BY JOEY SWEENEY
Here is the thing with douchebags: It is seldom the case that we’re born this way. (I feel I can speak as a member of the tribe; if you can’t, you’re probably not being 100% honest with yourself, but that is between you and your god.) Instead, douche is a kind of damage: It’s not that you weren’t loved enough, it’s that you were permitted to walk through this life with your ego unchecked, with questionable tastes having gone unquestioned, with bad crowds badcrowding you. All humans have at least a few moments of douche; indeed, into each life, a little douche must fall.
Since M.I.A. and Diplo have split, both have been responsible so much hard douche rain that it would feel excessive to even try to catalog it all. (We tried, once, with Diplo, but it came to be exhausting almost immediately.) As anyone with friends knows, when two douches get together, it can go either way, but when they were together, Diplo and M.I.A. created a cultural moment so unique and true and deeply cool that, I’d argue, Philadelphia is still reaping some benefits from it. This was the era of Hollertronix, you see, and Piracy Funds Terrorism, and, of course, “Paper Planes.” Together, M.I.A. and Diplo formed something like The Clash, but for post-9/11 times, with the roles ever switching between the posh goofy cultural-appropriating one, and the genuine radical.
And listening to Diplo’s remix of “Birds” — off the new, eponymous M.I.A. album, out this September — you hear all of that again. And there’s even a bit of that Clash dynamic; at root, maybe Combat Rock is the ghost genre these two work in when they’re at their best. “Birds” bacaws with sinister malice, but it’s also infectious. I can’t quite get my head around exactly what it’s about yet on these first few spins, but I know two things for sure:
1. It’s the best thing I’ve heard from either of them in years.
2. It will sound perfectly in and out of place in strip clubs and club clubs alike next month, but that is most assuredly where it’s going. Douche status dies hard, but dreams can last forever.