How Diplo and 2 Chainz are flourishing in a dying industry
Once upon a time, 2 Chainz and Diplo were working toward fame in the traditional lanes of the music industry. But that was before they learned the lucrative art of making the Internet laugh. 2 Chainz gave Skip Bayless one of his chains on ESPN2. You can order Diplo-ordained weed grinders with one-day shipping. 2 Chainz rhymed "turkey lasagna" with "pajamas designer." Diplo inked ubiquitous troll-rapper Riff Raff to an utterly deranged eight-album mega-deal. In 2014, being a meme can bring in a lot of money, and for that fact alone, Diplo and 2 Chainz are innovators.
Timothy Norris for LA Weekly. Slideshow
It's not selling out or a misplacement of ideals: Both artists have worked hard to not be taken seriously. Diplo has aggressively scrubbed his name from the door-kicking, revolution-simmering, M.I.A.-dating DJ we knew on Piracy Funds Terrorism. Sure, he's traded politics for ass-shaking, but we're better off with his irreverence. Tity Boi changed his name to 2 Chainz and set his sights on the pop charts. He's a millionaire now, and his records are suddenly being reviewed by the likes of Pitchfork.
The two are a sign of the times. In our increasingly concentrated music industry, personality has never been more important. You can see it everywhere, even in the stodgiest of scenes. There's a reason that indie-rock lifers Grizzly Bear and the National are fading, while Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig's quirky humor is only picking up steam. Diplo cracked the code: He realized that you can keep your set saved on a MacBook and still have a face and voice. And if the crowd gets bored of his sunburned face, his identity now includes a massive cartoon Jamaican bounty-hunter friend (Major Lazer, in fact) who is always just a projection away.