Wesley Pentz was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, though he spent most of his formative years in Florida, hanging with gators and daydreaming about dinosaurs at his father’s bait shop. Wes wanted to be a paleontologist when he grew up, and his early fascination with dinosaurs spread to his musical endeavors when he adopted the DJ name Diplo, short for Diplodocus. Growing up in Florida exposed Diplo to an early Miami bass scene, peaking his interest in hybrid genres, and exploring what was going on musically in other countries.
Pentz went to film school, finishing his undergraduate degree at Temple University in Philadelphia. To support himself, he took on random jobs working as a social worker, an after-school mentor, and at a movie theater. When Pentz began moonlighting as a DJ, and soon found notoriety in electronic music, thanks to a majorly successful series of parties that he co-hosted with DJ Low Budget called Hooked On Hollerphonix. As the popularity of their parties grew, Diplo and Budget released a series of mixtapes, including the critically acclaimed breakthrough “Never Scared.” Shortly after, Diplo got hooked up with Big Dada, an imprint distributed by Ninja Tune, where he released his debut solo album Florida in 2004.
After hearing a track from Florida, M.I.A. approached Diplo, intrigued by his unique genre-mashing production style. They collaborated on a mixtape called Piracy Funds Terrorism Vol. 1, where M.I>A.’s Arular acapellas were blended with Diplo’s mixes. Diplo and M.I.A. would continue to collaborate, and struck pop relevancy gold when they worked with London DJ Switch on the smash hit “Paper Planes.” Suddenly Diplo was one of the most sought-after DJs and producers in the world, and he had a new collaborator in Switch, with whom he later established their collaborative dancehall project Major Lazer.
“Paper Planes” proved the accessibility-factor in Diplo’s off-kilter beats, and within a few years, he was collaborating with the biggest pop stars in music, including Shakira, Robyn, Kid Cudi, Bruno Mars, and Beyoncé. Despite having achieved super-producer status, Diplo sought an outlet for the release and promotion of obscure electronic DJs and producers from around the world. In 2005, Diplo established Mad Decent, a record label shining light on releasing exotic electronic sub-genres like favela funk, Brazilian baile funk, Jamaican dancehall, Angolan kuduro, and more recently moombahton.
Diplo’s persistent search for new and interesting sounds from around the globe has allowed him to craft a unique production style, incorporating and embracing aspects of each movement in his own beats, sometimes bringing these unheard, obscure sounds to a mainstream level. He may face accusations of “genre tourism” from his detractors, butthere’s no denying that Diplo has an ear for what’s exciting in electronic music. Let’s check out some of his best production work (outside of his own solo material and Major Lazer) for this edition of the Producer Mixtape.