Release Date: Mar 4, 2014
Record label: Mad Decent
Genre(s): Electronic, Rap, Dancehall, Club/Dance, Ragga, EDM
Featuring five of the most inspired tracks to come out of Diplo's Major Lazer project, Apocalypse Soon is futuristic island hopping at its finest, incorporating a whirlwind of slick subgenres from locations both tropical (dancehall, soca, and dub) and trap (booming hip-hop and trap music itself). This compact party starter is a hook-filled monster as well, kicking off with the Pharrell feature "Aerosol Can," a track which combines graffiti culture and Ying Yang Twins-styled silliness for the EP's most poptacular moment. After that cool shoulder bopper, the kinetic "Come on to Me" with Sean Paul seems like a firework show gone haywire as trap music devours dancehall, or maybe vice-versa.
If 20 years makes for a generation, then the plausibility of Major Lazer—Mad Decent head honcho Diplo’s reggae and dancehall-themed EDM project—representing some of the most uniquely pop-friendly Rap music progressions in recent memory makes sense. Hot on the heels of the successful 2013 album Free The Universe, the new EP continues the five-year success of Major Lazer representing pop’s most ear-worming disruption from the Hip Hop fringe. The year 1994 wasn’t just the year when Nas and Biggie signaled sea change in Rap music; 1994 was as much about that as it was too about Jamaican emcees like Chaka Demus and Pliers (“Murder She Wrote”) and Patra (“Worker Man”) continuing the mid-90s run of hits from artists also including Shabba Ranks, Super Cat and others, too.
Despite a schedule packed with twerk wall evangelism, Twitter explosions, boat party planning, and his usual full slate of remixes and production credits, Diplo somehow found time for two separate longer-form releases last year. His sophomore effort behind the boards as cartoon commando/cyborg Major Lazer, Free the Universe, found the producer and partners Jillionaire and Walshy Fire spreading themselves too thin and sacrificing any chance at cohesiveness in the name of versatility. An autumn EP under his own name, Revolution, was stuffed to the gills with satisfying drops, but felt more like a grab-bag of trend-riding cuts than a thematically sound articulation of his strengths.
What started out as a series of on-campus DJ gigs more than a decade ago has turned into a globe-trotting fantasy for Diplo (aka Thomas Wesley Pentz). During these treks, Pentz has made a habit of assimilating regional dance floor aesthetics into his sweaty, often shirtless, club exploits. Along the way, this strategy has earned him a number of detractors, though they remain outweighed by the careers he has helped launch through his Mad Decent imprint and production credits.
As if having a hat-trick of number ones last year wasn’t enough, “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky” (for which Pharrell Williams also produced the former and co-wrote the latter) were also the Top Two selling songs of 2013. This year, “Happy” continues to dominate airwaves and will undoubtedly be a track that will benefit from the stream-including charts. So ahead of his album G I R L next month, how does his first new track of 2014 fare? “Aerosol Can” opens Major Lazer’s Apocalypse Now EP, but it’s safe to assume that it won’t be soundtracking any best of 2014 montages.
Last year, in this very space, we opined while reviewing Free the Universe, superproducer Diplo’s second full-length collection under the guise of Major Lazer, that he works best when focusing on the dancehall roots of this electronic side project. Wish granted: this five-track EP has the steamy, summery sound of a Jamaican club in full riot mode. It’s minimalistic in the good sense, heavy on accelerating kick-drum rolls and crescendoing klaxon squeals for dynamics, and each track boasts its own guest star, including reggae veteran Sean Paul.
Major Lazer, Apocalypse Soon EP Diplo's Major Lazer project lends itself to the EP format. Its spastic, booty-shaking, dancehall-tinged music is best in brief doses, and it usually struggles when it is tasked to maintain momentum and attention for thirty-plus minutes. I'm disappointed, then, that Apocalypse Soon struggles to keeps things interesting over its modest seventeen minute run.