Diplo (born Thomas Wesley Pentz, November 10, 1978) is a Philadelphia-based American DJ, producer, and songwriter. Together with DJ Low Budget, he runs Hooked on Hollerphonix, a club and music collective. He also founded and manages the record company Mad Decent, as well as the nonprofit organization Heaps Decent.
He began attending the University of Central Florida in 1997, and then moved to Philadelphia to continue his studies at Temple University, where he first gained notoriety as a DJ. After frequently running into fellow DJ Low Budget, the two began throwing parties under the Hooked on Hollerphonix moniker in 2003. They issued mixtapes and the Hooked on Hollerphonix name became synonymous with parties featuring guests like Bun B, Spank Rock, M.I.A., among others.
Diplo accentuated the club aesthetic of his Hooked on Hollerphonix music for a more reflective sound on his 2004 solo debut, “Florida,” which was released on the Ninja Tune imprint, Big Dada Records. It was not long before his Hooked on Hollerphonix parties would provide him the success necessary to move to the next logical step and build a studio where music would become his full-time focus.
With this goal in mind, Diplo built The Mausoleum, a video studio, recording studio, record label office, gallery, and event space in Philadelphia. Since its inception, The Mausoleum has become the home to recordings by artists like Christina Aguilera, Shakira, M.I.A., Santigold, Spank Rock, Plastic Little, Blaqstarr, Paper Route Gangstaz, and hosted concerts by Glass Candy, Skream, Boys Noize, Nicos Gun, and more.
After hearing one of his songs in 2004, M.I.A. approached Diplo when he was DJ'ing one night at the Fabric Club in London. The two eventually collaborated on a mixtape, 2004’s “Piracy Funds Terrorism Vol. 1.,”which featured vocal tracks intended for M.I.A.'s debut album “Arular” mashed up with samples of other recordings.
Diplo would continue to work with M.I.A. and, through her, meet London DJ Switch. Together they created the Grammy nominated M.I.A. track “Paper Planes,” peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. Diplo would go on to release a slew of similarly styled mixtapes with Downtown Records’ Santigold and Polydor Records’ La Roux, as well as mixtapes with Paper Route Gangstaz, Das Racist, and Gucci Mane.
Diplo went from an unknown DJ to taking off as a producer, landing him collaborations with artists like Shakira, Robyn, Kid Cudi, Bruno Mars and Snoop Dogg, as well as work with Maluca, Kid Sister, Die Antwoord, Alex Clare, Rolo Tomassi, Amanda Blank and Dark Meat. Although highly sought after to create productions for other artists, Diplo’s focus soon turned to another collaborative project with Switch, this time in the form of a full-length record under the guise Major Lazer.
After landing a deal with Downtown Records before even recording a note of music, Diplo & Switch set out for Jamaica to record a project that, like most of Diplo’s projects before it, would highlight the little-known subgenres, this time of Jamaica’s dancehall scene. The two received support by many already established Jamaican artists such as Vybz Kartel, Elephant Man and Ms. Thing, and the resulting 2009 record, “Guns Don't Kill People... Lazers Do” also featured vocals from Santigold, Amanda Blank, Nina Sky, Ricky Blaze and more. Major Lazer's first album was followed up with an EP, “Lazers Never Die,” which was released in 2010.