Although the immense artistic success of DJ Shadow and Tricky in the mid-'90s should have sparked a creative powder keg among independent-minded hip-hop producers, most of those who followed were either uninspired or rather over-inspired (i.e., slavish). Diplo, a Philadelphian by way of Mississippi and Florida, does much better than most with his debut record for Britain's Big Dada, although he also shows he's learned the lessons of the past rather too well. Florida is definitely an ambitious album, one that finds him not just attempting to take over Shadow's considerable mantle, but trying to be all things to a variety of dance genres -- rap, trip-hop, even dancehall. "Big Lost" and "Sarah" are the Shadow vehicles, both featuring rugged breakbeats layered underneath a mélange of violins and organ (on the former) and a guitar flameout with evocative Peanuts-style piano accompaniment (on the latter). Diplo then conjures a warped pop arrangement as a vehicle for former Tricky ingénue Martina Topley-Bird on the fourth track, but begins stretching out soon afterward with features for dancehall production phenom Vybz Kartel and Freestyle Fellowship's P.E.A.C.E. Near the end, Diplo's production finesse reaches epic proportions with the nearly nine-minute "Summer's Gonna Hurt You," a moody set piece of seasonal pop. DJ Shadow wouldn't allow a few of these all-too-traceable samples onto a record of his, but overall Diplo does his job very well. After all, it's dead easy to sample obscure records, but very difficult to make them sound evocative.
AllMusic Review by John Bush