Sach O: Major Lazer – Guns Don’t Kill People, Lazers Do

Sach O rain fire pon chichi hipster soundbwoy bullshit. Seen. Irony: go fuck yourself. Irony protects the ridiculous and shelters stupidity from scorn and criticism. Major Lazer is a self-consciously...
By    June 29, 2009


Sach O rain fire pon chichi hipster soundbwoy bullshit. Seen.

Irony: go fuck yourself. Irony protects the ridiculous and shelters stupidity from scorn and criticism. Major Lazer is a self-consciously ironic project highlighting that for every successful intermingling of global musical trends, there’s a project so offensively presumptuous and musically incompetent that it’s a testament to our cultural failings that no one involved will get punched in the face for it.

The jist: Major Lazer is a dancehall compilation featuring A-list Jamaican deejays and production by Switch and Diplo, the beatmakers behind M.I.A and Santigold. Sounds good right? It’s also a sorta-concept album about a zombie fighting Jamaican commando who rides a rocket-powered skateboard. One assumes he wears a neon hoodie by whatever street wear company got involved in this mess. Do not buy their clothing.

Dancehall thrives on slackness and bawdy anything-goes creativity. Elephant Man was going nuts back when T-Pain was in middle school and R Kelly was recording Celine Dion duets. Unfortunately, neither of Major Lazer’s two driving forces have the natural instincts for the genre, Switch came up on glitchy London art House and Diplo is a dirty-south carpetbagger playing Lil Jon records for manila envelope poseurs. The result is an album that’s both too serious in its joyless production and disingenuous in its nod-nod wink-wink approach to Jamaican music. It’s the dancehall equivalent of a Trustafarian Marley tribute band lucky enough to get a couple of real live Jamaicans on their album. At best it’s generic and soulless, at worst it makes you wonder if the Lonely Island’s Ras Trent was actually behind it–until you realize that he would make a far more entertaining and authentic record.

Lets be clear, nearly every guest here is cashing in a check. Even the most casual dancehall fan will recognize names like Vybz Cartel, T.O.K and Mr Vegas, but they’ll also recognize that this isn’t anywhere near their best work. Proving that M.I.A really was the main creative force behind her records, Major Lazer is utterly lacking in compelling hooks leaving its vocalists to flounder around in formless approximations of last year’s trends. Whether its Nina Sky and Ricky Blaze’s autotune abortion or Future Trouble dropping clichés over a vaguely punky riff on “Lazer theme,” none of the album’s tracks manage to add their own spin to dancehall, a damning accusation in a genre thriving on whats-next, see-what-sticks creativity. It’s telling that the album’s best tracks include a couple of by-the-numbers roots jams, safe zones where neither Switch’s obsessive glitchiness nor Diplo’s LCD instincts can cause much damage.

I’m not even going to get into the album’s promotion featuring a retarded-ass Jamaican caricature that is the living, breathing downside of ironic white interest in black music. As offensive as it is, it only seems natural coming from a camp celebrating wanton superficiality and intellectual vacuity and frankly, the music is so slight and stereotypical that it almost seems appropriate. At a time when The Bug, Joker and other next-generation producers are creating incredible music merging Dancehall traditions and Britain’s shifting electronic interests, you might be mistaken for thinking that Major Lazer is an utterly worthless waste of your time. However, it does have one redeeming function: play it in a packed room and spot the people who really like it. I guarantee you’ve just spotted the biggest douchebags in the house. Punch them in the face.

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