to a (verified) fake Twitter account (which Pentz supplies that, “Someone else writes, so I’m like, I didn’t do that. I don’t write all that stuff... I write maybe some of it,” he laughingly accedes. And at his level of cultural Inception, it is actually a really funny Twitter account, in that deliciously shady way Twitter can occasionally be).
Though, on the other hand: “Instagram is hard for me. I try to stay away from it as much as possible now. I think Kanye made a really good point—he said something I like: the culture of likes, and the culture of activity on your Instagram and what you get really affects people.”
Pentz tries to keep away from all of that now on social media, and admits to struggling with it as a potently destructive part of modern life. But at the same time, as an artist, his public must be served.
“I feel like we lose a lot of what it means to have self-assurance in what you’re doing and who you are, because we’re relying on the feedback of the people who could find you. It’s crazy because it’s all algorithms anyway, so you’re not even getting in touch with the fans, it’s whatever is happening at that moment in that culture.”
Pentz is an avid watcher of the data. He counts the streams his records rack up and the views his videos get. But make no mistake. What he does is not ‘ predicting culture’. Pentz is one of those forces that in fact moves culture through music with the sheer force of his own will and with an earnest love for music. And if he is starting to tire of hearing and playing the EDM that perhaps some of you might know him best for, then it’s time for another project to drop something, since he’ll have already been making whatever music best reflects his mood at that point in time. Like Silk City, his project with Mark Ronson.
“My sets are changing. They used to be aggressive and hardcore because that’s what the crowd wanted. But now I’m gravitating towards a deeper sound just because it’s a lot more fun for me to be there and deejay those songs. Silk City was my attempt to let people be introduced to house music a little bigger. So if that works out, then I’ll just keep doing that. I’m more excited about deejaying that kind of music anyway. It creates a better vibe when you’re playing what you like.”
It’s an ouroboros of a feedback cycle. One of his recent tours was around Africa, where he says Major Lazer played their best shows. What is happening there is a deeper, more complex emanation of the Diplo Effect that occurred in Brazilian baile funk. On closer inspection, Pentz now not only understands the current context of music and culture, but his own impact on it and what he can do within that.
“The people that were there [in Africa] at our shows, they grew up in this different world of the Internet. The new language around music has been created in the last five or six years. They’re much more aware. They know that YouTube and streaming services are our medium, that Major Lazer goes that way. We don’t go through labels and we don’t run through pop radio the way other people do. Which is crazy.”
And what about in America, then? “They just know Instagram… And their minds aren’t open anymore. They act like they are, but they’re not. They’re literally just these robots that dress in the same clothes, listening to the same bands, same hiphop and top 10 records, and it kinda sucks.” As a result of Internet culture in America being a place where a few things influence everything, Diplo observes that it’s a very homogenous scene. So when counterculture becomes the said homogenous scene, how does an artist who built his career being a snotty, renegade culture-punk keep, well, being punk?
“My shows and parties are getting smaller a lot lately. I’m playing this secret show on Saturday, and I’m going to play new music from Major Lazer there, and I’m not gonna announce myself. I’m just gonna go there and play. That’s what I do now with Major Lazer. But with Silk City I’m just trying to figure out what the show is. This other project LSD, I love. I wish I could go on tour with that because it’s such cool music.” With LSD, Diplo teams up with the elusive yet ubiquitous Sia and equally brilliant British talent, Labrinth. He laments that it’s impossible to go on tour with Sia because “she doesn’t give a shit” about stuff like that. He’s clearly frustrated about it, but allows it because making music with Sia is “amazing” to him.
“I’m just doing whatever I can to help add on to the culture. I know I’m not gonna