From Florida to California, Diplo’s solo return (after five years of having all other fingers in many pies) is a star-studded triumph of modern hip hop, with a departure from his party music of recent years and a step towards the downtempo trip hop of 2004’s Florida, his only studio album to date. Filled with a cast of vocalists who have risen to high levels of fame over the past couple of years, the theme is current yet achieves a timeless overall sound, with each vocalist adding their aperture to the Diplo flavour on each track.
The release opens with uplifting dancehall-infused alt-pop cut ‘Worry No More’, enlisting early collaborator Santigold and a prevalent voice in modern hip hop, Lil Yachty, to bounce off each other’s auto tuned harmony. Appointing this as the lead single, as well as the opening gambit for the EP, appears to have been a calculated move considering any involvement of the red-braided “King of the Youth” will undoubtedly make heavy waves online.
California leads on to play with the opposite side of energy spectrum with ‘Suicidal’, which takes Desiigner out of his “turnt up” comfort zone and almost misses the mark with a melancholic and mildly introspective, bordering on lukewarm, set of verses.
“See they suicidal / They ain’t on on the killin’ / They ain’t ride the hate / They ain’t on adrenaline”
DRAM and Diplo hit a Gnarls Barkley heavy note with ‘Look Back’, with a vocal performance akin to Cee Lo Green’s range and lo-fi trip hop production not dissimilar to what Danger Mouse is known for. A combination like this wouldn’t ruffle any feathers if it slipped into an actual Gnarls Barkley tracklisting. However, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and ‘Look Back’ is a blissful pause from the hip hop rhythms heard so far on this release without losing an ounce of the well-conceived summery aesthetic.
Diplo continues to take vocalists from their trap music comfort zones with ‘Wish’ featuring another red-braided vocalist of the moment, Trippie Redd, which works on the momentum of the previous track, and ‘Color Blind’ with Lil Xan. Both productions and vocal performances are executed with surprising finesse and dances with even more influence. The latter toys with the EDM genre of the moment, future bass, without feeling like a fan service – combining Lil Xan’s adolescent tones with dreamy soft synth-filled four-to-the-floor production. At face value, ‘Color Blind’ is a risky move for both parties involved, but continues to hit the mark the same as the rest of the EP, with it being “My favorite song I’ve made so far” according to Lil Xan.
California reaches it’s euphoric peak with the wildly danceable rework of 2017’s ‘Get It Right’, which now features Goldlink to give some distance from the non stop intensity that MØ and Diplo provide, allowing for them to hit even harder than before.
Contrary the youthful sound (and perhaps appearance) that he effortlessly maintains, Diplo turns 40 this year, so let’s hope that he’s not “working on borrowed time” as he fears, and he never stops sharing his talent with the world.