By Nic Damasio
If you add the user “diplo” on Snapchat, your story feed will be overtaken by snapchats of hardcore raves, private jets, and the coveted high life that will make you greener with envy than the stacks Diplo and his posse throw at strippers. If you added Diplo when he made his account public (like I did), you would have been teased several times a week, ten seconds at a time, by unreleased bangers under the name Jack Ü, better known as the side project of Sonny Moore and Wesley Pentz (aka Skrillex and Diplo) and one of the greatest collaborations to ever hit EDM world.
Early this month on the red carpet at the Grammys, Tyler Oakley interviewed Diplo about what he had been up to recently. After telling us about his upcoming productions with names like Madonna, Major Lazer, and Ariana Grande, to name a few, he dropped a small tidbit: “With Skrillex I did an album called Jack Ü, that’s out this month. That’s really cool.”
On February 26th, Jack Ü stuck to this promise and without warning released all of the tracks they had been dangling in front of us via social media on their debut album, Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü, during their 24-hour DJ set live-streamed on their website (the set was shut down by police around hour 18). The minute I heard the album I was afraid my Audio Technica headphones were going to melt from the fire spewing from these .mp4 tracks.
This was to be expected. Jack Ü had released their hit single “Take Ü There,” featuring the feisty Kiesza on vocals, and remixed everyone’s pre-game go-to, “7/11” by Beyonce. Both these contemporary trap tracks straight killed it and gave thirsty fans a taste of what’s to come in the collaboration’s future.
Those two tracks only gave a small preview of what Jack Ü is capable of. Their album, with the signature “Ü” across its cover, features nine tracks and one bonus track. Skrillex and Diplo enlist the vocal and production assistance of some serious names like Snails and Taranchyla. Even bigger names like 2 Chainz, Justin Bieber and, perhaps the most prized possession on the album, Missy Elliot generously lend their vocals.
The album can be described as contemporary trap/EDM, a broad sub-genre coined by DJ and producer Beeza. Most tracks have that festival feel to them that you would come to expect from two festival headliners like Moore and Pentz. You get bangers like “Febreze” where 2 Chainz raps, “Yeah I’m the shit, I should have febreze on me.” With help from Major Lazer member Bunji Garlin, you get an overwhelming sense you’re in a next-level warehouse jungle rave from the moombahton track, “Jungle Bae.”
Skrillex and Diplo do switch things up a bit on a few tracks. “Where are Ü Now,” the last track on the album, features the post-pubescent vocals of everyone’s favorite drunk Lamborghini driver, Justin Bieber. It’s a slower Bieber-esque love song with some higher tempo’d jungle beats. And in my opinion, the best track on the album features the vocal talent and production genius of futurepop duo AlunaGeorge. “To Ü” features the duo’s trademark smiling capital “Ü” and combines the styles of all three producers almost perfectly. Aluna provides her childish vocals and lyrics, George brings some UK garage basslines, and Skrillex and Diplo come in with a futuristic, melodic-yet-ratchet drop. This song sounds as if an EDM bartender mixed equal parts of both groups and served it up in a club-scene-ready glass for the consumption of anyone over 21.
There was a lot of hype following this album’s release–hype from Moore and Pentz and their massively influential social media presence, hype from teasers like “Take Ü There” and “7/11,” an hype from my own impatient and EDM-addicted mind.
The biggest question on every fan’s mind was if the duo would be able to combine their individual geniuses into one cohesive new artist. Not only did they do that, but they arguably created an entire new genre of music. The duo’s on-and-off stage chemistry is unlike any I have seen since Meowski666. Luckily for us (or maybe just me), Skrillex and Diplo are nowhere close to having peaked, are showing no signs of slowing down, and will be around for many more years to deliver dope moombahton and trapstep collaborations–or even some other new genre they themselves have yet to define.