From rocking parties at a Ukrainian Social Club in Philly, to touring worldwide and producing for some of the coolest kids on the block, Diplo, one half of Hollertronix, is building a name for himself that not only encompasses music, but philanthropy, too. In an era of conspicuous consumption and celebrity DJ’s, Diplo keeps it real and proves that Dip luuh the kids!
“I really never talk shit about people, but Aaron is the worst dude, ever.”
Format: Explain the birth of Hollertronix.
Diplo: It was this Philly party we started. Me and Low Budget didn’t have a place to DJ that we liked so we started renting this Ukrainian Social Club for these parties and a culture sort of developed around it. Philly has some weird laws where clubs close at 2:00 a.m., but social clubs are self-governing. The party kind of blew up and we started traveling with it. Before we started throwing parties there the place was empty. We ended up investing money into it: paying for new air conditioning, covering security costs. Eventually, it started getting out of control and the owners kept trying to raise the price on it. We haven’t done a party there in a few years, but we let these Philly kids, Emile and Bo, do a similar thing there.
Format: The Hollertronix mixtape Never Scared sort of blew up in 2003. The New York Times talked about it, even. After Never Scared, you released a solo album, Florida, which felt like something of a departure.
Diplo: Florida was actually before, but it was commercially released after Never Scared. It was just some other type sound I was feeling. As a DJ, it’s my job to explore new sounds, find new artists and experiment.
“…funniest thing was they were actually made better than the real Dickies – I bought a ton of them.”
Format: You were born in Mississippi. Why was it called Florida?
Diplo: I grew up in Florida near Ft. Lauderdale. It’s weird – if you are from Florida you have a lot of pride in the state. We kind of come to resent the Republicans and transplants, but really embrace natives. Floridians take a lot of pride in being from there and it takes a lot of effort and creativity to do something different in Miami or wherever and get recognized. My family still lives there and generations of my family are from there. My parents own a bait shop there.
Format: Tell me about Heaps Decent and your philanthropic work – was it always in the back of your head or has it just been a natural progression?
Diplo: I always wanted to leave something behind when I’m done with the music shit. It’s also about breaking new music. Back in the day, the biggest thing hip-hop had going for it was that it was new. I mean, older hip-hop DJs used to have secret records. That doesn’t exist anymore. You know, a lot of people give me flak for doing stuff in the third world, but what’s worse, pushing bad music on the kids or empowering them to break music in the future? A lot of these Aborigines kids, in Australia, don’t have access to anything so I’m hoping that I’m helping to cultivate a new wave of culture, similar to the way I was inspired as a kid.
“I don’t really have money so if a company is down to donate shit to help with some philanthropic shit then it’s a win, win situation.”
Format: Have you heard of The Long Tail? It’s a book by Wired editor Chris Anderson who posits that the future of commerce is selling less of more; that there is no money to be made in hits and blockbusters, and that the real money is to have a lot of niche success and cult followings. MIA might be a perfect example. She will never go platinum, but she will always sell out shows.
Diplo: I haven’t heard of it but it sounds very interesting and I agree with that. It’s about developing the culture. MIA’s artwork is strong, her concepts are dope, her production is great. I don’t think this album will sell as many as her last one but her fan base is always going to be growing. We’re not trying to figure out the next big thing. We’re just trying to develop good shit.
Format: There has been a well documented beef and drama with Aaron LaCrate, please discuss.
Diplo: He used the Hollertronix name and brand when he never asked to. He has constantly lied to everyone in Baltimore. He keeps bouncing back, somehow. Everyone hates him, though. Straight up, he’s like the worst dude in the world. He has co-opted the scene and he keeps coming back saying that he invented this shit. ‘Oh, Bmore is so ghetto, we sell crack and kill people,’ blah, blah, blah, ‘gutter music.’ That is real life to a lot of these people and you took a sliver of beauty in a totally fucked up city and rebranded it so you can sell gutter music to kids in China with a T-shirt to go along with it. People like Scottie B and Blaqstarr are the real stars of Baltimore. I had to go to court with Blaqstarr to help him get a passport, `cause he has a gun charge. That’s gutter. I really never talk shit about people, but Aaron is the worst dude, ever. And if someone interviews him and asks about me he’s like, ‘I don’t know why he’s upset. I don’t know what I did.’ The dude is smart and knows the right things to say, but I’ve never seen anyone cannibalize something so beautiful, so badly.
“A lot of these Aborigines kids, in Australia, don’t have access to anything so I’m hoping that I’m helping to cultivate a new wave of culture.”
Format: I know some corporations have been fucking with you. How do you not sell out and walk the line?
Diplo: There’s no real threat of selling out. I don’t really have money so if a company is down to donate shit to help with some philanthropic shit then it’s a win, win situation. As for licensing and stuff, there is no money in record sales anymore, which means there is money to be spent elsewhere on music. At the end of the day, money is going to filter back to the artist in some form and I don’t give a fuck if it comes from a corporation.
Format: What clothes do you wear?
Diplo: Dickies and Converse.
Format: What about Ben Davis, you fuck with that? A lot of people say that’s where A Bathing Ape got its inspiration.
Diplo: Ben Davis still makes stuff? Wow. That’s a little more West Coast.
Format: And Dickies and Chucks aren’t West Coast?
Diplo: I guess you’re right. See, I went to Africa last year and every kid in Johannesburg was wearing Dickies and Chuck Taylors. They were actually fake Dickies, though, but the funniest thing was they were actually made better than the real Dickies – I bought a ton of them. As for shoes, I like New Balance, too. Nike sends me stuff sometimes. Nike made me some Mad Decent dunks. If I’m traveling, sometimes, I buy stuff when I see it and I need it. I fuck with some local brands, too. My friends do Mishka and then this company Plain Gravy did a Diplo shirt. They are out of Philly.
Format: A few days ago, Kanye’s album leaked. Have you heard it yet?
Diplo: I heard a few songs. I love the Chris Martin song. The beats are awesome, but “Big Brother?” Who the fuck cares?! I don’t think a lot of kids can relate to Kanye, but he puts himself out there, which I respect. The album feels too similar to his past ones. I mean, he’s got another girl moves to L.A., L.A. devours girl, girl becomes slut song on there. We’ve already heard “All Falls Down.”
“I had to go to court with Blaqstarr to help him get a passport, `cause he has a gun charge.”
Format: In 2003, when you put out Never Scared, a lot of people in NYC and L.A. were not fucking with dirty south music. You had artists like Drama, Bonecrusher and Lil Jon on the mixtape mixed with Bjork. Now that’s the cool thing to do. Somehow in less than five years, the sound has collapsed on itself and turned into crap. What happened?
Diplo: I think when Busta Rhymes got on Bonecrusher’s “Never Scared” that was the whole turning point. That’s when New York started fucking with the South. The whole dirty south thing was such a grass roots thing, back then, and these days it’s just young kids who take an after school course on marketing and then they just do crap music Then they get scooped by a label who puts out the ring-tone and then the kids are never heard from again. Some of these kids just want to copy what’s on the radio. Only a few years ago it was like, ‘How can we do something really crazy and different to take over the current scene?’ I have artists and labels call me up and say they want a song that sounds exactly like this. If they called and were like, ‘We are big fans, can you do something in the spirit of this?’ it’d be different, but they just want a straight copy. Now, New York is a zombie land of music – dead people eating more dead people. And, nobody even likes the music.
Format: Are you talking about hipsters being posers?
Diplo: No, even black kids in New York; they listen to dirty south music and don’t really like it. It’s just catchy. And the DJs don’t even like what they are playing.
“‘Big Brother?’ Who the fuck cares?! I don’t think a lot of kids can relate to Kanye…”
Format: MIA, Dizzee Rascal, Outkast, Talib Kweli – is it cliche to do a song with Bun B now?
Diplo: No and it never will be. He’s a pioneer. He is one of the first dudes to break out of the dirty south and he is as relevant now as he’s ever been. Every artist respects him. He’s also so smart and so intelligent. He did a Hollertronix show with us back in the day for free at the Ukrainian spot with Spankrock and some other people. Other than Outkast, he is one of the only progressive artists in the south. Ask him about any kind of music and he will give an educated response. Bun B just keeps it real when other rappers are just having mid-life crises.
Format: Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat?”
Diplo: Shit is so hot. I don’t even know what the hook is – is it the first verse or the second verse? Someone just drove by bumping that. And, the kid produced it himself!
He produced his whole album. It’s going to be Interscope’s most profitable project of the year, more than 50 Cent.
Diplo: I love it even more. I feel bad for 50.
More Info: http://www.myspace.com/diplo