9 things we learned about Diplo during his interview with Rick Rubin
There is something special to be noted about when two legends from two very different ends of the music industry sit down together to talk. Rick Rubin is widely regarded as the godfather of modern hip-hop, and Diplo is widely accepted as one of today’s most in-demand taste makers. So when the founder of Def Jam Records takes the time to check in on the founder of Mad Decent, you may want to listen up. Rick recently caught up with Wes in a feature for Interview Magazine, and here are the nine most important facts we pulled from the buzzworthy chat.
1. Record promo is dead.
“The viral world is so fast, you can’t catch up” – Rick Rubin
In an age where 140 characters is all you need to break the internet, Diplo fills Rick in on the current landscape in an industry that no longer abides by the word of record labels and thrives on trending links and digital word of mouth. “We don’t feel it’s necessary to promote anymore,” explains Diplo to a man who built one of the most revered record labels in America. The dynamic is much different now and Diplo knows how to play the game better than anyone else.
2. Diplo sells one thing: Diplo
“It’s about selling the personality more than it’s about selling the actual records you’re making” – Diplo
In case you haven’t noticed yet, Diplo is a worldwide brand. Random White Dude Be Everywhere. Diplo isn’t so much about the tracks with his name stamped on them. Rather Diplo is about the brand; the well-oiled entertainment machine with a knack for striking gold in anything he tries. Selling music is limiting to a guy like Wes, selling a brand is how Diplo became who he is.
3. Diplo was holding down Vegas before anyone else, thanks to the late DJ AM.
“Monday was the weird night. I was playing hip-hop when everyone else was playing the giant rave music” – Diplo
“I was super lucky to get in there with AM and that crowd” – Diplo
Before Afrojack, Calvin Harris, and every other top-tier DJ in the world chased down a residency in Vegas, Diplo was holding down a Monday night slot with his own style and grace. He kept true to his own style and sure enough, Las Vegas turned into a Mecca for top-name DJs around him. With a little luck and the right guidance from DJ AM, Diplo secured a spot in Las Vegas that he still holds today where he crowd tests new music for his famed radio program.
4. Switch turned Diplo from a mere DJ into a producer… even though he was doing it wrong the whole time.
“And then I met Switch, who was probably the guy who taught me the most about producing. It was such a super-weird way, the way he was doing things, and super wrong.” – Diplo
Do you remember when Major Lazer was Switch, Diplo, and a full-fledged dance hall circus going on around them? Back before Diplo ran with Walshy Fire and Jillionaire, there was Switch. And although the two have long since parted ways, Diplo nods to the guy who was instrumental to his monumental come up. Diplo has his own way of doing things, and refinements to his sound and style are evident over the course of his career, but he is sure to make it clear that Diplo wouldn’t be the super-producer he is without taking a page or two out of Switch’s book.
5. Diplo’s ultra-eclectic taste comes from traveling far and wide.
“I never got tied down to any social scene, I was just into creating stuff” – Diplo
From the high-energy party music emanating from the southern part of the United States in the early 2000’s to the dance hall and hip-hop that he came by between Philly, Florida, and New York, Diplo’s palette was shaped by a little bit of everything during his rise to prominence. From linking up with MIA to swapping hip-hop mixtapes before Diplo was anywhere near a household name, Mad Decent’s head honcho tells Rick Rubin of how he has sewn together pieces of his past to develop such a respected taste.
6. Diplo’s solo career might soon come to a close.
“Well I’m actually trying to retire Diplo material at this point” – Diplo
Some say going out at the top of your game is the way to do it. And if anyone understands how hectic things in the music industry can get, Rick Rubin can certainly be a sympathetic ear. But Diplo is so busy with everything from cartoons to Madonna‘s comeback that it is no surprise that his own solo performances will likely start waning soon. But with Jack Ü and Major Lazer both rolling full steam ahead, we won’t be seeing any less of Diplo even if he hangs up his solo career in the near future.
7. Don’t mistake Diplo for a musician; he’s a cultural curator
“I feel like if you’re smart in 2015, you don’t even try to sell records at all”
Wes takes a moment to educate Rick Rubin on how he runs his game, and the results speak for themselves. The Jack Ü record is selling itself like crazy, both Major Lazer records slated to drop this year are hotly-anticipated, and with everyone itching to get with Diplo in the studio, the leg work to sell the music appears to be much different then when Rick got his start. Dance music is just as much of a culture as it is an industry and Wes has a sage understanding of that concept. Selling this culture that we all love is what drives record sales and streaming statistics. Branding is now the name of the game.
8. Mad Decent Block Parties might become an international event
“So now we’re talking, ‘Let’s do a block party in Mumbai'” – Diplo
Over the course of their conversation, Rubin shows great interest in the Mad Decent Block Party phenomenon that has, in only 7 short years, taken over the country. MDBP is gearing up for 22 shows this year, boasting one of the best rotating lineups all year. But now having conquered North America, Diplo’s sights are now set over seas. Having spent significant time in India, Jamaica, and other parts of the world, Diplo has seen how dance music thrives in foreign markets and he explains to Rick how he plans to capitalize.
9. Diplo considers Skrillex to be our generation’s Kurt Cobain
“I’m actually fascinated by him. I feel like Skrillex has this Kurt Cobain attitude where he is like a spokesperson for a lot of kids” – Diplo
Simply put, Skrillex is fascinating. For a much wider range of reasons than just his music. With such high praise for his Jack Ü counterpart, Diplo takes a genuine moment to shout out another one of today’s most sought-after forward thinkers, comparing Skrillex to Nirvana’s late front man, who has also left a legacy as a cultural icon behind since his passing. Together the pair rule the American dance music scene, and they don’t appear to be showing any signs of slowing anytime soon.
H/T: Interview Magazine