Tastemakers Does “Major Lazer: The Series”
by David McDevitt (International Affairs/Economics), published June 1st 2015
photos by Ben Stas (Journalism/English)
Thomas Pentz, aka Diplo, has set himself up as an electronic music trend-setter, dipping his toes into all sorts of projects from his label Mad Decent to his collaboration with Skrillex known as Jack Ü. One of the biggest names Diplo has created for himself would be the persona of Major Lazer, the Jamaican dance music group founded by Diplo and English producer Switch, which is represented by a large Jamaican man with a cannon for an arm. Most of Diplo’s hits (not counting his work as a producer for other artists) have come from the Major Lazer project, which, after the departure of Switch, now consists of Diplo alone.
But Diplo already produces albums under his own name, such as 2014’s Random White Dude Be Everywhere. My understanding is that Diplo is Diplo, and Major Lazer is…. Jamaican Diplo? But now that he’s is trying to sideline the moniker “Diplo” and is producing mostly under the name of Major Lazer, I think it’s best to let Pentz figure out the ethnicity of his own pop culture image at this point.
Ahead of the release of Major Lazer’s third LP, Adult Swim gave the green light to a short style cartoon about the exploits of the Major himself to be produced and directed by Diplo, channeling his inner Jamaican (Pentz is in no way Jamaican or in any other way directly connected to the Caribbean).
April rolls around and the pilot airs on FXX. The show itself is bizarre, misguided and kind of confusing to watch. It takes place on a version of Jamaica designed for the heaviest marijuana enthusiast. For the first minute or so, we just get people and pot: smoking it, selling it, getting it delivered by bird (why has this not been invented?) and other oddities. From there, the entire plot of the first episode is about the damsel, Penny, who shows no other human qualities besides being ditzy and unable to buy weed….in a fictionalized Jamaica that probably uses it as its primary form of smokable currency. Her incompetence leads her to a shady weed dealer, cleverly named “The Weed Man,” who sings about being your weed man’s weed man with weed sprites in a weed field (their marketing direction is pretty clear, especially for a nice 12 a.m. time slot). Penny buys from Weed Man, smokes her joint, and has a bad face-melty trip personified by a giant weed monster attacking her. The day is saved by Major Lazer, who is summoned telepathically and leaves his “high-atus” (yes, that is what Major Lazer is doing while Penny is screwing up. He is on a “high-atus.”) to literally smoke the monster. Yeah. Also, there is a random and unexplained shot of a Jamaican White House.
Needless to say, this episode was a trip. Therefore, I decided to force it onto a few Tastemakers staff writers and record their reactions. Here are the best quotes, presented completely out of context:
“There is something a little icky about how far Diplo is taking this whole Jamaican dancehall character.”
“Why is Penny having this much trouble getting high in Jamaica? Maybe she’s a narc. She totally looks like a narc, that’s it. It would be a great plot twist.”
“I’m pretty glad this only a ten minute show. I’m already losing focus here.”
“I’m getting a very LMFAO vibe from this [bad trip].”
“You know something is bad when you are ten seconds away from the end and you still can’t make yourself finish it.”
“Well, I’m never watching that again. It doesn’t even succeed at what it’s trying to do. I was zoned out the whole time. This is something meant to be played between other shows.”
“This is everything I want in a theme song.”
“Looks like we are going to the Twilight Zone. We’re in space. Is that a boombox? Introduction to Major Lazer’s Twilight Zone.”
“You know who Penny reminds me of? Did you ever watch that cartoon ‘My Life as a Teenage Robot?’ She totally remind me of a useless version of her.”
“She’s flying away on a weed pelican.”
“I feel like the budget of this show did not go into the writing.”
“Can we admire that image really quick? The Jamaican White House on the beach. That’s cover photo material.”
“Notice how we haven’t seen Major Lazer in like five minutes and this is a ten minute show.”
“I love how this is the pilot episode. Normally, this would be some experimental **** you could do once you had a following, but they’re just like, ‘No, this is what we do.’”
“What’s up with Penny and Major Lazer? She’s definitely not his child.”
“And then Weed Man comes back to life. Like Jason Voorhees.”
“Watch how he transports himself to Penny. He blows out smoke, becomes smoke, and then floats away. Then he just smokes the entire thing. Keep in mind this almost killed Penny and then Major Lazer shows up and just destroys it in one breath.”
“They get high and become a meteorite, then fall back into the water.”
“The Weed Man also has cheese? Am I just not hip to lingo? I feel like that would be a good business model. Like, come for the weed and stay for this insane Gruyère.”
“‘No means no and now I go’ basically summarizes my life.”
Both Ben Stas and Mike Doub ran in fear when confronted with the idea of watching ten minutes of Major Lazer.