DJ Rich As Fuck. DJ Hanzel. Becky. Greg. Klaud. Treva. Rave Dad. These Instagram alter-egos of resident internet darling Dillon Francis are integral to his charming allure, i.e. his massive following. Some of us come for his earlier hard-hitting moombahton cuts, whereas others want to cuddle with his unwavering no-fucks-given internet persona, creating memes along the way. He was an early propagator of moombahton, the house and reggaeton fusion of electronic dance music which features two-step pulses with quick drum fills. He helped push the sound into mainstream festival culture alongside Mad Decent’s Diplo on their massive track ‘Que Que.’
But high-brow music culture hates the dude. Like, really hates him. Some people despise him enough to throw a can of RC Cola at his head in the middle of his performance.
I get it, I really do – while his early featured work on Toddla T’s BBC Radio show was jaw-dropping and hella fresh, his current work is riddled with clichéd pop sounds, a by-product of being hugely popular in the scene and the incessant need to stay relevant. Pitchfork thinks Francis is a waste of musical space and incapable of creating a focused album. He rolls with Zac Efron now, how much farther can a dude fall?
But then why are so many up-and-coming producers inspired by the guy’s work? How can these bedroom musicians pouring out mind-blowing production on SoundCloud and gaining recognition from tastemakers like Ryan Hemsworth find Francis credible? Hemsworth and Francis are friends supporting each other’s work, but there’s something else at play here, and it all comes down to a simple yet overlooked fact:
Dillon Francis is really fucking smart.
For years, Dillon Francis never signed with a label, be it indie, major, or even starting his own. He released music over a series of smaller, influential labels like Fool’s Gold, Dim Mak, Mad Decent, OWSLA, and Fly Eye. He tours almost year-round and is always keeping his social media channels active and creating new trends to keep followers engaged.
I’ve worked in music and social media for years and it reels me how naturally intuitive Francis is at all of this shit. Citing his antics as mindless fucking around is more of a compliment than anything. When a fan created the Tumblr ‘Dillon Francis Is Cat,’ Francis brought them on to design merchandise for his site. He’s always on the lookout for ways to elevate his brand and supplement his music.
The dude makes working hard seem effortless, a feat that’s graced his entire career – beginning as a photographer’s assistant until realizing it wasn’t for him, to DJing clubs around LA which also wasn’t his shtick, he made tons of music so that he could stop playing shit people expected him to. He’d made an entire catalog of songs before being discovered, proving he wasn’t some kid dicking around. Even now, between touring, writing music, hanging with Efron, collaborating with artists, and creating new social media identities, he still makes time for family and friends when he has a moment to breathe. He’s more than a robot.
He signed to Columbia Records earlier this year, but he was accused of selling out rather than making another bold move along his strategic career path that has allowed him to release his music to the widest possible audience. His years of bro-ing out with label owners and musicians taught Francis to lawyer up and understand contracts, a problem many up-and-coming musicians fall prey to (Azealia Banks, Wilco, K.Flay). He’s still affiliated with Mad Decent without getting reprimanded with Columbia Records!
He earned respect by playing it smart and creating music he enjoys. He knows hard hits, subtle melodies, and understands music on a visceral level. He’s got a good ear, a solid business sense, and a strong backbone to play the game for the long haul. And, with the backing of Columbia Records, who lets him troll everyone and everything, he has now proven no one is safe from his wile and charm.
Rupa Jogani likes arguing about the merits of Dillon Francis and other shit. Bother her on Twitter: @R_Jogani