Major Lazer’s frontman – not their lead singer but the one you see on all their promotional material – is a butch, renegade Jamaican commando with a rocket-powered skateboard, whose laser is a hand. But don’t let that give you the wrong impression. Major Lazer in reality are one of the world’s best known electronic DJ duos who have been behind some of the scene’s biggest club hits in recent years. The duo are very experimental and versatile, embracing electronic, dubstep, reggae, dancehall and newer genres such as trap and moombahton in their music.
The duo explained to the music website The Vine how they came up with their name. “We were getting stuck into the rum at a friend’s club in New York and Major Lazer was born,” they said. “We just wanted to give the project an identity, and two white guys going to Jamaica to make music isn’t exactly the best one to represent the album, so we invented Major Lazer to be our frontman.”
The English/American duo’s original line-up, DJ producers Dave ‘Switch’ Taylor and Wes ‘Diplo’ Pentz, were first introduced when they worked with the British rapper MIA, and soon they developed a tight working relationship and produced an album of electronic dancehall, which was inspired by hanging out in Jamaican clubs. The album, Guns don’t kill people … Lazers do, was released in 2009, recorded in the legendary Tuff Gong studios (the very one started by Bob Marley) in Jamaica, and included contributions by many different vocalists. This was the first release to come out of the label partnership between
Downtown Records and Diplo’s record label Mad Decent. On the album, they used their love of the reggae soundsystem and a background of house and electro hip-hop, creating a mash-up with Jamaican dancehall, resulting in a unique type of genre. The biggest hit was ‘Pon de Floor’, which quickly became a worldwide hit in nightclubs, and then went mainstream when Beyoncé chose to use the beat in her hit single ‘Run the World (Girls)’.
Towards the end of 2011, Switch left the duo – reportedly due to “creative differences” – and was replaced by Trinidadian DJ/producer Jillionaire. And in recent months, they have started collaborating with Amber Coffman, a vocalist from Dirty Projectors, producing a new track, ‘Get Free’, which includes a video of the famous Major Lazer character. It will be interesting to see whether they will present any new material at their Vega performance, which is part of the Strøm Festival. They also announced last summer that there would be a new album coming out, although fans are still waiting in suspense. In the meantime Diplo has also been busy collaborating with other artists, including rap legend Snoop Dogg (now Snoop Lion) on his new reggae album.
“The best thing about Jamaica is simply the accessibility. After that, it’s really a matter of making the music great,” Diplo told Interview Magazine about working on the second album in Jamaica. “But right now there’s a mad underground as well in Jamaica, and there’s something in the history and overall weirdness of the place that I can’t seem to stay away from.”
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