The Doggfather, born Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. is changing things up a bit with his 11th album, Reincarnated, to be released through Vice and Mad Decent some time later this year. The album title is fitting: Pitchfork is reporting that Reincarnated will consist entirely of reggae music, a first for the rapper. Broadus is even going under a different moniker for the occasion as he is recording, releasing, and performing his reggae material as Snoop Lion. Finally, stereotypical stoners everywhere will no longer be forced to choose between listening to their beloved reggae music or their beloved Snoop.
It’s unclear what inspired the rapper to wade into the world of reggae. The move is reminiscent of Nas and Damien Marley’s 2010 collaborative effort Distant Relatives. The first single to emerge from the album, “La La La,” sees Snoop acclimating himself admirably to the stylistic conventions of reggae, delivering his verses with a Jamaican inflection. One assumes that the rest of the record will be as bouncy and insistent as this first cut here, given the deft hand that producer Diplo (credited with his Major Lazer moniker here) almost certainly lent to the proceedings. While a tour has not yet been formally announced, the likelihood that you’ll be able to see Snoop Lion in action is high (snicker). The rapper cum reggae-ist will be performing with backing band The Jungle at Caribana 2012 in Toronto on Friday, August 3rd and it’s safe to assume that a full tour is in the works. A formal release date for the record has not yet been set.
Also, did you see the album art? That image is guaranteed to hang in the common areas of countless college dorms for years to come.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that the 33-year-old Florida native Diplo, real name Thomas Westley Pentz, has defined the cultural zeitgeist. Which is too bad, because what a fun zeitgeist it would be if he did. A butt-shaking, lame-shaming, all-inclusive zeitgeist. But it’s looking like Diplo’s contributions to the world of music might reach a qualitative and quantitative peak in 2012.
Diplo is our generation’s closest parallel to David Bowie. Both took disparate sounds and styles and made them their own. Both Bowie and Pentz exist with one foot planted in the commercial world and the other in a more experimental realm. Bowie had a bit of an advantage in his day though as it was far easier to be a total freak and still sell records. Both are also pretty skinny. And both are shameless self-promoters, performers that are completely in control of their image and branding. If this sounds like hero worship, it’s because it is.
Diplo has had a busy year so far and it doesn’t look like his schedule is going to be clearing up any time soon. He’s probably the hardest working man in show business at the moment. There’s Diplo the CEO/master chief of Mad Decent—an imprint with an active artist roster including the likes of Rusko, Riff Raff SODMG, and Zeds Dead, and the label responsible for introducing disparate dance genres like baile funk and moombahaton to North American audiences. Then there’s Diplo the producer. Pentz first hit big in 2007 with “Paper Planes”, the single that propelled Sri Lankan rapper (and former love interest) M.I.A. into the national spotlight. Diplo hit the ground running with that release and hasn’t slowed down since.
But has Diplo peaked? For an artist so thoroughly ingratiated with the underground its impressive how deeply he’s infiltrated the mainstream. While there is no limit anymore to how popular a producer can become at this point—Skrillex popularized a hairstyle and Calvin Harris parlayed modest clout in the UK into stateside (charting Top 40 hits with Rihanna and Ne-Yo)—no one else can boast equal amounts of love from the underground and from the corporate world. Except for Deadmau5, and he can be a bit cranky.
Maintaining credibility is one thing. But, more importantly, how can Thomas Wesley Pentz possibly keep up this pace? ? It’s a mystery. Maybe he has a twin brother who he sends to events in his place. Or maybe its because Diplo is one of the most down-to-earth figures in EDM, hip-hop, or pop. He’ll work with ANYBODY, doesn’t matter if you’re a legacy artist or a young bisexual teen from Harlem who can’t stop swearing. Not only that but Diplo’s sound, a synthesis of cultures and touchstones across hemispheres is uniquely his own and defiantly populist at the same time. The New York Times wasn’t far off when they called him a translator and an intermediary. But that implies more delivery then generation. Diplo is re-contextualizing and composing mini banger masterpieces. Who knew that a lanky, gawky, country bumpkin from Florida would become one of the most vital and engaging voices in music today?
It’s hard to talk about legacies in real time, especially in the digital age we live in. The flurry of activity that people find themselves in every day can leave you rattled and addled. But if Diplo manages to maintain the batting average in the last six months of 2012 that he was able to in the first six months, then he’ll establish a nice place in music industry for himself. Ironic how his percolating, stuttering beats might cement him a place in history. Until then, you can check out the slightly NSFW video for “Express Yourself” below. And put your back into it.
Diplo is quickly emerging as the go-to producer in the industry by making a name for himself as a constant chameleon, and more importantly, a tastemaker. He discovered MIA, he helped bring Azelia Banks to popularity just last week, his label Mad Decent was the first to champion the growing moombahton sound (which could easily become the next dubstep), and he just recently revealed on Facebook that he and Snoop Dogg are working on an album – and, according to MTV, a reggae album, at that. Diplo is no stranger to the reggae style, as his side project Major Lazer incorporates dancehall and dub elements into American-style EDM. And while it may come as a surprise to some that Snoop, the everlasting hip-hop icon has chosen such a drastically different style of music, his newfound Soundclound explosion hints at his eagerness to explore new genres.
Diplo opened up to MTV:
“Snoop Dogg is an icon, man; he’s bigger than the music…What we’re doing is a reggae record. It’s like Snoop Dogg and Major Lazer together. It’s all reggae and he’s singing and he’s doing a f—ing awesome job and I never knew it, but he had his heart in every song…We’re going to get back into the production of it next month, and I’m really proud of that record. It’s the first record I’ve ever executive-produced and his crew is amazing.”
We really have no clue what to expect from this album, but with the talent and creativity the two of these guys bring to the table, there’s no doubt we’ll give it a couple of listens. Heck, we might need to give it more than a couple just to cut through all the haze that is bound to be associated with this heavy-lidded album.