Sometimes creativity need not be profound, melancholy, or intensely deep, but simply take you to a world so completely insane that it actually makes you feel better about all of the insanity that exists in real life. That, through their music, their album art, and now their newest cartoon series — has been one of the great achievements of the group Major Lazer.
I first became aware of Major Lazer back in 2009 during a college party in Southern California. At that time, North America was still a pre-twerk society. Mainstream hip-hop hadn’t yet conceded as much commercial ground to electronic music as it has today, and the world of dancehall reggae was largely an unknown. It was a time when many dorm room playlists seemed to be battling it out between old Jay-Z anthems and new dubstep tracks…a strange time indeed.
One night, as I made my way through a crowd of fellow college students getting blasted by everything from Rusko to Hannah Montana, I ended up hearing Major Lazer’s first big single, Pon de Floor, firing out of some nearby speakers. The room suddenly changed. Something about the the Caribbean chorus mixed with an almost disturbingly high-pitched round of bleeps made it stand out from all of the other songs that night, and in a good way. It felt like this one song had captured how completely crazy music was getting, and had chosen to just embrace the chaos of it all.
When I asked somebody at the party who made the song, the answer I got was “It’s Major Lazer man! He’s this crazy DJ from Jamaica with only one arm!” I went on to learn that the drunk dude I spoke to was actually describing an illustrated character adorning the album art of what at the time was the newest musical collaboration from famous DJ/producer Diplo. Since 2009, using a laser-armed Jamaican commando as their symbol, the dancehall-inspired group Major Lazer has gone on to do even more insane tracks, as well as take the music festival circuit by storm. When I graduated from college in 2013, I was lucky enough to catch them at Coachella, where they called up one of the most fanatically excited audiences of the weekend.
Now, in 2015, the laser-armed, ganja smoking mascot of the group, designed by artist Ferry Gouw, has made the jump from album art to animated superhero on FXX’s Animation Domination lineup. True to the humor and the attitude of the band, the Major Lazer cartoon’s sarcastic world of dancehall anthems and surreal adventures keeps true to it’s epic embrace of the absurd. The result is a ten-minute cartoon exploding with infinite forms of hilarious badassery, made even more cool by the 80s look of the show.
Set in a sci-fi future Jamaica, Major Lazer has to save music from being destroyed by an array of evil-doers. Some of the top moments involve stopping a mad professor who concentrates all of the world’s bass into a water-droplet sized super weapon (the bass drop), vampires partying at the beach during “Vampire Weekend,” and an episode where a marauding cowboy voiced by Aziz Ansari “gooshes” people. A lot happens in those ten minutes.
There isn’t any formula that can sum up the show, or the team of villains that Major Lazer battles (such as “General Rubbish,” seemingly named after the labels on garbage cans in Australia). The cartoon is something uniquely its own, and unlike nearly everything else on TV, doesn’t feel like something that’s pandering to anyone. It’s too preoccupied with its own crazy world to try and be anything else. It’s its own breed of awesomeness for awesomeness’ sake.
With the recent debut of their third studio album, “Peace is the Mission” on top of launching one of TV’s coolest new cartoons in years, the creative output of Major Lazer isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
Lucky for all of us, as the world keeps getting weirder, so too will Major Lazer.