For those deeply opposed to a more temperate climate (when will winter end?!), Spring Weekend is your chance to have a taste of Ultra Music Festival, in the city of Providence no less! As the headliner for the Friday night set, Thomas Wesley Pentz, better known by the stage name Diplo, will be treating a highly engaged audience on the Main Green to an eclectic flurry of bass-pounding and head-bopping beats. Despite the ever-growing popularity of electronic dance music over the recent years, there are, without a doubt, many of you who may be thinking the following: “Don’t DJs just press play?” “Why is the music so loud?” “I can’t wait for him to play that song ‘Levels!’” “It’s Spring Weekend already?” In a departure from the regular and traditional premise of Ra Ra Brunonia, let’s take a look at the meteoric rise of the DJ who will be behind what is sure to be a tremendous performance.
Born in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1978, Diplo attributes much of his musical influence to a confluence of the Miami Bass and Southern Hip-Hop movements in his upbringing in Florida, a pairing that provides him with a unique canvas for his varied, audible creations. Like many teens of his time, Diplo was deeply impacted by the then-brand new MTV, which served to solidify his interest in music and broaden the scope of his awareness within the space. After beginning his studies at the University of Central Florida in 1997, Diplo transferred to Temple University in Philadelphia to pursue a degree in Film and Music. While at Temple, Diplo held a job as a social worker in the city and collaborated with DJ Low Budget to create the Hollertronix club night, where he first received acclaim as a DJ. With the growing success of these Hooked on Hollertronix sets, Diplo was able to branch out and release a series of mixtapes, one of which, entitled Never Scared, was included in the New York Times’ “Best Albums of 2003.”
Following this early critical acclaim, Diplo released his first official album Florida in 2004. The artist M.I.A. was particularly drawn to the distinct and unique sound of Diplo’s work and the two went on to collaborate on the mixtape Piracy Funds Terrorism Vol. 1, which was considered one of Albums of the Year by both Pitchfork and the New York Times (Fun Fact: Diplo and M.I.A. dated for about five years). It was through M.I.A that Diplo was introduced to DJ Switch and eventually, this triad would produce the smash-hit “Paper Planes,” which reached Number 4 on the Billboard Top 100 and received a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year. Building upon this success, Diplo then transitioned into the realm of producing and worked with a bevy of popular artists, most notably Santigold, Missy Elliot and Lil Jon, in addition to remixing songs by Radiohead, Beck, amongst others.
Through his self-established record label, Mad Decent, Diplo seeks to provide up-and-coming artists from around the world with a platform to showcase their talent. The project was initially spawned following a trip to investigate the Favela music scene in Brazil—an experience captured in a film produced and directed by Diplo called Favela on Blast. In his explorations, Diplo discovered the dance-funk group Bonde do Role, who he signed to the newly coined record label. Since its inception, Mad Decent has released music by the likes of Santigold, Gucci Mane, Rusko, and Peter, Bjorn, and John. Additionally, Mad Decent hosts an annual “Block Party” to highlight the diverse and varied talent of the label.
As evidenced by his track record, Diplo truly prides himself on collaboration and within this vein, in 2009, he created the group Major Lazer with DJ Switch and released a self-proclaimed “futuristic dancehall” album entitled Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do. Under the guise of Major Lazer, Diplo has produced a number of hits and regularly performs with the group at music festivals across the globe. Hit songs include “Hold the Line,” “Get Free,” and “Pon de Floor,” a track sampled in Beyonce’s song “Run the World (Girls).” Though DJ Switch parted ways with the group in 2011, Diplo enlisted the help of the DJ/Producer duo of Jillionaire and Walshy Fire, and released the album “Free the Universe” and the EP “Apocalypse Soon” in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
But enough with the history lesson… who’s pumped for Diplo?! Though the weather for Spring Weekend is still up in the air (The Weather Channel never seems to get it right), Diplo’s Friday night performance is one that is not to be missed. Will he perform as Major Lazer? Jack U? What will he be wearing? Will you recognize him? (I truly hope so) These questions and more are sure to be answered in a mere eight days.
Friday Night. Spring Weekend. Diplo. Ra Ra Brunonia. Be There.