In case the 2011 BET Awards was not on your Sunday viewing schedule, Mad Decent honcho Diplo deserves some shine off the Best Collaboration trophy for his part in writing/producing Chris Brown's megahit "Look at Me Now" featuring Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne. The antigravity beat brought out career performances from all involved.
Mr. Thomas Wesley Pentz's abilities as a beatsmith have long been cherished among a tighter-knit group of followers, especially after his early successes with M.I.A. -- notably the Piracy Funds Terrorism mixtape, and "Paper Planes," natch. Recently, with the Breezy collabo (which should really be considered a Busta song much better than their last joint effort) and Beyoncé revamping Major Lazer's "Pon de Floor" for "Run the World (Girls)," the mainstream is taking serious notice again.
Even back to mashup work with the Hollertronix crew (Girl Talk might've ripped it off a bit) and his solo album, the marvelous Florida, things were going markedly well. Here is a baker's dozen of the highlights from Diplo's illustrious production career.
13. Diplo - "Newsflash"
An early single (2003!) that kinda sounds like what M.I.A. would eventually glom onto. Definitely some Marble Madness-ish noise bubbling up in the background.
12. Justin Timberlake - "My Love" (Diplo Remix)
Sometimes the best beats come from familiar spots. Surely J.T. had no complaints about getting hooked up with the beat from LCD Soundsystem's "Someone Great," but it's T.I.'s tight flow that really sings with these industrial synths.
11. M.I.A - "Sunshowers" (Diplo Mix)
As you might imagine, there could be an entire list devoted just to Diplo's work with Maya Arulpragasam. This version of "Sunshowers," which showed up on the Piracy Funds Terrorism mixtape, has just the tiniest bit of help from Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It."
10. Bruno Mars & Damian Marley - "Liquor Store Blues"
Possibly the first production on this list to piss off the Diplo purists but still one of the finest moments of Mars' career thus far. Try to keep this pop nugget out of your head.
9. Sleigh Bells - "Tell 'Em" (Diplo Remix)
Yes, the indie rock does work well in Diplo's capable hands. Somehow it's even fiercer than the beastly original. See also: Deerhunter - "Helicopter" (Diplo & Lunice Remix), Brazilian Girls "Good Time" (Diplo remix), MGMT - "Time to Pretend" (Diplo remix), Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Gold Lion" (Diplo remix).
8. Roots Manuva - Seat Yourself (Diplo Remix)
This British rapper sorta took over when Tricky kinda lost his mind for respectable hip-hop creations. Please admire the respectable "Miami Mix" that laid the groundwork for this bounce-ridden creation.
7. Santigold & Amanda Blank - "I'm a Lady" (Diplo remix)
The constant knock on Santigold will always be that she's quite similar to M.I.A. If anything, she's a better pure singer -- and once Amanda Blank finishes her revamp of LL Cool J's "I Need Love" here, this is a surge of vocal prowess chopped expertly by Diplo.
6. Major Lazer - "Keep It Goin' Louder"
We can only assume that creating one of the creepiest music videos in history kept "Keep It Goin' Louder" from becoming a bigger hit. Diplo himself appears quite a bit in the clip for the dancefloor-ready slice of anthemic pop, pushing levers and buttons that look nothing like a real musical apparatus. If only Bruno Mars had gotten his hands on it.
5. M.I.A. - "Bucky Done Gun"
Decidedly a standout from her first album, Arular. Those horns are indeed from Rocky and echo the baile funk brilliance Diplo distilled from Brazilian star Deise Tigrona.
4. Diplo & Dead Prez "Dip Hop"
M-1 and Stic.man's colossal hit "Hip Hop" gets a late-night, thudding refurbishing for Diplo's Florida album. It's sort of ironic that these purist rappers let themselves be remixed for the dance floor. In many cases, such a transition often takes the vinegar out of any hard-edged argument. But here, it truly "don't stop 'til we get the po-po off the block." Bigger than hip-hop? Perhaps not. But changed it forever? Definitely.
3. Chris Brown & Busta Rhymes & Lil Wayne - "Look at Me Now"
Case in point to that whole "altering the course of modern hip-hop" bit just posited. Bangin' in the East and bangin' in the West, this is one of the strangest mainstream pop hits since Timbaland and Missy hit the scene. We can only imagine the collective wonder on the faces of all parties involved the first time those little pings rose from the speakers.
2. M.I.A. & Bun B & Rich Boy - "Paper Planes"
OK, so this isn't the original version of the song, but the beat is intact. Sampling the Clash's "Straight to Hell" is such a gangsta move in itself, but Diplo goes and builds a coliseum out of fortresses here. Trace the influence back to whichever rap-rock pioneer you like (Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, et al.), but this song is a document of present-day struggle and will be for years to come. The gunshots are scary as fuck, and the verses added by Bun B and Rich Boy show that there are myriad ways to ride the snap rhythm to lyrical gold.
1. Major Lazer - "Pon de Floor"
Drop a ton of dynamite on a Caribbean record store and this is what could be assembled from the wreckage. Nothing in the Diplo oeuvre reaches the explosive power of this track, and teaming with fidget house giant Switch made it possible. Your speakers are sweating, your walls are sweating, your mind is sweating.
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