Major Lazer is Creating Major Vibes

Major Lazer is Creating Major Vibes

V caught up with the allstar trio at their Sound of Rum concert to chat about their affinity for Caribbean influence, creating a distinct voice, and how the music landscape has changed since their inception.

V caught up with the allstar trio at their Sound of Rum concert to chat about their affinity for Caribbean influence, creating a distinct voice, and how the music landscape has changed since their inception.

Text: Brandon Tan

At the forefront of Major Lazer’s acclaim is the DJ-trio’s buoyant beats and vibrant rhythms, materialized by dynamic collaborations that marry Caribbean sounds to electronic dance music. Though the group’s inherent affinity towards island influence is undeniable—with Jillionaire being from Trinidad and Walshy Fire from Jamaica—they, along with member Diplo, claim that the influence for their music can be further reduced to a common denominator that transcends ethnography, geography or even culture and that is “having a good time.” With that said, the group stands for much more than just that, considering the initiatives they’ve activated alongside Bacardí through their “Sound of Rum” alliance which supports independent artists and the boundless future of creativity.

From the collaboration’s “Do What Moves You” campaign to their forthcoming Music Liberates Music project with Soundcloud, Major Lazer has proven that its mission statement involves much more than just celebration. Their spirit lies further within what it is that they’re celebrating--recklessness, representation and individuality.

In an exclusive interview with V Magazine at their Sound of Rum concert in Chicago, Diplo, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire chat about their affinity for Caribbean influence, creating a distinct voice for Major Lazer and how the music landscape has changed since their inception.

You guys obviously share a very clear relationship with Caribbean influence—Jillionaire and Walshy being from there. What else would you guys say informs your attraction to Caribbean sound and culture?

Jillionaire: The culture’s about what’s happening at the time. It’s all about being with friends, whether it’s through food, liquor—rum, music, going out. We’re just all about being together, having a good time, celebrating life so that festive nature is always going to come through in Caribbean music, South American music, Latin music, African music. So for us, we’re just always naturally drawn to those types of sound. It makes us feel good. It makes us want to celebrate with friends and have fun. We have to go on stage every day to perform, to make sure everyone’s having a good time, so we might as well make it a celebration. We use what we know from our Caribbean upbringing.

Right, and the way that you describe it makes it so much more than a genre of music, it really is a way of life that you foster through the music. This comes through also in the way that your music spans many different genres from dancehall to reggaeton to pop, forging an international dialogue. Is that spirit of putting different cultures into conversation part of your mission as artists?

Jillionaire: It’s not really a mission, but it’s an opportunity that we come across to communicate that. We have the opportunity every day to go out there and experience how different cultures work and how different people communicate through music and if you have the opportunity to go out there and show other people that, why wouldn’t you take advantage of that? It’s not like

Walshy: Exactly.

Diplo: When I first heard dancehall records and first started listening to and producing and DJing dancehall music, my first thoughts were about how this genre was so reckless. They could do whatever they wanted. It didn’t have any restrictions. I think a lot of music has that natural anarchy now, like hip-hop and whatever younger people are doing, so I think Major Lazer always wants to have that freedom to be wild. Dancehall is really cool and accessible, but it’s also been a lot more than that too. I think it’s a lot more complex than just reggae music.

Yeah and as you were saying there really is this spirit of having no boundaries, which I think speaks a lot to the music landscape is developing now in terms of diversity and democracy, because it’s so much more accessible. You guys are really in touch with that, especially with your Music Liberates Music project, so how is music changing in that respect?

Diplo: Music has changed a lot especially since we put out our first album about 10 years ago. It’s also changed a lot since we were really the first group to go to extremes to support independent artists and really kill it. I think now, like you said, it has been democratized and a lot of people are able to upload to Soundcloud and Youtube, so it’s great. Through our Music Liberates Music project, we’re able to source that talent too and find unknown artists that might not even have the savvy to market themselves on such small platforms like Soundcloud so that we can help them build out their sound.

And obviously seeing as there are 3 of you, but Major Lazer is its own singular entity, how do you guys establish that cohesion to represent Major Lazer as its own artist?

Walshy: It’s kind of like if I were to describe a Jamaican sound system—that’s kind of how we’re united. If you were to differentiate us from a band, to a Jamaican sound system, where all members of the sound system that come together to create the music. One guy is in charge of the equipment, the other guy is in control of MCing and DJing, the other guy is cutting the music—just things like that where it’s all represented as this one.

So what is the singular voice of Major Lazer?

Jillionaire: To communicate global culture in a way that people can access it and in a way that it’s digestible and in a way that they can understand the context, whether it’s Caribbean music or African music or Brazilian music, whatever it is, the goal is to have anyone from anywhere in the world listen to the music and fuck with it.

What projects do you guys have coming up that you can tell us about? Any word of a new album?

Diplo: We have a bunch of music coming up, and we’re going to Africa in October, and an EP in September. Today’s the first day of summer so we are excited for a busy summer with lots of shows.

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Credits: PHOTO COURTESY OF BACARDI

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