[When OJI put out this invitation to Major Lazer late last year, in the hopes that the multi-genre act, one of the world’s most progressive and entertaining in the electronic music circuit, would bring their staged chaos to India, it was a long shot. Flash forward one year later, and it turns out that the #chutneyhype is real. The three-way Moombahton, Reggae, Electro, Trap party is headed to our shores and it’s making musical history even before it’s gotten here. In lieu of the epic celebration that’s in store, DJ/Producer Su-Real offered to introduce Major Lazer to our readers in the only way he knew how—fanboy style. Once you’re done reading, you’ll realize why it would have been enormously stupid of us to turn it down. All opinions expressed are of the author’s alone. Read on and don’t forget to book your tickets!]
Judging by the rapid retweet rate of Oji’s chutneyed announcement that Major Lazer (Diplo, Jillionaire & Walshy Fire) would be touring India this season. If you’re in India reading this, you’ve either danced to their 2013 summer anthem Bumaye at a Reggae Rajahs gig or are familiar with group leader and Mad Decent label impresario Diplo’s efforts at proselytizing for various dance music nano-genres (trap, twerk, moombahton, Dutch house, hardstyle, etc.) or perhaps you just found out Diplo and Skrillex hang out and make music together as Jack U. Whatever brought you here, thanks for stopping by.
I’m a DJ/producer by trade these days, but I’ve been following Diplo’s music for a long time. It gives me no small amount of pleasure that Diplo’s Major Lazer project will finally be coming to India on tour. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Diplo , I wouldn’t have much of a leg to stand on, forget about dancing on. He doesn’t know me or anything… but it’s the spirit of his endless exploration of the vastness of music that we as humanity have created for ourselves that I have tried to adopt in my own journey into sound. Maybe I’ll sound like a big ol’ fanboy, but who gives a shit, i’m ready to make some bold proclamations. History will show: James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Diplo.
The seed of Major Lazer was sown when the all-American DJ/producer Diplo and the UK DJ/producer Switch met while each was working on their own contributions for M.I.A.’s critically-acclaimed and wildly popular debut album “Arular” released in 2005. A four year gestation period later, the duo revealed the fully conceptualized Major Lazer - part super hero / part art project / part travelling carnival bassment rave - with this song.
MAJOR LAZER - “HOLD THE LINE”
Featuring dancehall artist Mr. Lexx and multi-genre vocalist Santigold, the scorcher of a track fused dancehall with surf rock and cartoonish sound effects all held in place with slick production skills. I recall that it just sounded weird to me. Like nothing else around at the time. The only thing it sounded like was something you’d expect Diplo and Switch to do if they teamed up - just flip it, mash it up and come up with something new.
By the time of the first Major Lazer release, Diplo had already put in over 10 years behind the decks. Through his early days with hip hop-based Hollertronix parties in Philadelphia to his Never Scared mixtape which was declared one of New York Times’ top 10 albums of 2003, he developed and perfected his style - a furious yet sophisticated barrage of beats and sounds from across the world and across time.
In 2004, his critically-acclaimed debut album “Florida” was released on the esteemed Big Dada label out of the UK. In it, amidst the mostly semi-pretentious foliage, we peer at glimpses of what greatness was forthcoming - two stand out tracks, Percao a testament of his Brazilian adventures, and Newsflash, a testament of his Jamaican adventures.
[Listen to both tracks below]
DIPLO - PERCAO
DIPLO - NEWSFLASH
Meanwhile, British DJ Switch hadn’t been slacking in the least. Widely credited with helping establish the “fidget house” sub-genre, his label Dubsided has released some modern house classics by Jesse Rose and Duke Dumont. His own “Just Bounce 2 This” from 2005 is definitely in the running for one of the top 100 most influential house tracks of the 2000’s…
[Listen to it below]
SWITCH - “JUST BOUNCE 2 THIS”
Cut: Back to 2009ish, it’s the Major Lazer first honeymoon period if you will. The debut album “Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do!” is released on Downtown Records (the same label btw that releases the likes of Marilyn Manson and Scissor Sisters), and it’s actually not that big of a deal on the charts. Critics and bloggers did pick up on it though - loving its conceptualization, artwork, seemingly endless roster of collaborators including major dancehall talents like Mr. Vegas and Vybz Kartel. But on the dancefloor, the scene was quite different.
MAJOR LAZER - “PON DI FLOOR”
I clearly remember the day this video came out. Nothing was the same after. My co-workers and I sat at our office desks glued to this Youtube video on repeat, uncertain of what was transpiring before us in this pixelated world where the laws of physics have gone awry and we’re at the only cool dance party in town where the nerds are the cool kids. After about 3 views though, we weren’t just watching anymore. Juxtaposing the “daggering” dances from Jamaican dancehalls with surreal animation, Director Eric Wareheim (of Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job - look it up!) did a tremendous job of divining the spirit of the track - an outlaw spirit that pervades much of Diplo and his label Mad Decent’s releases, that celebrates the freaky, the weird, the obscure.
MAJOR LAZER - “GUIDE TO DAGGERING”
One of the charismatic dancers from the video, Skerrit Bwoy (with the blond hair) was enlisted as Major Lazer’s primary hype man and the trio hit the road. And what a tour that was - check out this video where unbelievably Skerrit Bwoy and dancers replicate some of the crazy moves from the music video on stage (at 1:52 he brings out the ladder!)
MAJOR LAZER - EPIC LIVE DAGGERING
Now this was all fine and good, Major Lazer was spreading as a household name, gaining notoriety in leaps and bounds with every teenage penis sprained in the attempt to enact the daggering dance. But few people in the “electronic music” or “E.D.M.” or house music worlds were really paying any notice. A small minority perhaps had noticed a common sample and synth palette between some Major Lazer work and those of rising Dutch House producers at the time like Afrojack. Mere ripples. And that’s when this happenned:
GYPTIAN - “HOLD YUH” (MAJOR LAZER REMIX)
In retrospect it feels smartly, strategically calculated, and it has Switch stamped all over it with its 4 a.m. fidgety garage house vibe. Except for the prominent vocals of Gyptian’s dancehall hit “Hold Yuh” with the added Major Lazer drop of course. Anyway, this track is in my opinion, what got Major Lazer’s first foot truly into the crates of resident club DJ’s around the world.
However, like all great stories, we can’t settle with just one twist. Seemingly at the threshold of something big, Diplo and Switch run into the typical “creative differences”. Switch moves on to work on more pop projects (notably providing production duties for Beyonce and re-sampling “Pon de Floor” for “Run the World”). Skerritt Bwoy too departed soon after, ostensibly to preach the Christian gospel (stranger things have happenned).
Diplo continued to focus on production for the next Major Lazer album, and he soon released the single “Original Don” (2011) in collaboration with Dutch House producers, ‘The Partysquad.’
MAJOR LAZER - “ORIGINAL DON” ft. THE PARTYSQUAD
This time around, the dancehall vibes are fused with raging Dutch House rave sounds, creating another truly mutant hybrid. Along with its weirdo video (with its tongue-in-cheek homage to suburban American hard-style raver sub-culture) the track gained notoriety. But perhaps history will record its contributions more as the source material for the Flosstradamus remix:
MAJOR LAZER - “ORIGINAL DON” (FLOSSTRADAMUS REMIX)
This remix is widely credited with kickstarting the Trap or Trap-style movement in E.D.M. that has just exploded to fad status by today. The track contains the basic formulaic framework for the genre - booming 808 kicks with stuttering hats, snares along with pitch-shifted vocals all along hip hop patterns… oh and don’t forget the builds and drops! (How could you?) Diplo would later also midwife the next big stage in Trap’s evolution by releasing Baauer’s sensational “Harlem Shake” on his Mad Decent label.
This is just about when, in a haze of purple smoke, Snoop Dogg enters the room and enlists Major Lazer to produce his “reggae” album “Snoop Lion - Reincarnated”. And a whole bunch of stuff like this happenned:
SNOOP LION - “GET AWAY” w/ MAJOR LAZER
Perhaps I digress from the Major Lazer story, but there’s a lot of threads in this patchwork quilt that Diplo built. So what happenned next?
MAJOR LAZER - “GET FREE” ft. Amber
By this time (2013) I’d grown accustomed to expecting Diplo to do the unexpected with his signature style. And we got exactly that with “Get Free”- entirely abandoning the in-your-face-ness of Major Lazer’s catalog, this laidback digital reggae jam was poised as a summer festival anthem, perfect for the beginning and the end of your night. In hindsight, the song also captured a moment in global rave and EDM culture when as they say, shit just exploded, and many of us were metaphorically left wandering in the parking lot at 5am after the rave got busted, wondering how to get home.
And it was amongst this rubble that the bugle signaled the arrival of the new Major Lazer album, “Free The Universe” . Diplo’s net of collaborators had widened again: Shaggy, Wyclef Jean, Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, Bruno Mars, Laidback Luke, Tyga, 2 Chainz, Peaches, and many more. He also enlisted two new teammates - Jillionaire and Walshy Fire who support with the live show as MC’s as well as in conceptualization of the Major Lazer project. Each track on the album again a fusion of multiple genres, the Venn diagram connecting hip hop and dancehall with E.D.M. and house - produced not just for the dancefloor, but the festival stage. Programmed to pull the people together (and the legs apart), This time around, Major Lazer scored two bonafide hits with “Watch Out For This (Bumaye)“ and “Bubble Butt”. “Free the Universe” album charted as high as #1 on the U.S. Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart and #4 on the UK Dance Albums chart.
MAJOR LAZER, BUSY SIGNAL - WATCH OUT FOR THIS (BUMAYE)
MAJOR LAZER - “BUBBLE BUTT”
And so the saga continues to this day… At this point, if there’s one track I can point to and say why Indian ravers, raggamuffins, rappers, rockers, punters, nerds, weirdos, basically anyone who can afford the ticket price needs to come see Major Lazer on tour in India this december, its this recent (2013) remix of Bunji Garlin’s “Differentology”. If you love EDM or you hate it, if you’ve made it this far, you’re ready for Major Lazer.
MAJOR LAZER - “DIFFERENTOLOGY” ft. BUNJI GARLIN
Still can’t get enough Major Lazer? Here are some more gems:
MAJOR LAZER - “APOCALYPSE SOON” EP
MAJOR LAZER - CARNIVAL 2012 MIX
MAJOR LAZER - “JUMP UP” (THOM YORKE REMIX)
NO DOUBT FT. MAJOR LAZER, BUSY SIGNAL - “PUSH & SHOVE”
MAJOR LAZER PRESENTS: CHRONIXX & WALSHY FIRE - “START A FYAH MIXTAPE”
Mumbai – 12 December 2014 – Friday.
Delhi – 13 December 2014 – Saturday.
Bengaluru – 14 December 2014 – Sunday.