In the 2013 mini-documentary chronicling the rise of the Mad Decent Block Party, über-producer and festival founder Diplo has a bit of advice for anyone who performs at the event: "If you're an act, don't play after Flosstradamus," he says. "That's really hard."
It's a simple edict that illustrates not only the Chicago-based duo's prominence in Mad Decent land (and the realms of both dance music and trap they occupy), but also their abilities as party instigators and performers.
Appropriately enough, Flosstradamus is currently scheduled to roll onto stage at tomorrow night's Mad Decent Block Party stop at Rawhide in Chandler as the penultimate act of the night, which, as Diplo proclaims, might make for a difficult act for headliners Zeds Dead to follow.
How come? Flosstradamus members J2K and Autobot excel at producing sounds that effortlessly blend the party-rocking energy of electro-house with the sound, fury, and verve of trap music, one of the gutsier offshoots of hip-hop. Like the Mad Decent Block Party itself, Flosstradamus and their music toes the line between ghetto-fab attitude and flat-out rowdiness, often with many booty-shaking grooves and guttural bass warbles.
And when J2K and Autobot get on a stage, they're in a mood to get wild, get turned up, and get everyone in the audience to hop aboard for a one-way ticket to Rageville.
Or as our colleagues at sister publication, the Westword, stated: "It was only a matter of time before someone brought Dirty South beats into the world of EDM, and Flosstradamus has certainly set the precedent for what a good trap show is supposed to be like."
You can see the energy and attitude of a typical performance in Flosstradamus IRL, their recently released YouTube documentary that focus on their fervent fans, or at tomorrow night's block party. When New Times recently spoke to Autobot via telephone about everything from the block party tour to working with "it" girl Iggy Azalea long before she broke big, he told us it was a love letter of sorts to their younger-skewing fanbase.
"They really remind me of me as a kid, because I was into rock 'n' roll and into house music and into hip-hop," Autobot says. "And for me, when I was younger, it was pretty rare to be into multiple genres like that. I'd see the kids at a punk show, and they I'd go to a hip-hop show and I wouldn't see the same people. Now, I feel like its becoming more commonplace and we just wanted to showcase that with the documentary. We wanted to be like, these are fans of every type of music."
Well, there was a little bit of a backlash with another recent Flosstradamus project. Last month, the duo dropped the chill track "Rebound," which featured vocals by sultry singer Elkka and was a bit of a change from their usual trap-laced offerings. Many of the Hoodie Boyz amongst the Flosstradamus fanbase dug it, while others didn't.
No matter, says Autobot, since that's the risk you take as an artist. Plus, there are always going to be people who don't like what you create. Or, in other words: "There's always going to be haters," he says, "No matter what you do."
What's your history with the Mad Decent Block Party?
We were involved since the beginning, the very first one, back when it was an actual block party. Diplo has this old mausoleum [factory] in Philadelphia that he bought and made the original Mad Decent office and they blocked off the streets in front of that and actually made it a block party with barbecues and everything. So we've been doing it since day one and its definitely grown a little bit since then.
To say the least. When you played the very first one, what was your reaction to seeing that crowd?
The original crowd was awesome, because it was like all these people. It was like a bunch of hipster kids that were just coming for the Mad Decent thing and then all of the kids from the neighborhood, too. And they opened up a fire hydrant and all the kids are playing in it and stuff. It was really cool. And when we ended up doing our set, we had some stuff planned, but because there were so many people in the neighborhood, we were like, "Let's just play like classic tracks." So we played Prince and Earth Wind and Fire and did this actual block party set, which was kind of cool.
How crazy did things get?
Awww...it wasn't like as wild as it is now, that's for sure. It wasn't as crazy as it is these days, but it was just fun. It was like a barbecue at your uncle's house or something like that.
What are the crowds like these days?
Its crazy. We play a lot of festivals and stuff, a lot of raves and things like that, but the crowd at a Mad Decent show is a little more eclectic. Its people that are there for hip-hop, its people that are there for dance, and everything. So, if you're there to see hip-hop and stuff, I think that they're not used to the EDM side of things, and so they're just like turning up like crazy and getting really wild and like starting mosh pits. And if you're there for the EDM type of stuff, I watch them really getting into Riff Raff and Action Bronson and stuff like that. And its pretty intense, they're pretty crazy.
Did Diplo recruit you for the first one himself?
Yeah. We've been involved with him and with Mad Decent well before Mad Decent was Mad Decent. When he wanted to do the first one, he hit us up on text or the phone and we wound up flying ourselves out and doing it.
How does a Mad Decent Block Party differ from the Hard Summers or the Electric Zoos of the world?
It's pretty much like I was saying. The crowds are a lot more eclectic. Granted, things like Hard Summer are getting a lot more eclectic as well, which is cool. And that's like what we want in Flosstradamus: we want every type of person to come out to every show. But Mad Decent was definitely like the forefront of that. There's people there for every type of music. And the block parties have every type of music, too. People like Big Gigantic and, last year, Matt and Kim played. Bands as well as DJs as well as hip-hop acts. It's cool.
We really like to play the block parties, because a lot of times when we play an EDM fest, a lot of the fans are there to see like Axwell and Avicii and all the big-room house people. And they might not fully understand what we bring to the table. And so when we do the Mad Decent Block Parties, its definitely like the fans are there for us and they're kind of like of the same mindset for us with the music tastes.
Is the vibe different because the crowd is different?
Yeah, definitely. We really look forward to playing these every year because it is that. I think the average Flosstradamus fan is more into every type of music, and so we like the [block parties] because a lot of time when we play an EDM fest, a lot of the fans are there to see like Axwell and Avicii and all the big-room house people.
And they might not fully understand what we bring to the table. And so when we do the Mad Decent Block Party, its definitely like the fans are there for us and they're kind of like of the same mindset as us with the music tastes.
So, anytime we play, we just do it for the love of Mad Decent, because they have our back, and we do it for the love of the fans. These are definitely one for the fans. The Mad Decent Block Parties aren't like a big payout for us or anything like that. We're doing all of this for the fans.
And I'm probably speaking for everyone else on the roster of the block parties, but a lot of people are turning down big markets to do this. Like, we could go to these big markets and make a lot of money, but we're just there to do it for these fans. It's really a good time. I'd rather do a Mad Decent Block Party than get paid a ton of money to do a isn't as fun.
Has Mad Decent always been like that due to the eclectic nature of its sounds?
Yeah, definitely, I would say that. Like, again, it gets every type of person to support it. Again, I've seen everyone from hip-hop to those hip kids, as well as people that would go read Pitchfork and would be into like super-snooty music. There's all of those type of people at a Mad Decent Block Party.
It's not just one specific fan...its pretty much everybody. And I think that has a lot to do with Diplo and and a lot to do with the artists that are represented on the label. Diplo's all over the place. He has pop radio songs as well as big club tunes and just these weird little cool songs he finds everywhere.
Has Mad Decent made EDM more accessible?
Yeah, I would say that, especially with these Block Parties. I think the people that people that are coming out to see Action Bronson or someone like that who might not be into EDM, they can be like, aw this is a more palatable version of it. Like maybe an Action Bronson fan might not be into like a Swedish House Mafia kind of thing. But if they come to Mad Decent, they might hear someone like Swizzymack who is more underground, like EDM-wise, and they might be more into that type of stuff. "Aw...I can get into this EDM stuff."
How much is Diplo involved behind the scenes?
He's fully involved, whether its picking the lineup or even just socializing with everybody. He knows everybody on a personal basis. He's worked with a lot of the artists on there. When he's there, he's definitely 100 percent into it.
Do you think that's Mad Decent has not only brought different types of crowds together but also helped popularize the whole "turnt" thing?
Yeah, totally. That's also been something a lot with our fanbase, too, and with a lot of our tours. When we do our tours, we have a lot of hip-hop acts with us. And a lot of the kids that are coming out to see them will also come and enjoy the EDM stuff. The word "turnt" and "twerk" and all that stuff, that's just the Internet and I think the Internet brings that out. I don't think that's neccesarily like a specific artist or a specific label or anything. It's all the youth and the youth culture, that's their dialogue these days.
What's the tour been like this year?
It's bigger. We're doing a lot more markets this year and it has been crazy with good crowds at every show. There hasn't been one where we're disappointed. I mean, festival culture is like one of the biggest things in the states right now, so its awesome that we're able to tour this and get crowds are come out because there's a lot of competing festivals out and these kids don't have a lot of money to spend on this stuff. Like, if a kid was able to go to an EDC or Hard Summer and spend their 400 on a EDC ticket, they'd still be able to come out to these Mad Decent things, especially in this economy.
How did the tour film Flosstradamus IRL com about?
We did a tour last fall called the "IRL Tour," which stands for "In Real Life," and instead of filming us the whole time, we went out to every city and just filmed fans. We had a lot of kids submit why they're the best fans of ours or whatever and we filmed them whenever we got into every city and they got to tell us a bunch of stories. We had so much content, we're actually going to put up a bunch of special features later on of [footage] of all these kids talking.
We ended up making it a short film for YouTube, and it pretty much pays homage to our fans. Our fans, they really remind me of me as a kid, because I was into rock 'n' roll and into house music and into hip-hop.
And for me, when I was younger, it was pretty rare to be into multiple genres like that. I'd see the kids at a punk show, and they I'd go to a hip-hop show and I wouldn't see the same people. Now, I feel like its becoming more commonplace and we just wanted to showcase that with the documentary. We wanted to be like, these are fans of every type of music. these are dedicated, loyal fans to this movement that we had. It was cool. We're proud to have those type of people as our fans.
Y'all worked with Iggy Azalea a couple of years ago on "Flexin & Finnesin" and now she's huge. What was she like to work with?
She's awesome. She's a great artist. I guess we've known her a long time, so we were like, Its weird that its taken this long for her to pop, 'cause she's always had the whole pop icon package. So we were always wondering why she wasn't bigger at the time when we were working with her. She's amazing. She's super-nice, super-cool. She texts us and keeps in touch with us.
When I was watching the VMAs, they said that she had the number one and number two singles and that's the first time that happened since The Beatles, which is weird, but its awesome. When we were all working [together] it was all good vibes. We did that song with FKi from Atlanta and those dudes, they have hits coming out all the time. It was a good project.
Your newest EP Rebound is a bit of a departure from your usual trap and rowdy EDM stuff. What's the reception been like thus far?
[Its] been really well accepted. We've done like remixes and we have a bunch of chill songs we've done over the years, but they kind of get slept on; no one really noticed that we had done really chill songs. One of 'em was a "Tidal Wave" remix and we did a song called "Look at the Sky" with Deniro Farrar. But we were like, "We need to make another chill song that's an original." We ended up doing "Rebound," but we were kind of hesitant to put it out 'cause we released it in this climate of all these songs that we're super-duper turnt up and this was definitely the "anti-turnt."
But its honestly been really really well-received. There's been a little bit of hate, but there's always going to be haters, no matter what you do.
Who's been hating on it?
The Internet. That's usually what it is, but I dunno, everybody's got an opinion. We release all these like super turned up songs and people are like, "Make something chill!" And they we do the chill stuff and people are like, "Why is it so chill?" But, its all good. That's the woes of being an artist of any sort, when you put your heart out there and your passion for people to judge it. But its been more positive than negative, that's for sure. It's been [a lot] more positive than we expected. We're going to be putting out a lot more chill songs like that in the future.
Is the Internet powered on Haterade sometimes?
You can see it, right? Almost every YouTube comment ever, there's some hatred involved. That's just what it is, that's the climate we live in and you can't really change it.
Has "turnt" reached critical mass as an overused phrase now?
I think the whole term of something being overused or played out or anything like that is over. We're in this era of so much stuff existing and the shelf life of stuff is so fast that people don't even get over it. Its kind of like things just keep moving on -- no one's looking back, no one's really caring it seems like. A lot of the young kids I hang out with are like, "Aww...That's played out" or "That's whatever," but they keep doing it, so whatever. I dunno, the term "swag" came and went a few times but still people are using it. Same with "turnt." It isn't even about the word, its about the lifestyle and stuff like that.
As sort of like with us doing the rebound thing, yeah, we were making a bunch of these turned-up anthems, but we just wanted to make something chill. And I think that you can exist in an era now where there can be super turned up stuff happening as well as super chill stuff happening. It is what it is, it isn't about what's popular or not.
Expressly like our fans, like the hoodie boys, and especially the people at Mad Decent and a lot of the people we talk to, a lot of the kids we talk to, they all don't have that mindset of, "Turnt's dumb" or whatever. They're all about positivity and I think that's something cool about this generation.
I'm 33, but I look at the young kids and it seems like they don't give a fuck anymore, for real. Kids don't. Its like they don't really care about that type of stuff that my generation did. We were always so worried about something being played out or being not cool anymore and it seems like young kids don't give a fuck. They're just like, "What's next? I don't care. What's next?" They just keep moving forward.
Do think that therein lies the success of Mad Decent?
Yeah, it could be. Diplo, out of anybody I've met in my lifetime, I think Diplo gives the less fuck about what anyone thinks. So I definitely can see that embodying Mad Decent. Like, he does not give a fuck. It's not like he's wearing sweat pants and not shaving, not that kind of not giving a fuck, its just like he really doesn't care what people say. If you've ever seen any of his Twitter interaction, its like that. If someone talks shit on him, he's like, "Whatever. Fuck you," and just moves on with it. And I think that's why he's been successful. He's always on what's next.
Flosstradamus is scheduled to perform during the Mad Decent Block Party on Friday, September 12, at Rawhide in Chandler.
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