A reggae resurgence is afoot, and Diplo is leading the way. Earlier this year, the superstar dance music producer and DJ spent two weeks at Geejam studios in Jamaica where he visited Rastafarian temples and helped rap icon Snoop Dogg transform into reggae newcomer Snoop Lion.
But Diplo got busy on his own projects, too. His latest work for the dancehall-reggae project Major Lazer leans heavily on Kingston riddim and dub. The outfit, which now includes Jillionaire and MC Walshy Fire, performed a sold-out show at the 9:30 Club on Thursday night (technically, early Friday morning) that featured spandex-clad dancers, squawking vuvuzelas and confetti cannons. It was Kingston meets Ibiza meets Carnival, with the young Washington crowd along for the ride.
There was no shortage of tribal-reggae thumpers as Diplo and Jillionaire dished out songs such as “Original Don,” “Pon de Floor” and the moombahton-heavy “Express Yourself.” But there were unexpected treats, too, including Congorock’s “Babylon” and a rambunctious remix of Azealia Banks’s “212” layered over Lumidee’s “Never Leave You.”
The DJ booth was set up in a manner similar to fellow electronic breakout acts Nero and Justice, with a wide podium of stacked speakers and turntables on top. But behind it, the letters “ML” were blown up into huge green and yellow balloons, a nod to the Jamaican flavor. Occasionally, Diplo and Jillionaire stood at either end of the podium waving large flags, one with Major Lazer’s mascot (a cartoon Rastafarian soldier of sorts) and one that said “Get Free,” the title of the group’s newest reggae-fusion single featuring Amber Coffman from the Dirty Projectors.
At about 1 a.m., Diplo demanded that everyone take off their shirts and swing them around their heads. Those nearest the stage obliged without hesitation.
“Wow, you know what I realized?” Fire asked Diplo. “We got a lot of people here from the Caribbean tonight.”
Well, not quite. Kingston’s a long way from U Street. But for a night, it was fun to pretend.