A Diplo-matic look at dancehall

By Richard Johnson Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 25, 2012    

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JAMAICAN music and dancehall culture are featured in the November issue of fashion and lifestyle magazine Vanity Fair.

Thanks to American DJ and record producer Diplo, a number of images from the island's music scene have been compiled into a photo story.

Diplo, 34, whose real name is Thomas Wesley Pentz, has worked with No Doubt, Usher, and Beyoncé. He captures the essence of the dancehall experience in Diary of Dancehall, which is accentuated by 15 engaging images from photographer Shane McCauley.

The party scene features prominently in the photo spread with each image bearing a journal entry. Diplo gives snippets on the popular weekly street dance Passa Passa in Kingston, the Sunday night sessions at Tuff Gong, Igloo — the Sunday event at Sugarman's Beach in Portmore St Catherine, and the Japanese presence in Jamaican dancehall. All accompanied by McCauley's arresting images.

Featured heavily in the spread is deejay Popcaan. Diplo writes: "In a music scene where controversy sells — and hype and drama are the motivators behind a buzz — Popcaan has made a career out of the opposite. He just makes music about pretty girls and having a good time partying. Still, his distinctive high-pitched voice, distinct swagger, and up-to-the-minute street vocabulary have enabled him to have a meteoric rise that hasn't been seen in years."

Diplo also notes that he was in Jamaica "recording with a crew for a secret project — Popcaan has been brought in to give us some current vibes, and also some weed and other stuff... Popcaan has been writing with me and Snoop Dogg on the upcoming record for Snoop, and Busy (Signal) and I finished working on a track for No Doubt's new album — even that is something I would never expect to work on, but in the reggae market you can never predict what's going to happen."

The Vanity Fair spread also features DJ Creep Chromatic whom Diplo notes "has always been busting new tunes from these artists. In fact, it was Chromatic who pushed Pon de Floor from the Major Lazer album."

In an ironic twist, deejay Busy Signal — who returned to Jamaica on November 17 after serving two months in a United States Federal prison — also forms part of the photo-driven article.




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