Diplo switches gears with new EP ‘California’

EDM legend Diplo has made a career out of producing radio-friendly dance tracks for years.

California, Mad Decent

His career reached new heights when he joined forces with Jillonaire and Walshy Fire under the pseudonym Major Lazer. The dance artist’s work with Major Lazer led to the ubiquitous “Lean On” and the grammy-winning “Where Are U Now?” featuring pop singer Justin Bieber. His ability to access the mainstream and work well with a diverse set of vocalists solidified his notoriety as a heavily in-demand collaborator.

Diplo’s versatility is showcased now more than ever on his latest EP, California. The concise, six-song set draws most of its inspiration from the hip-hop and R&B genres.

California‘s sunny disposition is representative of the titular state, but its existential lyrics add compelling depth. The record sees Diplo taking a more laid-back approach to his production.

The EP’s relaxed aesthetic allows a deeper exploration of the lyrics and meaning behind each track. One of the most experimental and intriguing songs on the album is “Look Back.” The song adopts an indie rock sound accompanied by a soulful performance by “Broccoli” singer DRAM. The collaboration is a nice surprise, as it showcases new sides of both Diplo and DRAM.

The experimentation on the extended play, while commendable in its ambition, does not always pay off. Diplo’s collaboration with Desiigner on “Suicidal,” for example, is an instantly forgettable mumble rap track that could just as easily be found on a Migos B-side tape. Its indecipherable lyrics and unoriginal production are a low point on the otherwise solid EP.

The existential themes on the EP are further explored on “Wish,” which featured rapper and singer Trippie Redd. The song features a soft rock production that allows Redd a chance to showcase his soulful vocal ability. The track explores the intoxicating atmosphere of depression and longing for a past love. It is reminiscent of rapper Lil Uzi Vert’s recent work on Luv is Rage 2.

Reflection and introspection continue on the Lil Xan collaboration “Color Blind.” On the track, Lil Xan reflects on a past relationship through which he only recognizes the relationship’s flaws in hindsight. The song is accompanied by a dreamy production, and Diplo’s signature post-chorus dance break is fitting on the track.

The closing track, “Get it Right,” features Diplo’s past collaborator MØ as well as “Crew” singer GoldLink. The track is the closest semblance of Diplo’s past work with Major Lazer. It plays as a distant cousin to the songs “To U” and “Where Are U Now?.” MØ and GoldLink are a solid team, whose vocals blend seamlessly to conclude the EP on a high note.

Clocking in at a mere 19 minutes, “California” is a quick and convenient listen. It invites introspection and introduces a new side of Diplo never heard before. He finds success in collaborating with an eclectic array of artists, ranging from Santigold to Lil Xan. A full hip-hop album with bigger names could be in the artist’s future — and would be welcomed. Although it is neither perfect nor particularly groundbreaking, the EP is an easy listen and a fitting set of songs to play on a drive through its eponymous state.

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