Following a busy 2013, Diplo has triumphantly returned with his ever-more-successful project Major Lazer and recently released his five track amplification of Jamaican dance music, Apocalypse Soon. Since first entering into the electro-reggae music scene in 2009, Major Lazer has come a remarkably long way considering the production teams controversial history, (founding member DJ Switch left due to creative differences) and has performed at events such as The Warehouse Project and Glastonbury. More recently, Major Lazer has taken on a variety of projects including contributions to the birth of Snoop Dog’s alter-ego, Snoop Lion in 2012, and partial production of Rita Ora’s debut album.
Apocalypse Soon, produced under record labels Mad Decent and Secretly Canadian, has generated a truly unique mix of sounds intertwining Jamaican harmonies into pounding club rhythms. Major Lazer appears to be jumping on the Pharrell Williams bandwagon in his recent launch to success, but also features guest appearances from Sean Paul, dubbed as the one of the founders of dancehall regeneration by MTV. Take out the vocals, product of interesting collaborations, and we’re left with the raw, unadulterated, prominent Jamaican influence key to the rhythm. Put the vocals back in, and it’s a complex of rap-brilliance, with captivatingly catchy lyrics.
Starting off the five track EP in a texturized jumble of tinny-spray and pressurised rattle of a canister is ‘Aerosol Can’, featuring the revitalised Pharrell Williams (although he never really went away). Percussion drives this track intertwined with stimulating yet surprisingly aggressive lyrics. Flinging out references to drugs and luxury labels reflects a timeless aspect of Pharrell’s raps, one that can only be emphasised over a minimal beat.
The second track, ‘Come On To Me’, features the king himself, Sean Paul. Diplo has been toying with dancehall for a while now and this track is a chance to appeal to the mainstream audience, endorsed by America’s favourite reggae celebrity. The moombahton style of this number showcases a thick bassline mixed with reggaeton-influenced drums to create a dance-ready pulse. ‘Sound Bang’ is more of an uplifting, island-kissed track that sets the mood for relaxing on a tropical beach, only to be met with an optimistic rhythm. This beat has elements of Dutch hardstyle influenced by Machel Montano’s energy. Reinforced by the acoustic guitar, this tune will find a new sense of appreciation in the height of summer.
‘Lose Yourself’ is a perceptible mix of EDM and reggae, product of employing dancehall duo RDX and electronic producer Moska. The beat at times seems repetitive, however resonates like pure festival bait. Ending the EP is ‘Dale Asi’, an intriguing combination of trap-meets-dancehall with hip-hop chucked in for good measure. With the help of Mr. Fox, a steady beat and a recurrent Spanish rap, this composition arouses inner cultural dance moves.
All that aside, Major Lazer has managed to produce a well-thought out extension of Jamaican-meets-electro-dancehall music, and wrangled an all-star cast at the same time. This eclectic blend is definitely worth a listen, if not for an insight into a unique artisan project of dance’s venture into rap into pop, then for an adventure through modern reggae.By Victoria Chater-Lea