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Esquire (Singapore) - - Front Page -

Asks the man born Thomas Wes­ley Pentz; known on­stage as Diplo, and off­duty as Wes. He’s play­ing peek-a-pec with the faux fur Ba­len­ci­aga coat he shrugged on over his bare chest; and is styled with red Givenchy track­suit pants and rather slen­der Prada dad sneak­ers. He doesn’t break gaze with the cam­era as he works the look—Pentz knows what to do to get the shot. When he strode onto lo­ca­tion at The Stan­dard in West Hol­ly­wood for this photo shoot, he be­gan with lit­tle pre­am­ble and im­me­di­ately stripped down to try on the clothes, flex­ing in fash­ions sized for mod­els far less, ahem, ‘swole’ than his own care­fully looked-af­ter physique. “That’s why I get less and less work done, be­cause you have to work out more as you get older.”

When said work in­cludes some 300 days a year of be­ing on tour, it’s hard to imag­ine when and where one would cram in one’s reps. Or when you’d even have time to bathe for that mat­ter. Our in­ter­view was sup­posed to be done af­ter the shoot, but got bumped to the fol­low­ing day at his house due to a last-minute change in sched­ule. I guess for Diplo, some­times all you can do is take meet­ings from your per­sonal hot tub in lieu of hav­ing any hope for the time to take a shower.

Aside from the ob­vi­ous com­forts that his kind of suc­cess brings (like the out­door, steep-sided wooden Ja­panese-style bath he soaks in for this in­ter­view), it doesn’t seem that life is all that dif­fer­ent com­pared to what it was 10 years ago. He’s still roam­ing the globe, mak­ing friends, har­ness­ing sounds, pro­duc­ing mu­sic and then play­ing the shit out of it at par­ties. He ad­mits that life is def­i­nitely a lot eas­ier now, at least. It’s been years since he slept in the back of a tiny car on tour, for one. De­spite his in­sane sched­ule and what I can only imag­ine as pay cheques to match, he’s well aware that the cost of a flight across the States in a pri­vate jet could send one of his two kids to col­lege for a year. And that the price tag on a blingy watch is equiv­a­lent to even more than that. He states em­phat­i­cally and more than once through­out the in­ter­view, “I’m old,” as he floats around in his steam­ing ofuro. “I know not to in­vest in shit like that. I know to buy prop­erty and shit.”

At 40, Diplo is now the ver­i­ta­ble di­nosaur he named him­self af­ter in an in­dus­try that to­day sees 18-year-olds as past their best-be­fore date. The op­po­site of a relic, Diplo is in high de­mand for his DJ sets, his pro­duc­tion skills and his abil­ity to cat­a­pult artists into a dif­fer­ent space af­ter they are fea­tured on a Diplo record. Of­ten de­scribed as hav­ing a ‘preter­nat­u­ral abil­ity’ to fore­cast the mu­si­cal climate, the fact of the mat­ter is, his genre-break­ing su­per­pow­ers come from be­ing out in the field, hands lit­er­ally on deck to gauge what is needed to move dance floors all over the world. That is where big shifts in mu­sic have al­ways orig­i­nated: un­der­ground and on the streets. And that’s where you’ll find Diplo. He doesn’t just have his ‘fin­ger on the pulse’. He knows what makes that pulse beat faster be­cause he’s wit­nessed it the 300 days of the year that he’s on tour, con­duct­ing heav­ing crowds into a frenzy in the depths of Uganda to ob­scure parts of China, from the streets of Cuba to the hills of Los An­ge­les. So let’s just ad­dress all of those who have pegged his suc­cess to be­ing a ‘cul­tural colo­nial­ist’ right here, and ar­gue that per­haps those who do, are pro­ject­ing their own guilt onto the great white male icon that is Diplo.

“I’m 40 years old. I’ve done a lot of cool things. I’ve been all over the world. But it’s not a very cool [to be a white guy]. It’s not in vogue. My nar­ra­tive doesn’t fit to talk about dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences and I have to un­der­stand that. I’m a smart guy, I know what I’m do­ing. I’m not go­ing to try to change that, or take ad­van­tage of those things— as a white guy I don’t need them. I’m per­fectly fine with who I am. I think that peo­ple a lot of times can dis­tort it in a lot of ways. Which doesn’t help or ben­e­fit the rest of us.”

In an era where tweets can be deleted and en­tire In­sta­gram grids can be archived, you’d best be­lieve that some­one, some­where will be sit­ting on the damn re­ceipts. As the first DJ on Twit­ter, @diplo used to say a lot of shit. Th­ese days, that shit is kept

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