IT'S A WEIRD TIME for Diplo, AKA Wesley Pentz, the trailblazing DJ/producer who founded Hollertronix and introduced the world to M.I.A. There are few worse spots for celebrated artists to be than a couple years removed from enormous celebration and praise. When Diplo's legendary mixtape, Piracy Funds Terrorism, hit the streets in 2004, everyone from Pitchfork to The New Yorker hailed Diplo as the new millennium's DJ savior.
But fan loyalty and critical attention are fickle beasts, and a miniature backlash seems to be rearing its snarky head. What's more, the typically recalcitrant DJ seems to be feeling the heat. The same week that I had a very curt iChat interview with Diplo, the Village Voice painted him as washed up and shat all over his circle of musical bedfellows. The article starts: "It's a bit hard to remember now that the entire world seems to be either on Diplo's dick or vehemently dismissing everything the guy has ever touched as opportunistic trash, but there was something truly exciting about Hollertronix's Never Scared mix when it first emerged." Talk about damning with faint praise. Then Pitchfork breezily downplayed Hollertronix's mash-up innovations in a review of an entirely different artist; and when I mentioned Diplo to a Portland record label owner, he shot back, "That guy's raped more South American culture than Pinochet."
As it turns out, Wesley Pentz is a hard man to love. His lack of professional courtesy in regards to a scheduled interview with the Mercury surpassed even Kool Keith's notorious flakiness. (My interview with Pentz marks the first time I've ever started a conversation with an artist by using the phrase "Seriously, man. What the fuck?") More bizarrely, Diplo posted the following on a messageboard in response to a perceived slight over M.I.A., with whom he has worked closely and was romantically linked: "ALL YOU LITTLE FUCKERS.. MIA CAME OUT OF NOWHERE AND TORE ALL OF YOUR ASSES UPSIDE DOWN MADE MUSIC THAT WAS INTERESTING FOR DJS THAT WASNT COMPLETELY HOLLOW... SHES MAKING HER WHOLE SECOND ALBUM HERSELF IN INDIA WITHOUT TIMBERLAND AND NEPTUNES AND ANY OTHER FAGGGIT OVER THE HILL PRODUCERS... ALL YOU FUCKERS WHO SIT HOME AND TALK SHIT AND DONT ACTUALLY PUT YOUR HEART ON THE LINE EVERYDAY AS A MUSICIAN NEED TO EAT SHIT... PEACE." Wow. I'm charmed.
The thing is, though, that Diplo seems only to be getting better and better creatively. Last January, the Guggenheim invited him to throw down a DJ set in their atrium, and the two-plus-hour show made its way onto the internet. The ensuing beat-fest has become my de facto jam of 2006. Bumping from Yeah Yeah Yeah remixes to Brazilian favela funk to Trick Daddy, it's an incredible rhythmic journey that's a snap to find online. Diplo's MySpace boasts a Dead Prez/TV on the Radio mash-up that's unfuckwithable, and he recently signed the insanely beautiful Bonde do Role to his fledgling record label, Mad Decent.
So to quote Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?" Haters can put down the Haterade; Diplo can put down that big chip on his shoulder. It's hiphop and club music—and the very best of each, at that. Come and feel the rhythm of the night, beats courtesy of the best guy in the game—it's hard to begrudge anybody when you're dancing your ass off. Don't hate the player. Just love his game.