazing. But there isn't room for a hundred of those.
Complex: You're based in Los Angeles but have worked in Jamaica and New Orleans. Does your location influence your music?
Diplo: L.A. is just a base for Mad Decent. I feel at home in Philly or New Orleans or anywhere on the road. That's where my inspiration comes from, just traveling and meeting people, and gathering information about music. New Orleans—that's the kind of city that, no matter what I do or what I plan, it gets fucked up. It's like True Blood every time I go to Louisiana. It's spooky and it's funny and it's real life happening. My goal is to move there in like five years.
Complex: How important is it to you that Major Lazer be embraced in Jamaica?
Diplo: We're not trying to be reggae dudes. People enjoy the fact that it's about the party and the fun. When we first worked at Tuff Gong, they were like, "What are these fucking white boys doing here?" We couldn't get anyone behind our movement for a really long time. But this last record, it's working for us. I was at an ATM in New Kingston about six months ago and some young black kid came up to me like, "Diplo, Diplo!" I thought I was gonna get robbed, but he was like, "Nah, man, I saw you in the video and I want to get your email." He sent me beats the next day—it was crazy Flying Lotus hip-hop beats. I'm trying to put him on the next record.
Complex: Due to your outsider status in dancehall, Baltimore club, and Brazilian Baile funk, you've been accused of being exploitative.
Diplo: Journalists like to criticize me, but no journalists are in Brazil making music with kids. They're sitting in an office in fucking Boston drinking Mountain Dew Code Red. It's intellectuals and people at colleges that are writing diatribes about race and ethics. I'm not an archivist. I want to see Ninjasonik or Death Set in Philly with 100 black kids going fucking insane. Or Lil B here in L.A. He's rapping about cooking and eating pussy and being a princess and there's mad hood kids from Long Beach dancing to his shit. I love seeing shit fucked up. I feel like I'm doing things I'm not supposed to be doing. I can be extreme and controversial, and if you're not doing that, what are you doing? You're pretty boring.