by Ayanna Jacobs-El
Superstar producer, DJ, and Mad Decent record label owner Diplo recently released a solo EP entitled California, following an extensive stint of dropping music with his group Major Lazer. As a frequent collaborator with a number of high profile artists, Diplo’s sound explores the many sides of the spectrum of electronic music. My first introduction to Diplo came before his worldwide fame, through hearing a few tracks off of his debut experimental trip-hop album Florida. I was drawn into the melancholy vibe, creative usage of samples, and unusual rhythmic ideas. Since Florida, he has moved into a more pop/EDM oriented sound through his own solo work, Major Lazer, his release with Skrillex as Jack Ü, and other collaborations. On California, Diplo steps away from the dancefloor heavy style he has come to be known for into a more down-tempo direction, filled with features from some of today’s biggest artists.
He starts the EP on a lighthearted note with “Worry No More.” The track features rapper and singer Lil Yachty and producer and singer Santigold who compliment each other quite well. Lil Yachty takes on the hook with a surprisingly earnest delivery about pursuing his goals so that he can live the good life free of worries, and Santigold holds down the verses with an effects-heavy vocal. Diplo’s production on “Worry No More” supports the uplifting message well, with its feel good summer vibe, featuring tinny pianos, plucky guitars, and a trap-infused beat.
The second track “Suicidal” contrasts significantly by taking on a much darker tone. Rapper Desiigner tones down his usual high energy, mumble rap style for a reflective auto tune sung-rap about his challenges trying to overcome mental health issues. The production mirrors this idea with somber synths and repetitive lines between the electric piano and kalimba, that seem to represent the constant presence of the negative thoughts Desiigner raps about.
The dark tonality of “Suicidal” extends to the third track “Look Back” which features singer and rapper DRAM. DRAM’s soulful singing abilities are able to shine on “Look Back,” which draws some similarities in the production style and vocal delivery of Cee-Lo Green on Gnarls Barkley‘s “Crazy.” The following track, “Wish” was the only one on the EP that didn’t resonate with me. I couldn’t get into Trippie Redd‘s screaming style of singing that he used during part of the song and the old-school R&B style beat was a little too repetitive to hold my interest.
On “Color Blind” Diplo returns to his well known electronic sound with crisp production, featuring pulsating synths and a heavy beat. On this track, he enlists up-and-coming rapper Lil Xan who reflects on his previous inability to see how flawed his last relationship was through a smooth flow. The final track is a remix of “Get it Right,” which was released as a single last year. In the vein of Diplo’s releases with Jack Ü, “Get it Right” features frequent collaborator MØ who’s spirited voice works perfectly with the energetic, festival-ready production. The remix also features rapper Goldlink who provides a mellow rhyme full of swagger.
On California, Diplo showcases his stylistic range as a producer in an efficient 19 minutes. The diverse mix of collaborations throughout the EP, from Santigold to Desiigner, also add to the variety. Throughout California, we are able to experience a more emotional and introspective side of Diplo’s music compared to his previous releases. Overall, the album is an enjoyable listen and I’m looking forward to seeing what Diplo will release next!
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