Diplo Remembers Rihanna Calling His Music 'A Reggae Song at an Airport,' Talks African Pop Explosion in New Interview

Diplo arrives at the Billboard Music Awards at the T-Mobile Arena on May 21, 2017 in Las Vegas.
Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Diplo arrives at the Billboard Music Awards at the T-Mobile Arena on May 21, 2017 in Las Vegas.

Diplo recently opened up in a fascinating Q&A with GQ Style's Editor-in-Chief Will Welch. They spoke a lot about Africa, a place Diplo finds to be on the verge of an international cultural explosion. He chose to break even on a tour with stops in Nigeria and Uganda than perform at Coachella 2017, certainly not because it was easy, but because it's a unique opportunity to experience something magical as its happening.

“Historically, there's always been so much music in Africa,” he is quoted as saying. “But there's never been much of an industry to sell it on a global scale—or even just at home. But now that's happening. These young Nigerian kids are selling it. They're selling it in Lagos. They're flying around Africa performing it. And because of the Diaspora, they're traveling to London, New York, Chicago, Toronto. The Diaspora is helping to promote it. And now they're selling out the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. There's so much cultural capital in Africa, and that usually comes first. Cultural capital leads to financial capital. And once you have both, it explodes, like gasoline to a flame.”

Welch joined Diplo on the road in Africa for at least part of the tour, and the Q&A offers an incredibly interesting perspective on a continent taking hold of its identity via a vibrant youth culture. Of course, it's an interview with Diplo, so there are some choice celebrity stories to be shared, like his longtime pursuit of Rihanna as a collaborator.

“I just want her on a Major Lazer song. She's like the one artist that we can't ever get,” he says. “I think before we're all done, she'll be on a song of ours. Hopefully. But if not, I don't really care."

He recalls auditioning one of his all-time biggest hits for her: "I played her 'Lean On.' She was like, 'I don't do house music.' I face-palmed so hard on that one. Another time I had a session with her, and Future was also invited. The Weeknd was there. Metro Boomin was there, before anybody knew who he was. I was so contact-high. Future played her, like, 700 songs. It was four in the morning. Finally, I was like, 'Yo, G, I'm leaving unless you let me play her a song.' So I played her a song. And she was like, 'This sounds like a reggae song at an airport.' [laughs] I was like, 'I'm gonna go kill myself.'"

He also talks Uganda's surprising country music obsession, his new scripted Viceland show What Would Diplo Do?, and choosing to play Ultra Music Festival and Electric Daisy Carnival as a means to help steer American dance music culture, rather than complain about it. Read the full interview with Diplo at GQ.


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