In an age where it seems like the time is ticking on “the album” as the dominant format in which music is given to us, it sometimes feels like we’re jumping the gun a bit with commemorative reissues. 2004 was ten years ago, but it let’s think back to where we were then and how 1994 related to us at the time. This year there have been tons of reissues and articles commemorating 20th anniversaries of many records that deserve veneration, but back in ’04, we weren’t in such a rush to make deluxe editions of Dummy, Parklife, His N’ Hers, Weezer, and Ready to Die, not because these weren’t respected, just not enough time had passed to really feel like we needed to unload further research. At this point, most of those records have been reissued, but the point is that they were all more important than Florida, Diplo’s totally decent, but not life-changing debut solo album.
The importance of Florida has way more to do with it as a portrait of the artist right on the cusp of his breakthrough, which was only a few months away. Diplo’s big move into public consciousness was of course through M.I.A., having collaborated with her on the Piracy Funds Terrorism mixtape, but having also worked on key tracks for her official 2005 debut, Arular. Florida is more representative of Diplo showing his capabilities in a pre-existing format, that being the crate-digging chilled sample music perfected by DJ Shadow, as well as a starting point for the trap style he’d become famous for. Tracks like “Big Lost” and “Sarah” showcase a keen understanding of jazzy beats and psychedelic swirls, and on “Into the Sun,” Diplo gets officiated into the triphop elitewith a guest vocal by the queen chanteuse of the genre, Martina Topley-Bird.
What’s interesting is hearing the connection between the 90s triphop world and the 00s trap world, something that Florida connects the dots for much better than Shadow’s 2006 hyphy disaster The Outsider. On “Works,” Diplo foreshadows the track with crackly flute and a found monologue before introducing a clap beat, that could have served as a low-key track on Arular. Likewise on “Money Power Respect,” the high treble patter provides a then-foreign pairing with a low double-bass loop, like the new school trying to pierce through the old. All throughout Florida are glimmers of the producer’s future career, most immediately his fame with M.I.A., but also his work with other artists can be head like the marching drums of “It’s All Part of a Bigger Plan” that fotells Bey’s “Til the End of Time,” or how the jerkiness of “Indian Thick Jawns” lays the groundwork for later singles like Nicola Roberts’ “Beat of My Drum” or Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now.”
For the record’s reissue (stylized as F10rida), he’s included his 2003 Epistemology Suite EP and a five bonus cuts of remixes and alternates. The EP further extends the origin story, with each track displaying his MPC skills and his grouping of disparate tones like video game sounds, animal noises, and buzzy synths. The remixes are mostly inconsequential, but the melty grinder “Making It Hard” is a choice cut, and “Flute Jawn” is the prettiest thing in the whole set.
If anything, Florida is a testament of what potential sounds like, if not an out-and-out classic. The choppy production style Diplo would soon adopt would quickly dominant his output, so much so that his production work can often be identified just by its unique sound (a feat many producers strive for but have difficulty leaving deep enough of a footprint in listener’s brains). In stopping to go back to where it all began, there’s a clear indicator of his true strengths even if he only starting to discover them midway through the record.