Album Reviews

Diplo – Decent Work For Decent Pay

(Ninja Tune) UK release date: 26 January 2009

Diplo - Decent Work For Decent Pay In 2002, Wes Pentz aka Diplo couldn’t get a gig anywhere in his adopted home of Philadelphia, a city where DJs outnumber rats 2:1. His solution: rent a Ukrainian meeting hall, start his own Hollertronix parties and sell his own mixtape from the back of a car. That now legendary Never Scared mixtape put a bow-tie on the gimmicky “mash-up” genre, and slowly got indie kids the world over skaking their asses to dirty southern crunk and Baltimore club music.

A brief dalliance (both musical and romantic) with M.I.A. raised his profile still further, to the point where today, as a dj and producer, he occupies much the same space the Beastie Boys once did in the ’90s. His fans range from frat boys to chin-strokers, he runs a label, Mad Decent, and he resolutely keeps tongue firmly in cheek (he even dropped Do The Bartman during a turn on Radio 1’s über-earnest Essential Mix).

As befits the schedule of a constantly touring dj, his production work has mostly come out in dribs and drabs. A remix here, a cheeky bootleg there. This is where this compilation comes in – a selection of his remixes from the last few years with some new solo material added. His output has been prodigious of late, with mixes of MGMTTelepathe and Britney Spears already surfacing in 2009.

And this is one of the minor gripes with this release – the sheer scale of incredible things left off it. A compilation album of this kind is obviously a bit of an Ozymandias moment for any artist, even more so for a DJ who mostly deals in sporadic, off the cuff releases. But arguably without his incredible overhaul of Gwen Stefani‘s Hollaback Girl, his glitchy mess around of Ray Charles on his “Gold Digger” remix, or his recent abstract cover of Pixies‘ “Hey”, it’s hard to call this a definitive “best of” as such.

What is included is still pretty damn impressive though. Spank Rock‘s Put That Pussy On Me gets fused with some rockabilly licks and strangely recalls Fatboy Slim in his pomp, while Hot Chip‘s Shake A Fist is pitchshifted to buggery until Alexis Taylor’s vocal is bouncing about in the middle of a samba rave. Black Lips‘s Veni Vidi Vici on the other hand stays fairly faithful to the swampy, devilish original, peppering it lightly with Rufus Thomas grunts and drum hits. A reworking of Bloc Party‘s Where Is Home doesn’t really come off, but as the saying goes, it’s hard to polish a turd. CSS get a better look in though, with “Let’s Make Love…” getting treated to a handsome beat that sounds subtly like a tribute to Baltimore club classic Perculator by Cajmere.

Diplo’s original production work is the real joy of this compilation though, and probably the crowning gem is Solta O Frango, from the sublime Bonde Do Role album. A mere 2.17 in length, it’s irresistible party fodder and as a single in 2007, was hugely important in bringing Brazilian baile funk to the ears of the uninitiated.

Much to M.I.A.’s personal chagrin, the real star of Kala was Paper Planes, one of only two songs on the album produced by her ex, and here represented with a remix featuring Southern legend Bun B and Rich Boy. The beat and chorus stay the same but some added hip-hop credibility is added to a song that had a slew of truly horrible “tributes” follow its release.

Die-hard fans may argue over which gems should have made the cut, but this album isn’t really for them in many ways. It’s for those who have heard Diplo’s name but not his incredible way with a beat, and as an introduction, it should prove more than enlightening.

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