Your birthday always seems to feel like a total reset on your life. If it’s going poorly, maybe a new year can mean a new beginning; if things are going well, it can be the start to reach for new heights. In Diplo‘s case, when your year starts off with the entire world (rightfully) hating you for insulting the beloved Taylor Swift and Lorde, as it did in 2014, it pretty much amounts to a turd sandwich wrapped in a bow as a gift. Thankfully, 2015 was a much kinder year for Diplo, and much of it was due to his effort to try to be better. The DJ and superstar producer turns 37 Tuesday, and we felt it was necessary to try to chronicle why 2015 was possibly his biggest year to date.
There’s a certain dubious morality in music and in entertainment at large: If someone is good at their job, people will often overlook the bad things that they do. Diplo has said some bad things to people, many of them women; that is undeniably true and it’s important to remember that. But, if someone goes out of their way to right some of those wrongs, while not an obligation, it’s a good thing to take notice of that, too.
One of the more provocative and ornery musicians working today (a nice way of saying he’s been a sh*t-stirrer in the past), Diplo has spent most of his 2015 more mellowed out (he did have a second child a week after his previous birthday). He spoke to Billboard in April about how regretted his controlling and awful nature during his relationship, both working and romantic, with M.I.A. In Interview Magazine, he even said he wants to drop the name Diplo, explaining that it was to focus solely on Major Lazer, a project that has far more goodwill. Still, it seems like he wants to discard the baggage that he accrued from years of bad behavior in favor of something more positive.
Now, this year has not been without its dustups. In February, he had it out with a few internet artists for not properly attributing a GIF for promotional purposes and, in June, beefed with young EDM upstart Zedd. But for the most part, he’s actually tried to be fairly, ugh, diplomatic about these things, apologizing for both transgressions.
“All I know is, don’t ever get into a feud with Taylor Swift. She has, like, 50 million people that will die for her. You can’t step into that arena. That was something I was never prepared for. … One of the biggest mistakes of my career was definitely f–king with her.”
Picking your battles is pretty sound advice for anyone, and it’s something you learn with time. Thankfully, in Diplo’s case, he’s both improving in both music and attitude. And ironically, he did it while elevating another fellow star with a bad reputation: Justin Bieber.
Working with Bieber before on 2012’s Believe and the criminally underrated digital mixtape Journals, the two joined forces for a third time earlier this year, producing one of their biggest hits to date respectively in “Where Are Ü Now.” According to their sitdown with the New York Times explaining the hit, Bieber was hesitant to work with Diplo and Skrillex. But a chance meeting got them in the studio together and now the rest is history. Diplo even has the self-awareness to admit they were both total jerks.
Combine the success that Diplo has had with Jack Ü with his explosive success with Major Lazer — both musically with Peace Is the Mission and “Lean On,” as well as an ’80s Saturday Morning Cartoon-style TV Show on FXX — and his 36th year undid a lot of the bad behavior of the previous, oh, decade?
No one is suggesting that Diplo has entirely turned over a new leaf. It’s actually very possible that tomorrow, he could revert back to what’s old and familiar by saying some foul sh*t about someone in a series of ill-advised tweets. But 36 was a great year, for once, for the DJ everyone seems to love to hate, and it’s possible that age 37 could be even better.