Based on his undeniable talent and innovation as a producer for acts like Spank Rock and M.I.A., Diplo probably deserves to have his work released as part of a compilation. Decent Work for Decent Pay is the first of such compilations released by the Philadelphia DJ, and if its quality is any indication of future releases, it by all rights should be the last. Diplo has grown up as a DJ in the perfect time for a man of his talents.
The age of superstar remix artists — a time in which Gregg “Girl Talk” Gillis, Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton and Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley have all achieved worldwide fame for their work behind the mixing board or on laptops — has arrived, and Diplo has released tracks that are on par with some of those other artists’ best work.
Unfortunately, Decent Work for Decent Pay is something of an aberration for Diplo, in that the tracks are pretty boring. His work with M.I.A. and Spank Rock pulsates with energy, weaving divergent and internationally influenced sounds together in a complex sonic pastiche to create a richly textured, if not always 100-percent listenable, production track.
Compare that to his pedestrian remix of “Put That Pussy on Me,” which tries and fails mightily to make Spank Rock into some kind of electro superstar without creating any sort of interesting sonic statement beyond a pulsating beat.
“Solta O Frango,” a Diplo-produced track for the Brazilian group Bonde Do Rolê, is an example of everything that is great about the DJ, digging deep into another country’s musical landscape to bring something unique and energetic to our American ears.
Following that is the seemingly cut-and-paste “Heater,” which seems to be nothing but pulsating bass at first, but actually works some ululating (not often you get to use that word) vocals into the track that gives it the feeling of the type of music that would be played at an Amazon discotheque designed exclusively for animals.
However, he can’t seem to keep a good thing going on this album, as “Way More Brazil” finds itself in the kind of techno wasteland upon which not even Basshunter would dare tread.
This sequence is microcosmic of the entire compilation — there isn’t a connective thread or unifying sonic idea to latch onto, and the tracks aren’t catchy enough by themselves to overcome this lack of continuity.
Understood: sonic discontinuity is a major pitfall of the DJ collection, but witness Ratatat’s awesome remixtape collection, and even the Hollertronix series released by Diplo, and you find a model for bringing together a series of remixes into a work that can be appreciated as more than the sum of its parts.
Also, when selecting the work of a very talented DJ, one would think that there would be better tracks worthy of inclusion. Although there could be label issues or issues of preexisting popularity, those could be overcome by releasing more esoteric but more interesting tracks. Decent Work finds itself trying to do a little of both and falling flat in both regards, neither delivering on the potential for including some true hits nor cramming the album full of oddities interesting to the Diplo completist.
And in the end, it is that completist who is most likely to buy this album (or, more probably download it illegally). I’m guessing 99.99 percent of America either hasn’t heard a Diplo track, or wouldn’t know who he was if he walked up to them with one of those “Hi, my name is … ” nametags, so it seems critical to either release a mixtape full of well-known releases or full-on esoteric B-sides.
For a much better (and undergroundier) example of Diplo’s work, download Fear and Loathing in Hunts Vegas, which features an excellent sample of “Say it Ain’t So” which shifts the notion of what truly good rap production can be.