Long before the EDM bubble ballooned, DJ and producer Diplo (a.k.a. Thomas Wesley Pentz) was setting music trends that helped pave the way for the scene’s current heyday. Pentz’s masterstroke is his ability to take indigenous urban sounds from far-off global dance floors and make them palatable for the mainstream—i.e. PBR-swilling hipsters and candy ravers. Nowhere is this more keenly felt than with Major Lazer, his cartoon Jamaican commando alter ego and favored outlet for hybrid productions that owe as much to dancehall, soca, kuduro and New Orleans bounce as they do dubstep, electro and moombahton.
Effectively a solo affair since primary collaborator Switch left in 2011, Major Lazer’s sophomore outing, Free the Universe, is a consolidated vision of Diplo’s electro-dancehall. Booty workout “Sweat” serves as a follow-up to “Pon De Floor” with its taut drumline snare and piercing electronic squeals. Frenetic single “Jah No Partial,” featuring U.K. dubstep talent Flux Pavilion, is roots reggae gone bass with ten tons of low end, bhangra percussion rolls and a drop guaranteed to make live audiences go ape.
But the stage show is where Major Lazer’s musical pastiche comes alive with a parade of MCs and dancers in short shorts given to Jamaican daggering—feverish moves as acrobatic as they are sexually explicit. It’s a DJ performance that makes Swedish House Mafia look like a trio of chumps hiding behind too many lasers, and one that proves why Diplo will still be bringing sweaty island-style dance parties to club kids well after the EDM hype machine has run out of steam.