For years, the specter of Josh Davis (DJ Shadow) and his genre-defining
debut, Endtroducing, hung ominously over the heads of prospective steel
wheels stalwarts, and at times, even his own. In 2002, though, someone stood
up to the DJ-genre bullying and cracked it open. RJD2, an unassuming white
guy from Ohio, dropped a bomb called Deadringer on an unsuspecting group
Def Jukkies, and the circle was broken.
Since Deadringer there's been, I'd
say, a rash of really good, though not great, cratedigging albums. Not
exactly canon-worthy stuff, but artists such as Sixtoo, DJ Signify and
Blockhead have churned out listenable, groove-heavy, if overly produced
albums this year alone. After a lull, the Technics-tipping form has grown up
and away from Davis' hoodie-ensnared scowl.
Diplo (originally Diplodocus) is a different story. Born in
Florida, his debut solo album's namesake, but relocated to Philadelphia,
Diplo is one half of Hollertronix. That crew is a dynamic, decidedly ill DJ
duo best known for introducing Southern crunk music to lame white people in
clubs along the East Coast. Hollertronix, rounded out by partner Low Budget,
brought the body-shaking, synth-happy style so ineloquently defined by
genius/pop cult icon/sociological buffoon Lil' Jon to the masses through
mashups with rock, dancehall, electro and '80s pop. So, on Florida, I
expected some ass-shaking music. Sadly, but not regrettably, that's not the
With its professional, less danceable sound, Florida is
another album that probably won't sit on
your "classics" shelf next your dusty copies of Q-Bert
cassette tapes or even Hollertronix's epic 2003 mixtape Never Scared.
But it does offer some genre-hopping skill and a few
The sounds bounce around too much, and there are too many singles and not
enough album-fusers to connect the dots. Still, some left-of-center guests
bring some gravitas to the proceedings. Recently resurrected songbird
Martina Topley-Bird coos beautifully on the familiar-sounding "Into the Sun,"
and Freestyle Fellowship legend P.E.A.C.E. spits acid with his low-toned hum
on the funkier-than-a-Gucci-sari cut "Indian Thick Jawns."
"Way More" hints at some of that sludgy crunk with ricochet drum breaks
whose BPM might make Big Boi blush, but regal horns smooth out the edges. It's the lush orchestration and keen use of horns and woodwinds here that
consistently throw me off guard. The ambient flute flutter of "Summer's
Gonna Hurt You" is mildly enchanting, but distracts from the viciousness of
the song's rhythm.
The album's apex comes early on with "Big Lost." It's a raucous crash of
throbbing, ticked-off drum 'n' bass and a ridiculously melodic orgy of violin and organ euphoria. I like this song a great deal. Its presence makes
it impossible for me not to recommend this album. That
said, next go round I'd like to see some soul-slapping, crunk-as-hell mania,
just because I know Diplo does it so well.