finally caught diplo

8/9/06 – 8/11/06 (Here and there, when I’ve had time.)

So, having read about Hollertronix and Diplo forever I finally got my first chance to see the man. I’ve been more interested in him than most DJs because of his involvement with the Funk Carioca scene in Brazil. I bought his first Funk Carioca mixtape when it dropped and that was the first taste I got of that sound. I had read about the music years prior in a Latin American music magazine called “La Banda Elastica.” An interview with Manu Chao and David Byrne of all things. They just talked about a funk/hip-hop hybrid out of the favelas. I went around NYC Brazilian stores trying to find the stuff. I didn’t even know that the Funk Carioca scene was different than the Brazilian Hip-hop scene which was about all I was able to find.

Every time Diplo has played Portland I’ve had a gig or been out of town, so leave it to a Monday night show to finally find me available. I’ve always been curious about the international content of his DJ sets. Anyone who I talked to who caught one of his Portland shows would say that all he played was 80’s and hip-hop. Very disappointing news. So I got a chance to see for myself. First of all I should say that his hour plus set was very dense and it has been several days so I will work with my memory to suss out the details. He consistently played an accapella over a beat to a different song. Sometimes one hip-hop beat with another hip-hop accapella on top. Sometimes an 80’s accapella (“Walk Like An Egyptian” for instance, with the video [over the “Whisper Song” beat?]) over a hip-hop beat. Initially he was just mixing beats and vocals and then he starting scratching in accapellas on DVD that were synched to the original artist videos. The Beastie Boys accapella of Sure Shot was the first video mixing he brought into his set. It was not always possible to tell whether a track was the original beat, a slightly-remixed beat, a beat from another song entirely, or an original Diplo creation. You should know that I own Diplo’s Favela mixes, his Diplo Rhythm 12″, his work with MIA, and about nothing else. I don’t own any of the Hollertronix stuff. I’m sure many of the remixes of tracks I heard during his set are known quantities, remixed by Diplo, but I don’t know ’em.

He started with a “Badman Pull Up” track that I don’t know because I only know a fraction of the popular dancehall songs. I thought it was a very interesting way to start his set and I perked up my ears. Then he went into a straight 95.5 set going so far as to play the original of “Tipsy” which I found quite underwhelming and dated. Blackmarks commented that the hipsters didn’t even know they were dancing to a mainstream hip-hop set being played all over town every weekend. I don’t presume to know people’s corporate hip-hop radio listening habits so I refrain from judgement. Somewhere in there he played Too Short’s “Shake That Monkey,” Cassie, MIA’s verse from “Grapes,” the aforementioned Beasties video + accapella, a Missy video + accapella (over “Rock the Casbah”), and a Ludacris video + accapella, all over different beats from the original songs. I must stress again that although he did occasionally play a track straight-up, it was usually a mashup of at least one different beat and accapella if not several different accapellas and several different beats.

He began playing the Cure “Lovecats” instrumental (slightly remixed). I won’t remember everything he mixed with this beat, and I believe there were several mixes with that rhythm. At one point he brought in the Daddy Yankee “Rompe” video + accapella over this beat. Then a reggaeton rhythm track came in along with the accapella and the “Lovecats” beat. It was smooth and there were moments when it all worked together quite well but I still like the original “Rompe” track better. That was the only bit of Reggaeton in his entire set. From the Dancehall opening until the “Rompe” accapella his set had been entirely coomprised of 80’s and hip-hop and despite only playing a minute or two of anything and having so many layers going at the same time I was fairly bored with his M.O.

At a certain point the familiar sound of the “Think” break entered the picture and things moved into a Baltimore club direction. Now I only have a handful of Baltimore Club tracks and I am mostly ignorant of all the music in that scene. I can’t tell you whether he was playing his own original tracks, or remixes of existing tracks, or straight-up pre-existing tracks. Things were then happening at a much faster pace. The energy level was definitely peaking. In this set he played a “Drop It Like It’s Hot” remix that included all the bits of the chorus that don’t involve the words “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” He also played his remix of Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman.” My favorite part of his set was during this fast, hard portion that I assumed was all Baltimore Club but it could have involved other current regional dance styles, such is my ignorance. The beats were fast and hard and not straight house. At one point he was playing some sick dancehall vocals over a very fast rhythm. This was the hottest shit I heard all night. Neither Blackmarks or I recognized the rhythm. Maybe it was a straight-up Jamaican riddim, or maybe the accapellas were synched to another rhythm, and maybe it was a Diplo original or someone else’s. Can’t help you there. It was hot and I would like to own it either way. He also played a Pitbull accapella at some point. It was over a very fast, very hard rhythm. I loved it. Was it a new Pitbull track? A Diplo mashup? I don’t know. It was hot. I want it. He played Daft Punk’s “Around the World” accapella, went into the “Technologic” accapella and then into Busta’s “Touch It” track over a sped-up rhythm. At one point I heard a voice say “Smack My Bitch Up.” Not being familiar with mid-period Prodigy I don’t know if he was playing the actual Prodigy track, or a remix, or if that was just a stray vocal. Things were very break-y techno-y for a while there. Didn’t know the tracks. Some time during this very fast part of his set he played a very hard remix of the Marvelette’s “Please Mr. Postman.” It started out looping the part sampled in the Juelz Santana track but then very effectively went into more of the song over a very loud and fast beat. Great crowd response, and then into a similar remix of the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” synched with an old B&W television performance clip (Anjali says the Ed Sullivan show). The crowd was jumping up and down and going crazy.

He went back to a hip-hop direction. He played the “Hustlin'” accapella at some point and a “Stay Fly” remix. The only references to Funk Carioca in his set were playing around with the sample of the horns from “Theme From Rocky” used first in Deize’s “Injeção” and then in the MIA “Bucky Done Gun” track before going into the MIA track. It sounded like the original but there was so much awesome bass I wondered if it was a remix. I’d never heard the bass in that track hit so hard. He did play two songs off the Diplo rhythm starting with Sandra Melody and then into the Pantera Os Danadinhos vocal. He wrapped his set up with Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon” mixing in the video + accapella of “Bombs Over Baghdad” throughout the track. Le Tigre sounded as muddy and muffled as my own overplayed vinyl. Somewhere in his set I think he played both his Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs remix and his Bloc Party remix. That’s what I thought they were anyway. I don’t listen to either band. I also remember the Eurhymic’s “Sweet Dreams” beat and the “Blue Monday” beat being mixed with something.

After CSS stopped playing and before Diplo went on a lot of people seemed to leave. Even though the singer of that band made a point of introducing Diplo there was then a lot of technical wrangling before he actually started performing. As I watched people head to the exits I am reminded of how many times I have begun DJing after a performer as I watch people stream for the exits. I guess that happens to all DJs, even Diplo. He definitely got the crowd going, however. Eventually the place felt full again and there was a lot of dancing on a Monday night. Towards the end of his set people started filling up the stage and dancing next to his DJ set-up. I didn’t see whether they were invited or did this spontaneously. So picture a full dancefloor and a stage full of dancers to imagine how his set finished. There was a lot of applause so he kept playing.

His encore went in a very oldies direction. He played an Elvis snapping fingers loop with the E-40/Lil Jon “Snap Your Fingers” accapella. He played Surfin’ Bird, he played Dick Dale’s “Miserlou.” Anjali and I left while he was playing “Stand By Me” which appeared to be his last track.

We had hoped to catch Bondo do Role but despite the way the bands had been listed in the ads, they went on first and we missed them. We saw the beginning of CSS’s set and were so disappointed and unenthused we adjourned to the lounge. Most of the crowd loved them and were thoroughly into their set by the time they got off. They may have been Brazilian but they seemed like Brooklyn hipsters to me.


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