Early last Saturday evening, about 60 people were sprawled on leather couches inside Parkdale’s Wrongbar listening to Florida-raised, Philly-based DJ/producer Diplo crack jokes about the cost of living in his home base. Apparently Philly is the place to be, in terms of both economic survival (he only pays $300 per month in rent!) and toughening your musical chops.
A precursor to the sold out sweat-fest Diplo rocked later that night in the same venue, the intimate session was part of the globe-trotting Red Bull Music Academy’s attempt to attract participants to this year’s Barcelona workshops and, maybe, give a little back to the city that hosted the Academy in 2007.
Wisecracks about rent aside, the hour and a half long discussion went into Diplo’s humble beginning crafting beats with a busted mixer and one turntable and playing samples of tracks that influenced his sound. He also previewed work from upcoming projects, including production work for next-big-thing Santogold and an upcoming mega-project with U.K. producer Switch and top dancehall artists.
Talking about his lack of pretention when it comes to crafting beats, a lot of his inspiration seems to come from kids living in Philly ghettos to the Australian Outback. “The kids don’t care about what’s popular, they just care about what makes them dance.” That best sums up his laissez-faire attitude to the mashed up ‘ghettotech’ music he pushes.
Even more exciting—and what should serve as a huge hint to the musicians in attendance—was the breakdown of his global influence, something this city has in abundance within its own spatial limits. His frame of reference spans North American pop records, Japanese dancehall subculture, Florida’s incubated Miami bass scene, and Brasilian baile funk. He bigged up the Screwface Capital, comparing it to the thriving U.S. regions, such as Miami and Philly, that have their own distinct sounds and scenes.
Torontoist wanted to see just where our city figured on the tastemaker’s radar, so we grabbed a spare minute between the fans and aspiring beatmakers that approached him after the session. Along with the usual T.O. suspects on the scene (MSTRKRFT/VNDLSM/Crystal Castles) Diplo namedropped Bonjay, Isis/Thunderheist, former heavyweights Death From Above 1979, and—of course—Kardinal Offishall. He’s also worked on two EP’s with Mississauga/Toronto-bred electro-dancehall act South Rakkas Crew, the most recent addition to his Mad Decent imprint.