Great music, plain and simple, seamlessly strung together for maximum party vibe effect.
David Katz 2011
Around five years ago, Philadelphia-based DJ Diplo reached critical mass through collaborations with M.I.A. Remixes soon followed for Kayne West, Justin Timberlake and Gwen Stefani, and more recently, Madonna and Radiohead. His brand of electronica has always utilized non-standard reference points, as heard on his series of baile funk-influenced mixtapes; in 2009, he evidenced a deep love for Jamaican dancehall via the Major Lazer project, put together in Kingston with fellow DJ Switch, which paired Vybz Kartel and Busy Signal with Santogold and Nina Sky. The success of Major Lazer and Diplo’s dancehall sensibilities made him an obvious candidate for curator of Riddimentary, a mixtape-style compilation drawn from the voluminous archives of Greensleeves Records, the label that first put dancehall on the international map.
As Greensleeves is most associated with Jamaica’s rawest releases, particularly those of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Diplo wrong-foots the listener with the opening track, Who Is the Ruler, a slice of mid-1990s UK roots by Alpha & Omega, which merely forms a platform for boastful posturing here. Thankfully, the mix soon hits the label’s peak period, showcasing favourites such as Tristan Palma’s Joker Smoker, John Holt’s Police In Helicopter, Ranking Dread’s Fattie Boom Boom and Eek-A-Mouse’s Anarexol. Diplo also weaves in some lesser-known treats, such as Barrington Levy’s Eventide Fire a Disaster and Lone Ranger’s Gunshot Mek Daughter Drop, as well as an early electro-dub called Interface, and a very sparse dub cut of the classic Satta rhythm, taken from one of the first dub albums ever issued. Following a very strange remix of Gregory Isaacs’ Night Nurse, we also get a blast of JC Lodge’s digital dance hit Telephone Love, the set unexpectedly ending on a deep dub cut of Prince Far I’s Survival.
Even though there is little to distinguish this as a Diplo affair, and the tracklisting feels rather random, it holds together well as a mixtape, since the quality of the music remains high throughout. Listeners should not expect anything too profound, but neither will they be reaching for eject. This is great music, plain and simple, seamlessly strung together for maximum party vibe effect.