Diplo Headlines Huge Hush-Hush Event Tonight

Last night I bartended the Help Heal New York benefit at Pacha. I had not bartended since before you were born; the game has since changed. Here I am writing everyday about how to do this and how to do that, and my afternoons are spent designing bars so it was good to have this hands-on experience. I didn’t actually make a drink; I had minions to do that. I better correct: the love of my recent life, Amanda, made the drinks while I interacted with the patrons. It all went to charity – the price of admission, the drink revenues, and even the tips. The real Pacha bartender assigned to me, Megan, was amazing. Her smile and demeanor while slinging drinks for the cause and putting up with my antics was above and beyond. She is a great bartender and a wonderful new friend. Twenty-dollar bills and even some Benjamins flew over the bar to the tip bucket, which also benefits the cause. At one point I was squatted down picking up loot that slipped down from the bucket.

The DJs were just grand. I particularly loved Afrojack. I left before Erick Morillo went on, as I have to be up early for you…and looking good at that. At one point, Pacha owner Eddie Dean came by to hug and heckle me . He was accompanied by his sidekick, partner in crime, his "Tonto"… Rob Fernandez and DJ Sunnery. These guys threw money at us for the bucket as well-wishers gathered to shake hands and take pictures. All around us, thousands rose with the music… the love was apparent. DJ Sunnery , a big deal, was waiting to go on. He seemed as calm as a thoroughbred at the gate on derby day, ready to get this party started. I was told he is the nicest of persons and is married to the most beautiful girl in the world… Victoria’s Secret model Doutzen Kroes. I looked her up and, for sure, she is real, but alas I only have eyes for Amanda.  

Pacha is a monster. On every level, from the door to the staff to management, they are pros. Everybody talks a good game, but Pacha walks the walk. As those who know me know I am a rocker, and house or  EDM or whatever label is put on it in whatever decade doesn’t sooth this savage beast . That being said, being in a big room with a big DJ, big lights, effects and a big crowd is an experience unlike any other.

Before the bartending gig I was at 1OAK, tasked to DJ for Richie Romero at his birthday. I was to open for ?uestlove and Jesse Marco, and I had M.Ortiz opening for me. M.Ortiz was so great that I didn’t bounce him off, content to hear what he was offering. Amanda told me if I kicked him off, as some told me to do, she would "moida me.” Mr. M. Ortiz is getting ready for a British tour, and I expect we will be hearing his name often. He is really great. 1OAK was starting to fill up when the birthday boy finally showed. Richie Romero was zonkered as I wished him well. He has dodged almost as many bullets as your humble servant and it was good to see him surrounded by hundreds of friends and tacky balloons and such.

Tonight I will be at a big event in a big location…off the beaten path and super hush-hush as it’s sold out. Dos Equis is behind this shindig. Diplo will headline. There are six or so rooms of music and other distractions. I’m going to DJ for a short set along with Cobra Krames, Sam Valentine, David Katz, Justine D. Daniel Leyva, Fatherhood (Michael Magnan and Physical Therapy), Hayley Pisaturo, Shayne (Hood By Air), and 7aywana. There will be a lot going on at this happening and I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. If you see me today, ask me nicely. I think there are three tickets left.

If I wasn’t obligated elsewhere, the place I would surely be is the Ava Lounge at the Dream Hotel up on 55th Street. A photo installation by Marko Kalfa will bring the sharp set. Liquid Lab, which I have to tell you about in depth on a later day, will provide fall cocktails. Fannie Chan wil DJ.

Another party worth checking out is the five-year anniversary of the Thursday Punk Rock Happy Hour at Otto’s Shrunken Head. My pals Traci Danielle and Joy Rider are doing the inviting.

Diplo, Scorpions, Owls, & Belly Dancers At Last Night’s Party

What I thought might be an OK  event turned out to be a blast. The hush-hush Dos Equis event last night at the Masonic Lodge on 24th St. and 6th Ave. had more pleasant surprises than my third wife’s diary. Things that I thought irrelevant or even tacky when I first heard of them at early event meetings turned out to be wonderful. People wore the provided masks and ate the weird bug munchies (scorpions, toasted ants, worms – see above). The belly dancers were actually amazing. One of my event golden rules is to leave whenever a belly dancer goes on. But somehow it worked. The belly dancers were hot. The Masonic Lodge has ballroom after ballroom, all marble and wood and gilded moldings. It is grand and mysterious. Photos of admirals and dead politicians lined the corridors, and the crowd rose to the occasion and behaved while they played. 

In rehearsal, surprise guest Andrew W. K. was like a kid left in a candy store during after hours. He played on a ginormous pipe organ while Diplo provided the beats and texture. Diplo would go on to win the hearts, minds, and bodies of the big crowd. I’m not an EDM kind of guy but after the night, before listening to some of the best over at Pacha, and then Diplo, I have been almost…a little converted. Now let’s not get hysterical; rock is still my genre, but I did enjoy Diplo in that grand ballroom .

 I was asked to recommend some cool promoter types to fill the room on short notice due to the Sandy wipe-out. Seva Granik was asked to fill the place, and he brought a hip Williamsburg crowd to the gala. Seva and I talked about how Manhattan is now a novelty destination for his flock. The Bespoke Group, headed up by Cody Pruitt and partners Doug and Brookes Rand, mixed in their bottle service. Alas, the only bottles were Dos Equis, and no one was complaining about that.

Everyone left with smiles on their faces. David Katz and Sam Valentine and Justine D. offered rock and roll while belly dancers rolled their hips and bellies. It was surreal.

The highlight of my night was the birds of prey room. I had an owl and a kestrel on my arm. I bonded with the beautiful kestrel. I talked softly to him and stroked his feathers, and then he leaned in and kissed me right on the lips. I am in love.

My day started at 7am and ended at the next 7am. I guess I’ll get all the sleep I need in 20 or so years. There were too many great DJs to list here and too many people to thank for bringing their friends. The thing about this event that made it hot and interesting was the mix of people. Give a crowd reasons to be cheerful and they will be…cheerful. Dos Equis and Mirrorball and all the other supportive entities deserve credit for producing one of the best events I have recently attended. 

Tonight I expect you to come to Webster Hall’s Hanky Panky Sandy "Rock- N-Rebuild” benefit. I’m doing a late set. Hanky Panky is very much happening thanks to the tireless efforts of Gary Spencer and the Webster staff. I always have fun there.

As reported earlier, the Lucky Cheng’s space is finally changing hands. I’s have been dotted and T’s crossed and I’ll tell you all about it when they tell me I can. The opening of Foxglove at 242 Flatbush Ave. near the Barclays Center intrigues me. DJ mOma is the draw for me, as is the continuing relevance of Brooklyn nightlife. They describe the space as "reminiscent of the Sub-Mercer" which for years was my favorite haunt.

There’s a whole lot of other stuff to report but I’m way too tired. I’m opting out with some warm milk and a long nap. Will someone please say good night, Mr. Lewis.

Searching For Glory: Hit The Dancefloor With MØ And Chela

When MØ sings "Life is cynical, despite your heart of gold" on the fantastically titled "XXX 88," she knows what she stands for. The Danish singer born Karen Marie Ørsted makes sophisticated synth-pop for realists, and this Diplo and Ronnie Vindahl-produced track shows she’s kept the bar high since previous singles "Pilgrim" and "Waste Of Time." The sumptuous, horn-laden beat recalls a time before Diplo ruled over a kingdom of white girls twerking, though the only thing Ørsted needs to express herself is her voice. She switches easily between soaring verses and primal punctuation, sounding simultaneously unrestrained and totally in control. Look out for "XXX 88" on MØ’s upcoming EP for Sony/Chess Club.

Ever-reliable boutique label Kitsuné’s latest find is Chela, an Australian newcomer who’s ready to keep sharpening her pop chops. She’s Chelsea Wheatley to her mates, and on her debut EP Romanticise, she delivers pared-down synth bliss. On "Romanticise," Wheatley sings her heart out over a disco-inflected beat, perfect for the kind of party where no one’s taking themselves too seriously. (This is obviously the best kind of party.) The Romanticise EP is out now, featuring remixes from acts including Gold Fields and Boys Get Hurt.

If You Just Can’t Take Any More ‘Thriller,’ Here’s Diplo’s Radio 1 Halloween Mix

Halloween is the optimal time for a dance party, although one can only tolerate so much cliché seasonally-appropriate music. Yes, that one bro at your party with the silver glove and the zombie makeup learned the "Thriller" dance and is SO EXCITED about it, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit through it for the umpteenth time. If the idea of more "Monster Mash" makes you cringe, you may find solace in Diplo and music video director/producer System D-128’s three-hour-plus creepy, eclectic and thoroughly bumpin’ Halloween mix from the "Diplo & Friends" BBC Radio 1xtra show. From the opening strains of the thundering Godzilla theme music, Diplo goes all over the place, including Afrika Bambaataa, Rihanna, Crookers, Danny Brown, Mykki Blanco and of course, the obligatory M.I.A. remix, while System D-128 goes a bit more traditional Halloween with Haunted Dancehall, Can, Barrington Levy’s "Murderer" and some other eerie sounds.

Be sure to stick with it through the end, to System D-128’s marathon of Three Six Mafia tracks. You can check out the whole tracklist at Diplo’s SoundCloud or NME, and wherever you are this Halloween, crank it loud and get your super-scary dance on. Happy Halloween (or, to BBC listeners, Hallowe’en), y’all! 

Diplo’s Traveling Photo Series Is Now A Zine, Too

Earlier this year, Diplo and photographer/co-conspirator Shane McCauley shared exploits from their global travels in a coffee table book for the Urban Outfitters set. For those looking for a lighter reading experience, they’re now releasing a series of travel zines. Each issue of the 96-page limited-edition zine, called Blow Your Head, will showcase the culture and music of a different country.

For the first edition, Diplo and McCauley traveled to Jamaica to explore the roots of reggae, dancehall and new, evolving genres. They roamed Trenchtown, the legendary recording studios Tuff Gong and Geejam and Sugar Man Beach, to name a few locations.

The first edition of Blow Your Head launches October 1st, with an official launch taking place October 10th at FAMILY in Los Angeles with McCauley and Diplo. Check out the trailer, featuring a banger from dancehall artist Popcaan that will get you moving and ready for the weekend, below.

Major Lazer’s Live-Action, SoMe-Directed New Video for “Get Free”

Major Lazer returned this year with some personnel changes (Switch and Skerrit Bwoy out; Jillionaire in), production on the new album from Snoop Do—er, Lion, a new reggae-tinged single, “Get Free,” released back in April and a second full-length album on the way.

Ed Banger art director So Me (“We Are Your Friends,” “Barbra Streisand”), directed the video for “Get Free,” released today. Diplo and Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffman, who also sings on the track, make appearances in the clip, a mix of studio footage, boxing, school kids, some brilliant and frenetic dancing and at some point, a guy with an extremely intense gaze petting a chicken. Basically, it’s a nightclub description from Stefon come to life.

Free the Universe drops November 6th via Mad Decent/Downtown and features appearances from Tyga, Wyclef Jean, Bruno Mars and more. In the meantime, check out the video below.

Diplo Is Exactly Who He Wants to Be: The Middle Man

Diplo sits in a studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, tinkering a beat he’s worked on for months. He takes it from 134 beats per minute down to 128. It still doesn’t sound right. “My ears are so fucked to this. Let’s see what it sounds like at 130,” he says to a young producer from Europe assisting him today. The Dutch rapper who introduced them loafs on a couch nearby. “Polska, whatever his name is,” Diplo later tells me, “is like the A$AP Rocky of Holland.”

The track initially resembled a “house record” but turned into a “trap record” after Diplo slowed it down and added some bass. Complicating matters is that the song features Pharrell. “I’m trying to negotiate what Pharrell wants for the record,” he says. “Pharrell loved the demo, but the demo is so monotone for me. It’s just a mixtape cut [now,] but it can be bigger than that because the hook is so good.”

Diplo wears a maroon T-shirt, mustard-colored skinny jeans and sleek gray high-top Puma sneakers, looking every bit like the cool-kid DJ he’s been for nearly a decade. But since producing singles for Usher, Chris Brown, Wale, and Beyoncé, he’s evolved into a new role—rap and R&B’s latest hitmaker for hire. It’s a welcome transition for Diplo. Spinning records has brought him the residency in Vegas, the BlackBerry sponsorship and the big-money corporate gigs—“Sometimes I make more money in a weekend than my grandpa made in a year”—but he doesn’t think DJing is a special talent or challenging or… “Being a DJ is pretty bullshit,” he says. “I’m lucky I can produce records, too, because DJs don’t do shit. They just fucking play records. Usher is trained to dance. Justin Bieber had to train 24 hours a day to be a performer. What I do is pretty simple. It’s a good time to be a DJ and make good money, but you definitely can’t have an ego doing this shit because it’s not that cool.”

Diplo is right about one thing: It is a good time to be a DJ. Electronic dance music festivals are the summer’s hottest tickets, corporate promoters such as Live Nation and AEG Live are buying in, and top DJs like Skrillex, Afrojack and Deadmau5 are the new rock stars. It’s a feeding frenzy that, according to Diplo, will not last. “It’s definitely a bubble,” he says. “But some people are good at what they do. Skrillex is a bonafide superstar.”

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BlackBook Tracks #8: Gift Raps

I originally made this for my friend’s mixtape club under the theme “gift raps.” It is exactly what it says it is.

Le1f – “Wut”

Underground rap’s summer anthem of 2012 has been on repeat for weeks.

Iggy Azalea – “Murda Bizness” (ft. T.I.)

The latest party anthem from the Australian upstart shows off her undeniable star power. It’s also accompanied by one of the year’s best music videos so far, a spoof of the child pageant world.

Kanye West – “Monster” (ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Bon Iver)

Remember those days when Nicki Minaj was just doing guest verses and had yet to do anything that people considered disappointing?

Angel Haze – “Werkin’ Girls”

NYC rapper Angel Haze is Universal’s toughest new signee, and this cut from her latest release Reservation shows why.

Das Racist – “You Can Sell Anything”

#RappersThatSpitTheTruth isn’t trending on Twitter any more, but this is still my pick.

M.I.A. – “URAQT”

Have a throwback to 2005 to remember that this bad girl has always done it well.

A-Trak – “Ray Ban Vision” (ft. CyHi The Prynce)

This hilarious/infectious track was a favorite in fall 2010 and still sounds fresh, thanks to the ever-reliable A-Trak’s amped-up production.

Dominique Young Unique – “Gangster Whips”

This Florida-based rapper has remained fairly underground for years now, but she’s slowly but surely going to make her way out.

Yelawolf – “Lick The Cat” (ft. Diamond)

This song contains the line “White boys eat pussy like a sandwich.” That is all you need to know about it.

Azealia Banks – “Fuck Up The Fun”

If you haven’t already, listen to this track from Azealia Banks and Diplo and you’ll immediately know why our friends at Vibe put this dream team on their cover.

Kitty Pryde – “Orion’s Belt” (ft. RiFF RAFF)

Resistance is futile. Recent Mad Decent signee RiFF RAFF is one of the most bizarre, compelling figures in pop culture today, and Kitty Pryde’s honesty and self-awareness is inherently likeable.

Snoop Explains His Transition to Snoop Lion in New Doggumentary

You’ve probably already seen the news that Snoop Dogg has publicly announced his transition into the reggae singer and partaker of traditional Jamaican rituals, now with the more symbolically apt name of Snoop Lion. You have already probably had more than your fair share of geeky friends speculate over whether or not Snoop Mountain Lion will be next. You maybe possibly groaned about any or all of these things.

Luckily, there is a handy documentary premiering September 7th at the Toronto Film Festival that provides some perhaps needed context on Snoop Lion’s animalistic switcheroo (and no, it has nothing to do with the Animorphs #rememberthe90s). Reincarnated, produced by Snoop’s own Snoopadelic Films in partnership with VICE Films, traces Snoop’s journey from canine to feline as he goes to Jamaica, gets religion and makes an album with Diplo. The film finds the emcee having traveled creatively and emotionally quite a ways from Tha Doggumentary in some respects, but in interviews, he seems the same Snoop he’s always been—dreads, lots of smoke surrounding the scene, the same onstage charisma. He tells the camera his career has been in stages, and he’s moved on to the next, to make an album away from the themes that made him famous and to do an album with no rapping. "I didn’t just want to come here and say I made a record in Jamaica and grew some dreadlocks," he says. "Rastafari brought me here." Whether or not the new Snoop is a permanent shift, the documentary still looks like a good time. Check the trailer below. 

You can also listen to Snoop’s first reggae single, "La La La," below: