diplo on blast: bozo or zozo? (no joke, though)
(a true-to-scale model of diplo and the little haitian dude he samples)
diplo's got a new site, ahem, "bitch." (no sexist)
he's also, apparently, turned his attention to haitian sounds. (no xeno)
listening to "haiti on blast" (this whole post-ironic appropriation of "blast" is getting a little tired, e?), all kinds of questions went through my mind: did diplo sample some haitian kid leaving him a message? is the voice chipmunked or is it actually some youngin' representing rio-funk style? should we call this grime or dancehall or funk or what? (seems to draw from all, with the exception, perhaps, of the obvious: konpa or some other haitian style that would overlay quite easily with all these carib and carib-descended rhythms.)
the most persistent question, though, was: does diplo know what dude's saying? granted, i know very little kreyol, but having grown up in cambridge in the 80s and 90s, i had a good number of haitian peers. as usual, one of the first things i learned from my foreign-born friends was how to curse. they taught me all the good ones: fuck yer mom (git mau mau), bitch (bouzin), pussy (coco), dick (zozo), and of course, faggot (masisi). for a longer list, you can go here, but these are the ones that i learned and they served me well.
as you listen to "haiti on blast" you can't miss the repetitions of masisi. in the current climate, i can't help hearing the word as the equivalent of battyman/chichi-man, which are words that i tend to avoid using myself and words that i tend to avoid playing in a club or putting dope beats under. sure, i'll look past the occasional slur if the joint is brand-new and really-hot or classic-and-catchy, especially if everyone else listening either understands the contextual frame (e.g., jamaicans and reggae enthusiasts) or has no fucking idea what dude's saying (e.g., most americans). but in general i try to avoid reaffirming hateful sentiments--or giving them a forward, so to speak, never mind putting them on blast.
now, as we all know, diplo means well. and i have been consistently impressed by his sincerity and his commitment to putting under-the-radar sounds in the spotlight and embracing an ecumenical approach to musical style. even so, i think that he and all of us who are so enthralled by the so-called shanty-house of the world have to take care when it comes to our arbitration of such sounds. i know some DJs who love all the funk that's been reaching us from rio's favelas of late, but they're a little unsure about what exactly they're endorsing. generally, though again lacking the language skills, i think that funk carioca tends to be pretty inoffensive so long as you're not prudish. sure, there's a lot of focus on sex and gangs and such, but the sex-talk appears to offer a better balance between sexes than, say, crunk, which seems to get closer and closer to barking orders at strippers. those of us who aren't into the whole pimps-up-ho's-down/ass-up-face-down vibe would prefer a little less degradation in our music. of course, hollertronix has embraced titty-bar music from the get-go, so maybe i'm just spinning my wheels.
still, the track has left me wondering: is diplo just clowning (no bozo), knowingly working with these sources and their sentiments and appreciating the jarring juxtapositions (yet easy mix) for a cosmo-hipster audience? or is he being a dick (no zozo), willfully ignorant of the way that his powerful arbitration of the world's ghetto-musics can serve to reinforce old hierarchies both here and there? (don't mean to be harsh here, but i think it's a question we all need to ask ourselves.)
at any rate, i'd love to see more haitian music in the mix, and i'm glad that diplo has gone there despite the possible problems with this first try. haitians remain one of the more stigmatized groups of immigrants in this country, and there's nothing like music to put people on the map, to rally community, and to change people's ideas about themselves and others. that's precisely why we've got to be careful as we push ahead with this brave new world music.