The magic hour has just descended on Seven Magic Mountains, an outdoor art installation near Las Vegas. As if the sunset and Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s pillars of candy-colored boulders aren't a striking enough backdrop, lightning flashes across the sky as DJ Snake poses for photos and the Afrobeat rhythms of London-born Ivorian artist Afro B’s “Drogba (Joanna)” pulse from a speaker.
“This is the biggest record in the hood right now,” says Snake, the 32-year-old artist born William Grigahcine. “I want to make a record like this with Rihanna.” That’s the kind of dream collaboration Snake -- the French-Algerian DJ-producer behind “Turn Down for What” featuring Lil Jon, “Lean On” with Major Lazer and the Justin Bieber-assisted “Let Me Love You” -- could realistically will into existence.
If casually invoking Rihanna speaks to how far Snake has come, the barren setting speaks to a more desolate moment in his career. Before he released “Bird Machine” -- his 2013 breakthrough single that won him the support of Skrillex, Dillon Francis and Diplo -- “I was in a desert, walking by myself, struggling,” says Snake. “I wanted to quit music. I was about to get a [nonmusic] job ... and bang, God blessed me.” (He drew on this idea for the cover of his 2016 debut album, Encore, which shows him wandering in the direction of a Paris Métro stop incongruously plopped in the middle of a sandy waste.)