For someone who's spent the better part of the last 15 years making music with everyone from Snoop Dogg and Usher to Justin Bieber and Wale, it's kind of surprising to see how little Diplo actually put out in 2017. During a recent phone call with the man behind the dance music phenomenon known as Major Lazer, the prolific Mad Decent imprint, and one of the three DJs who were poised to change the face of dance music in America (alongside A-Trak and Skrillex), Diplo explained why.
"I was working on a lot of stuff," Diplo shared, "and all that stuff is kind of coming out now."
The most recent of that stuff has been heard on Major Lazer's Afrobeats mix, which dropped earlier this month. That mix features Major Lazer bringing African artists like Burna Boy, Mr. Eazi (who is featured alongside RAYE and Jake Gosling on their new single, "Tied Up"), and Babes Wodumo to the forefront, highlighting their skills atop the club-ready Major Lazer sound. "Everyone on the EP," Diplo noted, "they're not new artists, they're already exploding. Babes is probably the biggest female singer in South Africa. We were just seeing all of that and listening to the music ourselves, so it just became easier to put it together."
They didn't all come together in Africa, though; with the regular touring schedule Diplo and the Major Lazer crew keeps up, pinning them all down in one spot for a long period of time isn't feasible. It's just dope to hear that, while this collection of songs (which have been dropping weekly) were crafted all across the globe. Even if Burna Boy recorded "All My Life" in Los Angeles (where Diplo says he's been living for a while), they made sure to encapsulate the beauty of Africa along with Burna's message.
"I just love the video we did with him," Diplo confessed. "I love his message. Among Nigeria, he's a pop star. He's one of the original guys to do hip-hop in Lagos."
This wouldn't be the first time African music has been brought to American audiences, though. Diplo's hope with this project is that, because "new African music gets overlooked in America and Europe," it's important to put these artists and their dances and vibe into the videos.
"The south African dance scene has been ahead of everyone at the moment. If you ever watch Childish Gambino's 'This is America,' it was choreographed by a South African woman (Sherrie Silver). A lot of dancers do a lot of moves that are original to south Africa."
Diplo admitted that, if some of these songs were put on their album, they'd end up getting "lost" in the sea of "pop songs or whatever," and with a Major Lazer tour throughout Africa kicking off on September 29 in Johannesburg (while ending in Uganda on October 8), it was the perfect time to release this collection of songs.
Major Lazer will also be working with VETPAW (Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife) while in Africa to combat poaching. "They're an organization that has veterans that protect animals, because you have to. They're so rare now—I'm talking about animals we love like elephants, lions, rhinos, tigers—it's crazy that they're going to be extinct in the next 10- 20 years, if we don't work to protect them. We're very happy to spread any awareness on protecting the wildlife in Africa."
This tour is coming at an awesome moment for Major Lazer, the group: 2018 marks the 10th year of this Diplo-led group, which can feel weird at times, as Diplo shared. "Music is so fast nowadays. It's like we're in a hip-hop cycle all the time; a new rapper comes out and careers last like two years these days. Everything is so rushed, so we're just so lucky we can get things out on the radio these days. I think this project has enough energy around it that we're able to keep being relevant, that's the essence of being great DJs. We all love music ,so we don't have to get stuck in a certain style." Those styles will be on display on a special Major Lazer release commemorating the last decade of their music that will feature "a bunch of stuff you haven' t heard like that we made the last ten years. Next year marks our last album, so we got a lot of stuff in between now and then."
Wait, did Diplo just casually drop that the last Major Lazer album will be released in 2019? "Yeah," Diplo confirms, "I think so, because I got [these] other side projects, like LSD with Sia and Silk City."
Perfect segue. Diplo wasn't just working on these Africa-influenced Major Lazer tunes during 2017; he was churning out tracks with Mark Ronson for their Silk City project, as well as putting the D in LSD (the L is for Labrinth and the S is for Sia). Diplo confirmed that he and Ronson, who are currently riding the strength of their Dua Lipa-featured single "Electricity," have enough "material for an album." He also gave us some insight on how he, Sia, and Labrinth (who has credits with Nicki Minaj, Stefflon Don, and Noah Cyrus) linked up.
"A lot of people don't know who [Labrinth] is," Diplo explained, "but he's one of the craziest and influential figures as a producer and songwriter. I knew him for a couple years; I was a fan of his hip-hop records. Sia, I've worked with her for last five years, on and off for her. Originally, I wasn't in [LSD] and then our publisher had the idea to throw me in there; those two artists, together, are two of the craziest, most creative people I ever met in my life. I think they have the most severe attention deficit disorder together, their ideas are so crazy, so I helped put their ideas together, taking the job of their producer." Fans of LSD's material (which includes 2018 singles like "Thunderclouds" and "Genius") can expect to get an LSD album in 2019 as well.
That's not to mention Diplo confirming to us that he's been working with the likes of Juice WRLD, Trippie Redd, and Lil Yachty, as well as "some dance music" that he wants to drop sometime in the next year. One has to wonder about Diplo's process, though. It has to be hard to figure out which projects to focus on, right? "I'm not ever looking to have to knock out songs, we make songs, but we're really just putting out music to get people moving."
It's the doctrine that he seems to have been following for almost two decades, and what he will be continuing to do even after Major Lazer's dropped its last song.