Major Lazer’s Walshy Fire and Soju Gang discuss ‘Music Is The Weapon’
In case you missed it, Major Lazer made their triumphant return recently, finally releasing their eagerly anticipated follow up album to their gigantic smash hit of a third album, Peace Is The Mission back in 2015, as well as 2013’s Free The Universe and 2009’s Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do before it. Titled Music Is The Weapon, their fourth album once again sees a multitude of global musical styles and influences brought together through the power of music, with Diplo, Walshy Fire and Ape Drums once again set out to unite the world one banger at a time.
Much like its 2015 predecessor, Music Is The Weapon is a broad church of collaborators and styles. Featuring the likes of Nicki Minaj, Khalid, French Montana, Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons, Alessia Cara, J Balvin, Skip Marley and more, the album effortlessly moves between pop, hip hop, dancehall, baile funk, dembow, and so many more styles to create a veritable sonic feast with something for everyone. From lead singles ‘Oh My Gawd’ featuring Nicki Minaj and K4mo to opening track ‘Hell and High Water’ featuring Alessia Cara through to the uplifting euphoria of the J Balvin and El Alfa, ‘Que Calor’, the record spans five continents, defying traditional genre constraints to make futuristic hybrids of so many sounds, speaking to the greater mission of the trio to unite the world. In a year when dancefloors have been abandoned and many have felt more isolated than ever, Music Is The Weapon seeks to provide connection, unity and joy to all who listen, and whenever the record can be brought to audiences to be played and heard as it was intended, it is sure to provide many magical moments.
In a recent conversation for Purple Sneakers, Naarm/Melbourne DJ Soju Gang spoke to Walshy Fire about the group’s latest album. Discussing everything from how the group decides who to collaborate with (“These are all people that we’re friends with. Not really picked. You’re just friends with somebody, you work on music. We wouldn’t do music with people we don’t know”) to his favourite song on the new record (‘Sun Come Up’ — “I just like it a lot.”), Soju Gang and Walshy Fire spoke via Zoom, leaving no stone unturned as they dived into Music Is The Weapon.
On the album’s title, Walshy explained the simple but effective origin behind it. “It was just a conversation. It wasn’t even deep like that. It was just, “Yo, peace is the mission, man. That’s what we’re looking for,” and then somebody said, “Yeah, and we’re going to use music to get to that peace,” and that was it,” he said.
Discussing his experience as an artist growing up in Jamaica and his connection to the music he grew up on and its strong ties to history and politics, Walshy Fire explained, “I’m going to say conscious and unconscious. [W]e just make music. Am I a conscious person? Yes. Am I aware? Yes. Do I speak on those things in my daily speech? Of course. Will that translate into music? Yep. But again, I don’t think about it. I’m not trying to be. I just am being exactly who I am, and I could say that for the band as well.”
He continued, saying, “Jamaican music always deals with the issues. It deals with a lot of things that are happening. It confronts things.”
Elsewhere, the pair discussed his feelings towards purists and gatekeepers of particular genres, including reggae and hip hop, as well as those who might be called out for appropriating sounds and styles of music. “I don’t ever get mad at those people,” Walshy Fire explained. “I’m clearly of the culture and so I have lots of friends who are like that. They’re purists, whatever it be. Reggae. You know what I’m saying? Hip hop. They’re purists. So anything that deviates from what they consider a pure form of that, they then begin to give it certain names.”
“So if you’re into hip hop and a white rapper comes along, they begin to say, “Hey, this is cultural appropriation,” especially if the white rapper doesn’t do it the way that they think hip hop should be done. I just think that we have to say, “Yo man, you know what? At the end of the day, thank you for feeling so strongly about a sound.” If you want to be the gatekeeper for that and be like, “Yo man, I’m going to be the person that goes out there and tells people that this is where it comes from and this is how it should sound,” I’m all for it, man. We need you.”
Major Lazer has spent the last five years touring relentlessly not just to major cities across the world, but has made it their mission to bring their shows to places often skipped over on regular tour routes. Speaking on why it is so important to him personally to be playing shows in places countries like Pakistan, Cuba, Nigeria and more, Walshy Fire said, “I’m from the third world, so I’m out here representing for the third world. I know the importance of them having an experience that I never would probably get in my third world. So we want to do a show in Haiti. We want to do a show in Afghanistan. We want to do shows in places that nobody does shows and that’s why we are who we are.”
In a year with many release schedules turned upside down and pushed back during the midst of a global pandemic, political unrest, environmental catastrophes and civil uprisings, Major Lazer too halted their original plans in favour of a time when their audience could appreciate it. “We didn’t want anybody working on a project when they should probably be taking care of their families and taking care of their personal lives. But we dropped the record once we felt like everybody was back to work and able to feel comfortable without having to be stressed. Yeah, man. For us, it’s right on time,” he said.
Five years on from Peace Is The Mission, Major Lazer return to a very different world, and yet their message of freeing the universe through music seems to be more vital than ever. In a time of worldwide chaos and confusion, a reminder to come together however possible as well as a reminder of how powerful music can be has come right on time, much like their album. Five years on, with Music Is The Weapon, the trio has confirmed not only was their record worth the wait, but that they still have plenty left to say. As the year winds down and we all adjust to our respective versions of our “new normal,” an album full of uplifting, globally-minded dance tracks has more than come in handy.
Music Is The Weapon is out now on Warner Music Australia.
Major Lazer ‘Music Is The Weapon’ Tracklist:
1) Hell and High Water (feat. Alessia Cara)
2) Sun Comes Up (feat. Busy Signal & Joeboy)
3) Bam Bam (feat. French Montana & Beam)
4) Tiny (feat. Beam & Shenseea)
5) Mr. Eazi & Major Lazer – Oh My Gawd (feat. Nicki Minaj & K4MO)
6) Major Lazer & Khalid – Trigger
7) Lay Your Head On Me (feat. Marcus Mumford)
8) Can’t Take It from Me (feat. Skip Marley)
9) Major Lazer, MC Lan, Anitta – Rave De Favela (feat. Beam)
10) Queloque (feat. Paloma Mami)
11) Major Lazer & Nuclea – Jadi Buti (feat. Rashmeet Kaur)
12) Que Calor (feat. J Balvin & El Alfa)
Interview by Emma Jones
Image: Mason Poole