be putting out gqom records from South Africa on a big scale. The world’s not ready for that… Maybe like in four years Beyoncé will sample it again or something, because you know, I don’t have the power to come out like that. I’m not a Kardashian.” Hmm. “I’m just a producer, a DJ, I don’t have a big platform. I just gotta find a vehicle to use whether it’s Dua Lipa for ‘Electricity’ or whoever is the next artist for Major Lazer that I’m using to put out a different style or sound. That’s the science to breaking music and styles now.”
And it’s true that that’s also just how people consume culture these days. There is no mass culture context any more. I don’t mention Taylor Swift (or beef ) because, well, I don’t, but he points her out to me anyway.
“It’s not easy for Taylor Swift or a big pop record to sell and go number one like it used to be. Big record labels used to have everything in pocket, and they knew how to make it happen.” Not anymore. He is very well aware that ‘making it’ often boils down to going viral with a meme in 2018. After all, Pentz gets the landscape of the music industry, and of culture at large. And his grasp of these is anthropological. Nuanced. He will also quietly drop anvils about his own impact on those very things—and rightfully so.
“Now, you have little memes and Drake still luckily finds a way every time. I don’t think he predicted ‘Kiki Do You Love Me’ was gonna be a dance, but it was just lucky. We had the same luck with ‘ Harlem Shake’. Mad Decent had the first number one dance record in the history of Billboard with that record. So you have to find ways to learn and live with it, but I think just like building a culture around you as a person and your brand is important, you know. Halsey, Cardi B, Post Malone, they are so good at that. They just own that thing. So they’re developing something on the outside. On the inside, it’s just like this meme culture that are loops of the same shit all happening right now.”
He himself loops too, albeit in upward spirals. Before there was ‘Run The World’, there was ‘Pon De Floor’.
“I don’t mind being the stepping stone for other music. Like with Beyoncé, I’ve had a production credit on almost every record that she’s put out. Just because she always hits me up like, “What’s the next thing?”. Even with Lemonade, I had two records on there. I mean, I’m happy to work with Beyoncé, but now I just have the confidence to put out every record myself and take advantage of it, because when it’s not successful, it’s on me.” And when it is successful and it was done independently, then it means more coin clinking into his piggy bank.
Amongst many other things, 2018 sees Major Lazer releasing Major Lazer Essentials, a 10-year retrospective of important milestones from the project. Still in the hot tub, Pentz glides over to where his iPhone has been politely parked and starts to scroll through his Artist Spotify app, comparing and contrasting the rather unfathomable number of streams between his biggest, more recent hits, and the records that came out pre-streaming services. Like most modern people living in the age of information, he keeps an eye on these numbers. He’s just really proud that people love his records. With Major Lazer, he has a track— ‘Lean On (ft MØ)’ by Major Lazer & DJ Snake—belonging to the elite company of 10 songs which have hit more than two billion views on YouTube. Songs from Major Lazer’s earliest years have only a teeny tiny fraction of streaming numbers, comparatively. And yet, Pents feels lucky that he can still play those tracks. He still likes them, after all.
“Say you’re like, Miley. I don’t think that you wanna play ‘Party In the USA’ when you’re 40 years old, you know? Or like, songs from her Disney era, or whatever it is. Maybe she does. Personally, I wouldn’t—and I love her, too—but there’s not a Major Lazer song out that I wasn’t proud of.”
And depending on what point you caught the Diplo-wave, it’s highly likely that even