EP Review: Diplo – “California”

Admittedly, I’m not much of an EDM guy. Although I can certainly appreciate a dancehall banger in a social environment, and although I can certainly respect the craft, it is not a genre of music I typically consult in my free time. However, when I saw the artists featured on California, I started spinning it immediately.

The seventh extended play in the discography of L.A. (via Philly) DJ and producer Diplo, California is a six-track, nineteen-minute project full of super sticky hooks, moving vocal performances, and, of course, killer production. Despite its brevity, the EP covers a lot of thematic ground: ambition, depression, triumph, and reflection. Now, don’t get me wrong – this project is not overflowing with crazy deep bars or anything. Lil Xan is, after all, Lil Xan. That being said, there is more substance and sentiment to this tracklist than the features may indicate. Let’s get into it.

On “Worry No More,” featuring Lil Yachty and Santigold, Diplo brings a sunny bop of an instrumental anchored by a driving drum beat and bright keys. Believe it or not, as he dreams of a life without anxieties, Lil Boat comes through on the hook with a refined and technically competent singing performance. Elsewhere, Santigold’s high-pitched vocals bring a healthy dose of melodic rap to the track.

With a skeletal, atmospheric instrumental of subtle keys and a slapped drum beat, “Suicidal” brings a markedly darker tone to the project. Although the lyrics are somewhat vague, the sound of Desiigner’s auto-tuned vocals is undeniably somber. It feels as if Desiigner has been out of the spotlight for a decade, and it is gratifying to hear him return in such unexpected fashion.

Included on a weekend playlist, I compiled last month, “Look Back” is a dramatic ballad of personal triumph. The immense range of the vocal performance is all the more impressive when one realizes that DRAM is doing it all by himself. Instrumentally, the dense layers of keys, drums, guitars, and strings are gorgeous.

Trippie Redd does not miss, man. Whether you enjoy his music or not, you have to admit that the dude is consistent. On “Wish,” the Canton, OH, rapper and singer showcases his softer side over a poppy instrumental that is more soft rock than anything else. As always, he delivers an emotionally stirring performance with a tone of experience that far exceeds his young age.

Lil Xan, Lil Xan, Lil Xan. Honestly, I am not sure what to think of this guy. Like most hip-hop fans, I was not thrilled to hear him join his SoundCloud contemporaries on the unwarranted Tupac hate bandwagon. (Boring music? On what planet?) Regarding Xan’s talents, I have not heard enough to make a sound judgment, and I will give his debut project a spin when it drops next month. In the meantime, I dig “Color Blind” quite a bit. As opposed to the previous two tracks, Diplo outshines his vocal guest here; although I enjoy Xan’s contribution to the track, the production is the clear highlight. I love the breathy, melodic synth passages that bring some vibrancy to the track in between Xan’s characteristically sleepy vocals.

California was a good move for Diplo. There is a ton of crossover appeal here. Although I suppose this project will disappoint hardcore EDM fans, it caught my attention and held it. The hip-hop fans will come for the features. The pop fans will come for the hooks. And the Diplo fans, if nothing else, will come for the “Get it Right” remix (GoldLink drops a good verse, too). As the weather turns warmer, California should age well throughout 2018.

About Author

I am an economics student at The University of Massachusetts Amherst. Beyond my studies, I work as a DJ at the university radio station: 91.1 FM WMUA Amherst. Back in July, a good friend of mine launched a political debate website called The Dialectic, where I currently work as a staff writer and the Editor-In-Chief. I love all genres of music - everything from hip-hop to post-rock to hardcore punk. Aspiring writer. Avid reader. Coffee addict.