Given an Instagram feed that makes that life look like an endless conga line of festivals, parties, private jets and foreign landscapes, it may seem counterintuitive that Diplo even has a house in the first place. But indeed he does, and it is big, bright and smells like an expensive candle. He bought the place three years ago, when it became untenable to run his growing operation out of a studio in Burbank, Calif., where Daniela Socorro, his executive assistant, had to sit on a folding chair in the hallway and the interns kept stealing his clothes. With views of the city, a patio hot tub and chickens in the yard, the vibe in the new house veers between regular and surreal. Photos of his sons Lockett, 9, and Lazer, 5, hang on the fridge (normal). The bathroom is decorated with gold and platinum records (less normal). In the living room there’s a hamper stacked with cowboy hats, including one by Gucci (normal for Diplo).
With a tour schedule that keeps Diplo on the road for, by his estimation, 250 days a year, he’s not actually here a lot. He can, and has, played almost everywhere, including many places — Cuba, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh — most artists aren’t able or willing to go. He’s one of the most successful producers of the dance music era, a careerlong tastemaker and party-starting DJ with a hand in an arsenal of hits — “Lean On,” “Where Are Ü Now,” “Electricity” — that are as recognizable in Lagos as in Las Vegas.
Over the past few years, however, Diplo has also achieved something no one else in the dance world has with the same success or potency: He has become a pop star, transcending the genre in which he started, while staying firmly rooted in the evolving dance landscape. In the process, he has become a sort of pop culture mascot, attending the 2015 Met Gala with Madonna; making national headlines for livestreaming Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner’s 2019 wedding; performing with Lil Nas X at the 2020 Grammys. Like the title of his 2014 album, Random White Dude Be Everywhere, put it, Diplo’s brand is ubiquity. Thus, random white dude be tired.
“I want to go back to bed, like, right now,” he says, noting that the five hours of sleep he typically gets per night are “not enough,” that he’s fighting a cold and that, for reasons he does not elaborate on, he had a rough night. In person, he has an affable, if not quite overtly friendly, let’s-get-the-job-done attitude, making progressively more eye contact over the course of our conversation, during which he receives a hundred text messages. “But maybe I’ll sleep in tomorrow. Although I do like to go to the gym in the morning. It’s the only time I can. After 11 a.m., the day is taken away from me.”
The never-ending workday that is Diplo’s life is, at the most fundamental level, fueled by his pursuit of anything and everything that interests him. His father, Thomas Pentz, a retired hospital CEO who calls his son Wesley, says that as a kid Diplo read the encyclopedia for fun, although “it would take him a year to finish housework or anything else he didn’t want to do.” Jasper Goggins, the head of Diplo’s label, Mad Decent, calls him “the ultimate maximalist. He has lots of ideas and just wants to do everything all the time.”
Diplo’s knack for making art out of all these ideas leads to his ubiquity, which in turn drives him to explore more, like an ouroboros in a Stetson. It’s what led to his work as part of the dancehall-inspired trio Major Lazer; to his Grammy-winning turn with Skrillex as Jack Ü; to his other Grammy-winning turn with Mark Ronson as Silk City; to collaborations with the pop elite, including Madonna, Usher, Beyoncé and the Jonas Brothers; to his work with Sia and Labrinth as the group LSD; to the deep-house output of his newish Higher Ground label; and to the latest character in his repertoire, Thomas Wesley, a country music alias. Add to that projects in film and TV; staying connected with Mad Decent; overseeing his SiriusXM radio channel, Diplo’s Revolution; the aforesaid workout routine, travel schedule and dad duties; and, well — you’d be exhausted too.