The Top Five Weird and Wonderful Music Scenes Championed by Diplo
The second installment in the Blow Your Head compilation series, released today, underscores Diplo's status as the world's most persuasive musical archaeologist. Released on Mad Decent, the label run by the DJ, producer, and former darling of M.I.A., it focuses on the newly created subgenre of moombahton. According to the press release blurb, the sound is being touted (presumably with tongue motioning toward cheek) as a hybrid of "kinda slowed down Dutch house with reggaeton touches." Depending on your disposition, a moombahton track like Dillion Francis's "Que Que" may sound like an exciting new fusion or messy musical anathema, but it's a given that when Diplo heralds a micromovement, the fashionably hip set follow. So as moombahton prepares to blip onto the hipster radar, here's a chronological primer on Diplo's prior musical migrations.
Regional Southern Rap
The influence of Diplo and Low Budget's Never Scared mixtape is legend: It helped popularize the idea of parties and playlists based around mashing up apparently disparate artists (Soft Cell commingling with 2 Live Crew! Justin Timberlake cavorting with the Stone Roses!), and also acted as something of a sonic template for M.I.A.'s early success. But the project, released in limited run in 2003, also offered the intrigue of championing regional Southern rap long before it became the stuff of mainstream dominance and rap blog nerds. Atlanta hip-hop footnotes like Drama ("Left, Right") and the hoarse-voiced Miracle ("We Ain't Scared") saw songs dredged up from the dollar bins and made integral to the mix; elsewhere, Memphis men 8Ball & MJG and Three 6 Mafia, plus the soon-coming trio of breakout Houston rappers Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, and Mike Jones received the Diplo cosign -- usually long before your favorite traditional hip-hop DJ dared spin their stuff.
Straight outta the slums of Rio, baile funk is the sound of a section of Brazil's inner-city youth who largely make songs obsessed with the pursuit of sex -- at least, that is, according to reports of lyric translations -- and do so over stripped-down but uptempo rap beats. Diplo's own 2004 mixtape, Favela on Blast, is a natty capsule of the scene. Sensibly short in length, it still stands as a fun blast of summer listening.
Fired by high-tempo breakbeats and recurring vocal samples that err on the salacious or uberviolent side, the Baltimore Club sound attracted a whiff of mainstream attention in 2006 thanks in large part to a mixtape put out by Diplo's Hollertronix accomplice, Low Budget. With links to the turn-of-the-'90s British rave movement and nods to the partycentric vibe of Miami's bass scene, the Bmore sound thrives in the club -- although it's a peculiar soul who feels the need to listen to pioneer Scottie B's club-oriented remix of Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al."
The indigenous sound of -- yep! -- another city's urbanized youth, this time it's London's turn to claim a movement with the cavernous, bass-propelled vibe of dubstep. Diplo might not have been the first to export the sound to the U.S., but by focusing last year's inaugural Blow Your Head compilation on the dubstep scene, he helped raise the profile of names like Joker, Doctor P, and Banga across the globe. The subgenre's poster boy, Rusko (who doesn't actually represent London), has managed to ride the hype into production work on M.I.A.'s last album, and rumors abound that popstress royalty is interested in securing his future services.
New Orleans' bounce music scene is presumably primed for a Blow Your Head installment soon, seeing as Diplo has already worked on a documentary about the sounds for Current TV. As with other regional subgenres Diplo has gravitated toward, the bounce scene prospers in a club atmosphere, this time with songs hooked around call-and-response vocal phrases inspiring a huge swab of ass-wobbling. The sissy bounce subgenre provides a new angle, with the sexually ambiguous styles of leading lights Big Freedia and Sissy Nobby taking the movement to a new demographic.