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Diplo and the Search for the Perfect Beat

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Diplo has also got the kind of unpolished attitude that mainstream success can buff away. Over lunch, I ask him about "Look at Me Now," the spacey, Grammy-nominated track he produced for Chris Brown. Did he feel conflicted giving a hit to a convicted domestic abuser? "I'm not a circuit-court judge or anything," he says. "Chris Brown served his sentence. What else can you do? I do think he's an asshole – like, at the Grammys, he could have been more graceful. But he's an artist. He's good at what he does."

He's blunt when it comes to M.I.A., too. They broke up, but continued collaborating until the sessions for her last album. "She didn't really know what she was doing," he says. "She was really abusive, telling me I wasn't good enough or fast enough." Discussing M.I.A.'s middle-finger flip at the Super Bowl with Madonna, he says, "It was kind of stupid. I think her being on that Madonna song is kind of lame, and she was trying to make up for that. That song is such a flop."

Diplo chews a forkful of salad, and turns contrite. "I'm still a huge fan of her stuff," he says. "I owe her a lot for what she did for me."

The day after the Vegas gig, a car picks up Diplo from the airport. I ask what happened after the strip club – last I'd seen, he was leaving with a voluptuous brunette. "I hung out with some girls at another club, went back to the hotel with them at around five, then they left and some other girls came out," he says, nonchalant. "It's real lucky I woke up when I did this morning. I literally had no idea when the flight was."

The conversation drifts to music. On the horizon, there's another Major Lazer album and a solo Diplo EP. "In three years, I want to leave L.A. and move to New Orleans," he says. "I love that city. I want to build more music there and more culture." He also wants to revisit his earlier love, filmmaking. He directed a baile-funk documentary released in 2010, but he wants to make features: He wrote a screenplay about an Oklahoma flea market involving "a tornado and Bigfoot."

We arrive at his house. His keys are buried in his bag, and he doesn't feel like fishing them out. Kathryn and Lockett are visible through the glass front door. He knocks. They look up, but stay put. "I hate my family," Diplo jokes, walking around to an unlocked side door. The day before, I asked him about the terms of his relationship with Kathryn. "Um, I don't know," he said. "I don't really want to talk about that because it's too personal. But sometimes, I hang out with other girls, I guess. Like at the club in Vegas, there'll be, like, local girls there."

Taped to the kitchen wall are several pictures of Diplo clipped from magazines. It looks like a self-celebrating shrine until you realize that Lockett is its intended audience: On the central picture, someone has written the word "Daddy" with an arrow pointing toward Diplo's face.

Kathryn is sitting on the couch, peeling yellow grapes for Lockett, who's tottering in a diaper. Diplo gives her a kiss. "How was Vegas?" she asks. Diplo doesn't respond. I tell her it was fun. Kathryn says that Lockett completed a block puzzle all by himself. Diplo beams. He goes upstairs to change. "Underwear! I haven't worn underwear in, like, four days!" he yells down. Kathryn rolls her eyes.

Diplo returns and approaches Lockett, who mumbles with pleasure at the sight of his dad. "I've gotta go eat lunch," Diplo tells Kathryn. "I'll bring you guys some food, but I might have to head straight to the studio." "Really?" Kathryn says.

Diplo grabs his bag and pulls on a pair of shoes. He's been back for about 10 minutes. "Give me a hug," he tells Lockett. "I'm leaving."

Related
Photos: The Dance Music Producers of the Moment
Holy Ship: Dance Music's Wild Party on the High Seas

This story is from the March 29th, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

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Everclear | 1996

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