‘Peace Is The Mission’ – Major Lazer’s Evolution to the Mainstream
Some time after their first album Guns Don’t Kill People...Lazers Do dropped in 2009 and their recently released third album Peace Is The Mission, Major Lazer got a little… softer. It’s not necessarily the bad softening associated with predictable, androgynous pop, but rather the inevitable ripening variety of soft that most successful music acts ultimately undergo.
Six years ago, Diplo teamed up with UK DJ/producer Switch to make their version of worldly beats — a collaboration that brought us memorable underground tracks like “Hold the Line” featuring a little known artist named Santigold and the worldwide hit “Pon De Floor.”
Come 2015, a lot has changed. Not only did music sensibility and the industry as a whole shift in favor of EDM, but Major Lazer itself saw the exit of Switch and has now taken a three man form comprised of Diplo, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire.
The driving force behind Major Lazer is of course Diplo. By the numbers, he is a musical/entrepreneurial juggernaut. Though Diplo can cherry pick what projects he works on at this stage in his career, he’s made his commitment to Major Lazer very clear. In an interview with London’s Evening Standard Diplo states, “I think Major Lazer might have a chance to be really big and represent something unbelievable for a lot of kids... Our crowd’s really young. I think our music represents something really new.”
In Diplo’s interview with Rick Rubin for Interview Magazine, Diplo expresses his forward thinking approach to releasing Major Lazer’s new music. “Selling MP3s or physical copies, it's still cool, but I think it's slowly becoming outdated to where people just want to build a culture. The culture's what you're selling at this point.”
The culture Major Lazer presents in Peace Is The Mission is a symbiotic blend of pop, dancehall and EDM. A clear trend that the trio has pursued in their third and most mature LP is the shift towards songwriting. “Be Together,” “Lean On” and “Powerful” feature vocals from Wild Belle, MØ and Ellie Goulding, respectively, injecting radio-ready top-lines over dancehall and reggae infused beats.
In an interview with Digital Spy, Jillionaire explains Major Lazer’s strategic move towards songwriting as a natural evolution of their sound. “We've had an audience for like five years or six years or something now. I feel like you have to evolve, we can't still be making the same records now that we were making when 'Pon De Floor' came out or when the last album came out so it's just evolution.”
Piecing the tracks together, Peace Is The Mission sounds like Pop Music 2.0 — a grey area between festival anthems and what you’d hear on your commute home from work. Though radio play might also be mission, there are elements of the old Major Lazer sprinkled throughout the album. “Too Original,” “Blaze It Up” and “Light It Up” contain the dancehall rhythm and bounce we’ve come to know and expect from the group.
Though Diplo plans to keep Major Lazer separate from his other endeavors, his industry omnipotence is evident in track like “Night Riders” and “All My Love.” Collaborating with Travis Scott, Pusha-T and 2 Chainz seems somewhat reasonable for the Major Lazer of years past, Ariana Grande would have been a definite no.
On the whole, Major Lazer rolled the dice, betting on the gentrification of dancehall culture to inspire the next (marketable) youth movement. If and when it catches on, and their reggae-driven cult following becomes the mainstream, the album will have succeeded in creating context for music to follow. You may have to read between the lines a bit, considering the albums disconnect from track to track, but by then point will have already been made and Major Lazer, or whatever entity Diplo takes on next, will have already moved onto the next mission. Until then, be glad you have a few tracks you can play for the fam as well as the homies.
Peace Is The Mission is now available on iTunes. Stream the release below.