Diplo hits back at Major Lazer critics: ‘No one accused The Clash of cultural appropriation’

Diplo tells NME his band wouldn't get so much criticism if he played guitar

Diplo has responded to critics who accuse his band Major Lazer of cultural appropriation.

Some commentators objected to the use of Indian culture and imagery in the group’s video for breakthrough hit ‘Lean On’, while their music’s relationship with Caribbean genres like dancehall, reggae and soca has also been called into question.

Speaking in this week’s NME, available in print and online from Friday (September 2), Diplo says his group’s music simply reflects his upbringing in an ethnically diverse quarter of Miami, Florida.


“Haitians, Latinos, Cubans, white kids, Jewish kids and hood kids were all in the same neighbourhood and the same schools,” he explains. “Miami is the most diverse place for human beings I’ve ever been to.”

He also says that he was encouraged to develop a varied taste in music from a young age, saying: “When I grew up, no one told me what I was supposed to listen to. On the radio, Miami bass was always the thing for me, and heavy metal – that was big in Florida too. My parents listened to country. Rap was on the radio.”

“I grew up and I loved music,” he continues. “I didn’t think: ‘Oh, I’m white, I’ve got to play a guitar.’ I never had a guitar.”

Arguing, however, that his group might be viewed differently if he did play guitar, Diplo adds: “I really fucked that up. I only had turntables. I wish I got a guitar, then I wouldn’t have so much criticism. For me, the band that’s most influential to us is The Clash. Nobody said: ‘You’re culturally appropriating’ when they made ‘Rock The Casbah’.”

“I think what makes a great artist is someone who can change the direction of music, not someone who stays the same all the time,” Diplo concludes. “Otherwise music would be so fucking boring.”

NMENME/Jenn Five

During the interview, Diplo also discusses life on the road with Major Lazer, saying that these days the group are “too old to party too hard”.