- OrginLos Angeles, U.S.
- GenresElectronica · Hip-Hop · Moombahton
Thomas Wesley Pentz (born November 10, 1978), better known by his stage name Diplo, is a Los Angeles-based American DJ, music producer, rapper, and songwriter. He founded and manages record company Mad Decent, as well as co-founding the non-profit organization Heaps Decent. Among other jobs, he has worked as a school teacher in Philadelphia. He is also the co-creator and lead member of the electronic dancehall music project, Major Lazer. His 2013 EP “Revolution” debuted at #68 on the Billboard 200.
During his rise to notability, Diplo worked with British musician M.I.A., an artist who is credited with helping expose him in his early career. Later, he and fellow M.I.A. producer Switch created a Jamaican dancehall project titled Major Lazer. Since then, Diplo has worked on production and mixtape projects with many other notable pop artists, such as Beyoncé, No Doubt, Justin Bieber, Usher, Snoop Lion, and G-Dragon. His alias, short for Diplodocus, derives from his childhood fascination with dinosaurs.
After hearing one of his songs in 2004, M.I.A. approached Diplo when he was DJ’ing one night at the Fabric Club in London. Regarding their first meeting, M.I.A. said “It had that same homelessness about it. It didn’t have a particular genre, which is what people always say to me: Your song doesn’t fit anywhere. So I went on a mad mission to find other people like that, because then we could make a home.” Coincidentally, Diplo was playing her songs “Galang” and “Fire Fire” as she entered the club, which he got from a worker at i-D magazine. Diplo added, “She came through and she wanted to meet me ’cause she’d heard my single and the funk mix from one of her A&Rs and she just thought I was right up her alley. Besides me being a white dude from Florida and her being a Sri Lankan girl in England, everything else was the same: [We were both] film graduates, [listened to] all the same music when we were kids, were going in the same direction right now in music, it was amazing… I always wanted to make a beat with her, but all my beats were really shitty at the time.” The two eventually collaborated on a mixtape, Piracy Funds Terrorism Vol. 1., where Arular track acapellas were mashed with other artists’ songs and was mentioned as ‘Albums of the Year’ from the New York Times and Pitchfork Media. The two became romantically involved for five years and continued to work together after the release and he toured as a DJ on her 2005 Arular Tour.
Diplo would continue to work with M.I.A. and, through her, meet London DJ Switch; together they created the Grammy nominated track ‘Paper Planes’, peaking at No.4 on the Billboard US Hot 100. Diplo would go on to release a slew of similarly styled mixtapes with Downtown Records’ Santigold and Polydor Records’ La Roux, as well as mixtapes with Paper Route Gangstaz, Das Racist, and Gucci Mane.
From this, Diplo went from an unknown DJ to taking off as a producer, landing him collaborations with artists like Shakira, Robyn, Kid Cudi, Bruno Mars, No Doubt and Snoop Dogg, as well as work with Maluca, Kid Sister, Die Antwoord, Alex Clare, Rolo Tomassi, Amanda Blank and Dark Meat. After taking a trip to Brazil to investigate the Favela music scene, and fascinated with the energy the scene had to offer, Diplo decided to import a dance-funk group Bonde do Rolê from Brazil for release on his Mad Decent record label (also housed within ‘The Mausoleum’). This group would serve to define funk carioca in the United States, spawning a host of others to join the movement. Diplo also spent some time documenting the music, and the favelas of Brazil with a film he produced and directed called Favela on Blast.
Although Favela Funk remained an interest (the Favela on Blast documentary just saw release in 2009), his Mad Decent imprint would serve as a blank palette for Diplo to showcase the myriad different sounds he’d come across while touring around the world. September 2009 even saw Diplo travel to China to play with Steve Aoki at a show organised by promoters Split Works. Diplo quickly developed a reputation for his extensive touring. In the April 2010 issue of Rolling Stone, Diplo was touted as one of ’40 Reasons to be Excited About Music’. This kind of jet setting pushed his label far beyond the Favela Funk genre with which it initially began. Since its foundation in 2005 Diplo’s Mad Decent label has released music by Santigold, Lil’ Jon, Gucci Mane, Peter Bjorn and John, Bosco Delrey, Rusko, Buraka Som Sistema, Savage Skulls, Oliver Twizt, Jamie Fanatic, Douster, Boy 8-Bit, and Popo. Beyond the scope of their own releases, there is Mad Decent Worldwide Radio, a mixtape/podcast series showcasing artists who have seen release on Mad Decent, but also many more who may have caught the attention of the label. Additionally, Diplo and Mad Decent have put together an annual block party, showcasing talent from the label. While the first three years of the festival only occurred in the label hometown of Philadelphia, 2010 saw the party spread to include Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Las Vegas, Washington D.C, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Dallas, Detroit, New Braunfels, San Diego and Canada.
In 2010, Diplo produced mathcore band Rolo Tomassi’s album, Cosmology. In 2011, Diplo worked with Beyoncé on “Run the World (Girls)” and the album track “End of Time” for her fourth studio album 4. He also worked with Girls Aloud member Nicola Roberts on her debut solo single “Beat of My Drum“, which received universal acclaim from music critics. In 2012 Diplo produced Usher’s single “Climax“. Diplo produced Snoop Lion’s album, the Reggae-styled Reincarnated, which was released on 23 April 2013.
Diplo’s first collaborative full-length record was with Switch, this time under the guise Major Lazer. After landing a deal with Downtown Records before even recording a note of music, Diplo & Switch set out for Jamaica to record a project that, like most of Diplo’s projects before it, would highlight the little-known subgenres, this time of Jamaica’s dancehall scene. The two received support by many already established Jamaican artists such as Vybz Kartel, Elephant Man and Ms. Thing, and the resulting record Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do also featured vocals from Santigold, Amanda Blank, Nina Sky, Ricky Blaze and more. When discussing the Major Lazer project, Diplo described the dancehall sound as being ” the end of the world, all the little influences—house, soca, oldies, R&B, jazz—it all ends up in Jamaica.” The track “Pon De Floor” (originally sampled from Afrojack’s “I’ll be there”) from Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do was sampled for Beyoncé’s single “Run the World (Girls)”.
Major Lazer’s first album was followed up with an EP, Lazers Never Die, which was released in 2010. A second album, Free The Universe, was scheduled to be released in November 2012 but was delayed to February 2013, and then to April 15. It features artists such as Ezra Koenig, Bruno Mars, Ward 21, Wyclef, The Partysquad, Shaggy, Tyga, Flux Pavilion, Dev, and Wynter Gordon.
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