"They never called Afrika Bambaataa out for exploiting those poor Germans [Kraftwerk] with 'Planet Rock,'" jokes Wesley "Diplo" Pentz, the 27-year-old globe-trotting DJ/producer/tastemaker who put baile funk--a music born out of the ghettos of Brazil--on our pop-cultural map.
Still, after being accused of exploiting the music he's exposed, Pentz has come to assume a certain responsibility for protecting and uplifting the global music community. He's spent a good part of the last two years making sure the indigenous music he's carried to the masses stays in the hands of the cultures and originators he's learned from.
"I have some responsibility to the kids that make music that inspires me," says Pentz. "I was trippin' about these aboriginal Australian kids who make hip-hop. So I went there and did workshops that raised money to buy computers so poorer kids could continue to make music that makes me want go there in the first place."
Pentz's Mad Decent record label, which made its debut in 2006 introducing Brazilian crossover act Bonde Do Role, has since added Baltimore club eccentric Blaqstarr and Florida dancehall mavericks South Rakkas Crew to its roster. The label is also bankrolling Pentz's motion picture debut, a documentary on the Brazilian funk scene titled Favela on Blast.
"I've got two different lives," says Pentz, who despite traveling the world still calls Philly home. "As a DJ I still make really good money, and at the same time I can afford to support a label that loses money. I'm building a foundation with Mad Decent. It takes a lot more work to do it like this, but in two years I'll have this many releases, and we'll have been the first people to break this kind of music."
As for his reputation as the Indiana Jones of DJs, Pentz jokes again, "Indiana Jones freed those orphans and melted the Nazis' faces off. When people talk shit about me, it doesn't feel good because most of the ones talking never leave the country and don't see what I see, or experience what I do. I don't think they even love music. I think they're genuinely jealous."