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This Week in Diplo: The last Block Party and a few Jack U adventures

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The 2014 Mad Decent Block Party Tour ended last weekend and went out the only way it could: with an insane amalgamation of live sets, after-parties, after-after parties and surprise sets. At one point, fans were swinging from the ceilings, and that is not a metaphor.

Berkeley, CA,

San Francisco after-parties,

Eugene, OR,

And then off to Canada for the final stop.

After which Diplo took a minute to thank his fans as it ended.

The MDBP started in 2008 as a one-off in Philadelphia as a literal block party, not a stadium tour. As you can see in this caption, as well as from the countless social media posts and media coverage throughout the summer, it has grown extraordinarily. Twenty-two stops (not counting after-parties or pop-ups), most of which were sold out and almost 170,000 attendees is no small feat—nor, I would imagine, is putting on a traveling festival of sorts.

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 4.34.54 PMFull disclosure, the tour isn’t exactly over. The first Mad Decent Boat Party sets sail from Miami through the Caribbean mid-November. This is either the most exciting or terrifying announcement I’ve received recently. (I’m leaning toward the former.)

2014_MDB_11_LineupGraphic_MarqueeYou might be tempted to think Diplo would, I don’t know, take a week off after the tour. Relax, even. While I see your thought process, I’m here to tell you, you would be wrong in such assumptions.

Diplo and Skrillex have been hard on the campaign trail for Jack U and their MSG New Year’s Eve show. They released a YouTube video. They tweeted and Instagrammed incessantly. They gave tickets away. They tweeted and Instagrammed more.

And then, presumably, once they realized everyone already wants to go, they went to shoot a music video for “Take U There” with Kiesza.

Release details on the video are still unreleased, but the excitement on social media from fans is palpable.

And, lest all the Jack U excitement distract us, let’s remember Diplo is also a formative member of Major Lazer, who also had a pretty sweet summer. They posted a highlight reel on their homepage of the season on Wednesday. If you have a high tolerance for FOMO and/or are comfortable dreaming of next year’s tour this early in the game, give it a watch.

Aside from that, Diplo went to a baseball game (with Skrillex because, obviously) and the dentist. Stars—they’re just like us… sort of.

 

 

This week in Diplo: The kandi debate goes on, the Block Party takes Vegas

This week in Diplo was all about the shows, their after-shows, their after-after shows, and the continued debate over the kandi ban.

Diplo played his Friday night set in Toronto with Walshy Fire (as mentioned last week, one-third of Major Lazer),

and then back-to-back after-party sets, first at Parts and Labour’s basement club and later at The Hoxton.

Saturday, he took himself to Detroit and the trip was not without incident. There, a fan snuck in some kandi (yes, people are still salty over the ban) and threw it at Diplo during his set.

Kandi is primarily plastic, colorful beads woven into bracelets or onto backpacks and clothing and has long been a part of the rave and dance-music scene. PLUR (stands for Peace Love Unity Respect) community members promote them as a bright, positive way to send messages, start conversation and give gifts at relevant events—someone who doesn’t have any kandi gets some from someone covered in it, starts making their own to share, and the tradition grows.

While it all may seems harmless, the flip side of the equation is that kandi has also traditionally been a way to identify a drug dealer at a rave or EDM event; someone covered in kandi might be selling various party favors and could easily be found due to, well, being covered in neon, plastic beads. They are also another apparatus by which people can sneak in drugs (i.e. molly/ecstasy pills which can look like a bead) for personal use.

After the two deaths early in the MDBP tour, organizers needed to take special measures to ensure the safety of concert-goers and banning kandi was one of the steps chosen, to the consternation of many.

In Detroit, however, Diplo responded as we all should when bearing witness to a child throwing a tantrum: He told everyone to give the dude who’d thrown kandi at him a hug.

After Detroit, Vegas happened. On Sunday, the Block Party.

On Monday, Mad Decent Monday at XS Nightclub with RL Grime.

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Most of the photos can’t be posted. But here are a couple that won’t get you fired from work.

Outside of live music, Diplo also released a new Major Lazer track,

changed his Twitter name,

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invented a new word,

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and found time to go swimming.

The Mad Decent Block Party continues this weekend with stops in Denver and Nashville. Get excited (for it or your weekend) with MDBP Official Spotify Playlist.

 

This week in Diplo: Banning Kandi, new Jack U and the Mad Decent Block Party rolls on

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Before we get to the wheres and the hows, let’s answer the age-old question: What is a Diplo?

Diplo is a DJ (playing upwards of 300 shows per year), producer (working with Usher, Snoop Lion, Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne, No Doubt, Beyonce, Madonna, Pharrell, plus more), rapper, songwriter, one half of Jack U (the other half being Skrillex), previously one half (the other half having been Switch) but now one-third of Major Lazer (the other two-thirds being DJs Jillionaire and Walshy Fire), spokesman (Blackberry), Mad Decent label founder (artists include Dillon Francis, Flosstradamus, Baauer, plus many more), the inspiration behind an Adult Swim cartoon on Cartoon Network (well, alright, it’s a Major Lazer cartoon), entrepreneur, and sometimes model (hello, Alexander Wang campaign). And the list goes on. It has, most likely, expanded since I began typing this.

(Almost two years ago in a GQ interview Diplo, born Thomas Wesley Pentz, called himself “a cultural distributor.” I could have stuck with that.)

To keep track of it all, each week, we’re going to amuse ourselves recounting his various cultural distributions.

Heading into last weekend, Diplo banned kandi from his Mad Decent Block Party tour. (His most recent statement can be found here.) Some people got pretty mad, but Diplo apologized:

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He then pointed out an alternative to those most upset and got on with playing four kandi-free and completely sold-out sets in three days.

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He spent Friday with his favorite Philadelphia ravers,

Saturday with a few of his nearest and dearest New Yorkers out on Coney Island,

and Saturday 2.0 at the MDBP after-party at Webster Hall. Katy Perry was there.

Sunday, the MDBP crew rolled over to Boston, where the venue was less than ideal but the party pressed on.

On the non-live music front: BBC1 Radio broadcast a recent set from Diplo’s residency at XS Nightclub at the Wynn Hotel, Las Vegas, and what did listeners hear at the 29:50 mark? A new Jack U track. He’d discussed the duo’s new mix-tape during a recent Reddit session, and if this tune is any indication of what’s in store, we’re all in for a seriously  good time.

Somehow, he also found time to get to the studio with this group…

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and this one…

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And then curated a SoundCloud “Random White Dude Be On Kiis FM” mix (it’s awesome) in his free time. Feel free to start your weekend early, stream it here.

The Mad Decent Block Party continues this weekend with stops in Toronto, Detroit and Las Vegas. A full list of tour dates and locations can be found here.

'Billboard' Hot 100 recap: Vine stars and a new European import

Vine is beginning to follow in YouTube’s footsteps as an unlikely social-media launchpad for musical talent. Last month, Shawn Mendes—who got his first real break when a six-second clip of him singing Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me” went viral on the video-sharing platform—debuted his first single, “Life of the Party,” at number 24 on the Hot 100. Mendes had virtually no radio support or traditional marketing, but he does have 3 million followers on Vine, and the single sold 148,000 copies in its first week.

The latest Vine celebrities to land a song on the Hot 100 are Jack and Jack, a pair of recent high school graduates from Omaha, Nebraska who currently have 4.3 million followers on their shared Vine account. Their fan base skews young and female—a profile in their high school newspaper says it “consists almost entirely of 12- to 17-year-old girls,” and in the piece they claim to tailor the content they produce for that demographic. READ FULL STORY

Hear Claude VonStroke's acid-drenched banger 'CaliFuture'

Claude VonStroke has spent the decade pushing dance music’s boundaries while maintaining a strong link to the style’s roots, something a lot of bigger EDM acts just don’t have. On his latest, “CaliFuture,” he fuses the gnarly, squelching synths of vintage Chicago acid house with a funky vocal line that sounds like it could have been lifted right off some super-rare ’80s electro 12-inch.

“I moved to California over 17 years ago with big dreams just like everyone else,” VonStroke says of the song’s lyrical theme. “Originally I thought I would be a filmmaker but I was always better at music. I worked every job from fake perfume salesman to tour guide at Paramount. I got screamed at for many years by Ari Gold-type movie producers but always with a blind belief that someday something good would happen. That’s what this song is about: the underlying belief that no matter how bad it is, you can be plucked out of oblivion and make it big in California.”

“CaliFuture” is available now on Beatport.

READ FULL STORY

Diplo's new remix turns the lights on Lorde's 'Tennis Court'

Globetrotting DJ/super-producer Diplo was one of the first big artists to give Lorde a co-sign, and judging by their social media presences, the two have remained buddies throughout her rapid ascent into pop’s A-list. Today the two took their friendship to the next level with the release of “Diplo’s Andre Agassi Reebok Pump Mix” of “Tennis Court,” the opening track from Lorde’s breakthrough album Pure Heroine.

The original (currently at No. 78 on the Billboard Hot 100) juxtaposes huge vocal hooks, a gothy minimalist synthesizer arrangement, and some precociously over-it lyrics. Diplo being Diplo, his remix splashes neon light over Lorde’s brooding pop with pitch-bending keyboard arpeggios that candy ravers will go cuckoo over.


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Listen to Grimes' new R&B-meets-EDM banger 'Go'

Synth-loving art-pop faerie Grimes has been on the verge of a major breakthrough ever since she released her 2012 album Visions, which refined the experimental electronic approach of her first two LPs and infused her sound with big, undeniable hooks that can stand up next to anything on the Top 40. It has stealthily become one of the most influential records of the past few years, and you can hear ideas borrowed from it all over the radio, including pretty much every synth-heavy pop song by a female performer that’s broken big in the past year.

Grimes herself has been patiently setting up her next move, signing to Jay Z’s Roc Nation for management and apparently fielding some songwriting gigs from major stars. Earlier this month at the Governor’s Ball festival in New York City she played a handful of new songs, including one that she claimed was written for, and rejected by, Rihanna. Today, she posted the finished recording of that track, entitled “Go,” on her SoundCloud. Produced with her longtime musical partner Blood Diamonds, it’s her most ambitiously accessible song yet, with an R&B-heavy vocal melody and arena-sized EDM synths that sound like they could have been lifted off of a Diplo track. It strongly hints that her next album (which she’s still working on) will be aimed straight at pop radio.

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Avicii hospitalized; Deadmau5 will fill in at Ultra Music Festival

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Deadmau5 is stepping in for an ailing Avicii at one of electronic dance music’s largest festivals this weekend.

Avicii, the Swedish DJ and producer whose real name is Tim Bergling, remained in a Miami hospital Friday with a blocked gallbladder and could undergo surgery. The 24-year-old was hospitalized Thursday with severe abdominal pains, nausea, and fever and has had to cancel all his activities around the Ultra Music Festival, including his headlining set Saturday night. READ FULL STORY

Kaskade: A DJ to out-bro all the rest

Kaskade may be the grand exemplar of the ho-hum, euphoria-dealing dudes who monopolize electronic dance music.

Like other top DJs—including Avicii, whose debut album I review this week—he makes a fortune (about $16 million a year) by gigging almost constantly, queueing up dance hits for mobs of party people while doing expressive things with his hands. But unlike Avicii, who on True combines his beats willy-nilly (and not unsuccessfully) with other pop forms, on his tenth album Kaskade distills EDM’s ebb-and-flow pleasure-seeking down to its coolest, most frictionless essence—and enters a terminal space familiar to anyone who has stood in the lobby of a W Hotel.

EDM can claim a long lineage that includes house, disco and many other beloved club idioms, and has percolated in something like its current form for years. (Kaskade, a 42-year-old American house acolyte, has helped keep it cooking.) But EDM is all about creating the illusion that you’re living in the future—a utopia perfectly calibrated to keep lifting your spirits. And in fact, when you’re sweating through your bodypaint at a festival, it’s pretty damn effective at yanking you right into the present, which is plenty for any musical form to accomplish.

READ FULL STORY

Coachella Day One: Blur, Skrillex's 'supergroup' Dog Blood, and more

The beauty (or not, depending on your point of view) of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival is that there’s no longer one Coachella Music Festival. Once a one-day event attended by 10,000 people, the Indio bacchanalia has become a rite of passage for North America’s 25-and-under population.

In 2013, it occupies half the weekends in April, with over 100 acts competing for attention, spread out across seven stages and enough art installations to satisfy even the most ardent aesthetic snob. Headliners this year include the reunited Stone Roses, Blur, Phoenix and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rumors of a Daft Punk appearance remain rampant.

But if there’s a unifying theme that’s emerged from the last few festivals, it’s that electronic music has supplanted rock as the primary locus. That’s not to say that there weren’t bravura sets from America and England’s most celebrated rock bands, but none could match the MDMA-addled hordes that congregated in the Sahara Tent, the festival’s dedicated airplane hanger for electronic dance music. READ FULL STORY

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