A virtual unknown outside the dancehall community at the time of Major Lazer’s 2009 debut, Guns Don’t Kill People, Lazers Do, Diplo has since become one of the world’s most in-demand producers, contributing to records by Justin Bieber, Beyonce and Chris Brown whilst also earning a Grammy nomination for his work on Usher’s glorious electro-soul ballad “Climax.”
Follow-up Free The Universe, the first record under Diplo’s other pseudonym since the departure of partner-in-crime Switch, features many of the big-name collaborators that have helped propel him to superstar status.
Returning the favour for his production skills on Master Of My Make Believe, new wave revivalist Santigold lends her hypnotic sensual tones to the militant R&B of opener “You’re No Good.” Elsewhere, Bruno Mars plays against type on the childish spacey hip-hop of “Bubble Butt,” essentially a 2013 version of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”
Other big names adding to the carnival vibes include Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig on the woozy sun-kissed dub of “Jessica,” former Fugee-turned-Haitian presidential candidate Wyclef Jean on the life-affirming roots reggae of “Reach For The Stars” and electroclash vixen Peaches on the cartoonish mix of sexually charged synth-pop and Tarantino-esque garage rock that is “Scare Me.”
It’s all utterly insane of course, with the sheer volume of guest artists barely leaving you time to pause for breath, while Diplo’s tendency to lurch from ambient smoky dub-reggae (album highlight “Get Free”) to abrasive reggaeton (“Jet Blue Jet”) ensures that Free The Universe always sounds like more of a compilation than a cohesive studio album.
But although the near-maniacal array of ideas seemingly bursting out of Diplo’s brain don’t always work – “Jah No Partial” in particular is a disappointing foray into turbo-charged dubstep which lacks any of his usual creative spark – with Major Lazer’s Free the Universe, there’s unlikely to be a more thrilling pure party soundtrack all year.
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