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Diplo's Book Is More Than Just An Eye-Catching Coffee Table Ornament

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Diplo’s book, 128 Beats Per Minute (Universe Publishing/Rizzoli), is one of patterns. The country-hopping DJ/producer, along with erstwhile Annie Leibowitz assistant, photographer Shane McCauley capture the experiences of these travels in the 113-page photo book. More than just an eye-catching coffee table ornament, 128 Beats creates an accessible portal into music cultures around the world.

Divided into locales, the 10 chapters of the book span from Diplo’s resident city of Philadelphia to various cities in Europe, Israel, Jamaica, the United Kingdom, Russia, Trinidad, Mexico, different spots in Asia and the United States. Ushered in with a forward by fashion designer Alexander Wang—who writes as a fan rather than an authority—each chapter has an introduction by Diplo, whose time as Vanity Fair columnist has served him well. Fluid and personal, these brief but articulate missives follow the same pattern giving first-hand details about the location followed by insight into the place’s club culture from Diplo’s perspective.

“I chose places that have a bigger musical culture,” says McCauley who culled the photographs from over 60,000 images. “Also, Diplo has a lot of influences from a lot of these cultures.”

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I wasn’t trying to make it look pretty…I was trying to educate people on what this place is about and why this culture is important, how it is important in relation to us.


The photographs are vivid, defined and descriptive of their locales. Not all party shots or eye candy shots of good looking clubbers, they focus on capturing the personalities of their subjects, the history of the location, spotlight the local musical talent, the fashion and street style, as well as the raw experience of witnessing Diplo’s DJ sets. Each chapter’s photographs follow this pattern. Putting the images into context, the captions that accompany the photographs give insider information about the image. In the case of artist shots, the captions explain their background and importance, including Twitter usernames where applicable.

“I wasn’t trying to make it look pretty,” says McCauley of 128 Beats. “I was trying to educate people on what this place is about and why this culture is important, how it is important in relation to us.”

To complete the 128 Beats experience, each chapter comes with its own Diplo designed playlist. Picked after flipping through each chapter, the choices are not necessarily what you would expect. From McCauley’s point-of-view, the tracks selected are those that reminded Diplo of the location. Perhaps he listened to a particular song with a friend while he was there or there is a feeling to a song that represents the place. The playlists also follow a pattern in that there are selections that obviously define the city, but also subtle ones that match it perfectly.

The closing quote, from Friedrich Nietzsche, sums up the sentiment of 128 Beats:

Without music, life would be a mistake.

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