7 Songs You Didn’t Know Diplo Wrote for Other Artists

Taking his name from the Diplodocus, a dinosaur that lived between 155 and 145 million years ago, Diplo is not only an international party icon with Major Lazer, his Jack Ü electronic project with Skrillex and Mad Decent Block Party tours, but the DJ and singer has also become a sought-after songwriter.

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Born Thomas Wesley Pentz in Tupelo, Mississippi on November 10, 1978, the artist known as Diplo first gained recognition throwing parties as a DJ in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and released his debut, Florida, in 2004. While dating British rapper and singer M.I.A., Diplo also produced her Piracy Funds Terrorism mixtape in 2004 as well as co-wrote her 2007 hit anthem “Paper Planes.” Diplo, M.I.A., and producer Switch, also originally created the dancehall project Major Lazer in 2008, which later evolved into a short-lived cartoon series on Fox in 2015.

Over more than 15 years, Diplo has produced and written songs for numerous artists, including Justin Bieber, Shakira, Usher, Ellie Goulding, Snoop Dogg, and Bad Bunny, among many other artists, along with releasing his own music, including his country-bent Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley, Chapter 1: Snake Oil and an eponymous fourth album in 2022.

Generally credited as Thomas Pentz, Diplo has written a collection of songs for other artists, from Madonna and Britney Spears to Maroon 5 and Morgan Wallen.

Here’s a look behind seven songs that Diplo wrote for others over a more than decade-long stretch.

1. Paper Planes,” M.I.A. (2007)
Written by Diplo and M.I.A.

Off M.I.A.’s second album Kala, “Paper Planes” was inspired by her personal struggles with being an immigrant and trying to come to America on a visa. A British citizen of Sri Lankan descent, M.I.A, real name Mathangi Arulpragasam, started writing the song while living in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.

“I was having this stupid visa problem and I didn’t know what it was, aside from them thinking that I might fly a plane into the Trade Center—which is the only reason that they would put me through this,” said M.I.A. “I actually recorded that in Brooklyn, in Bed-Stuy. I was thinking about living there, waking up every morning—it’s such an African neighborhood. I was going to get patties at my local [store] and just thinking that really the worst thing that anyone can say [to someone these days] is some shit like ”What I wanna do is come and get your money.’” 

She continued, “People don’t really feel like immigrants or refugees contribute to culture in any way. That they’re just leeches that suck from whatever. So in the song, I say ‘All I wanna do is [sound of gun shooting and reloading, cash register opening] and take your money.’ I did it in sound effects. It’s up to you how you want to interpret. America is so obsessed with money. I’m sure they’ll get it.”

“Paper Planes” also features an interpolation of The Clash‘s 1982 song “Straight to Hell,” which also addressed immigration and xenophobia and was featured in the Oscar-winning 2008 film, Slumdog Millionaire. M.I.A. was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song for co-writing “O… Saya,” which was also featured in the film.

I fly like paper, get high like planes
If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name
If you come around here, I make ’em all day
I get one done in a second if you wait

I fly like paper, get high like planes
If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name
If you come around here, I make ’em all day
I get one done in a second if you wait

2. “Run the World (Girls),” Beyoncé (2011)
Written by Diplo, Beyoncé, The-Dream, Vybz Kartel, Diplo, Afrojack, Dave Taylor

Released on Beyoncé’s fourth album, 4, “Run the World (Girls),” is a female anthem of strength and empowerment in everything—motherhood, business, art, relationships, and then some. Girls, we run this mutha chants Beyoncé several times, opening one of the fiercest songs out of the 2010s. The track also features a marching drum beat sampled from Diplo’s Major Lazer’s 2009 song “Pon de Floor.”

This goes out to all the women getting it in, you on your grind
To all the men that respect what I do, please accept my shine
Boy, you know you love it
How we smart enough to make these millions
Strong enough to bear the children (children)
Then get back to business
See, you better not play me (me)
Oh, come here, baby
Hope you still like me
F you, pay me

Read the full story behind the lyrics of “Run the World (Girls) HERE.

3. “Look At Me Now,” Chris Brown with Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes (2011)
Written by Diplo, Busta Rhymes, Chris Brown, Lil’ Wayne, Jean-Baptiste, Afrojack, Ryan Buendia

Chris Brown‘s fourth album, F.A.M.E., went straight to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and other charts. Co-written by Brown, along with a carefully selected group of writers, F.A.M.E. also featured guest vocalists, including Justin Bieber on “Next to You” and Italian DJ Benny Benassi on the hit “Beautiful People.” On “Look at Me Now,” Brown is joined by Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes, who also co-wrote the track with Diplo.

The track peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Rap Songs charts.

‘Cause I’m feelin’ like I’m running
And I’m feelin’ like I gotta get away, get away, get away
Better know that I don’t and I won’t ever stop
‘Cause you know I gotta win every day, day, day
See, they really, really wanna pop me
Just know that you will never flop me
And I know that I can be a little cocky
You ain’t never gonna stop me

4. “Passenger,” Britney Spears (2013)
Written by Diplo, Sia, Katy Perry, Sia, Katy Perry, Andrew Swanson

For her eighth album, Britney Jean, Britney Spears had a solid collection of co-writers and collaborators like Sia, who helped write two tracks, including “Passenger,” which was co-penned along with Katy Perry and Diplo, who also produced the track with Anthony Preston.

The song was originally written for Perry’s Prism album and reworked for Spears. 

I can’t let go of control
I can’t let go and not know
Don’t know the way you’re heading me
One day at a time is all I need
There was a time without trust
There was a time without love
But it took you to show me
I could handover the keys

I’ll let you lead the way now
Cause I want you to take the wheel
I’ve never been a passenger though
I never knew how good it would feel
The road will twist and turn but
I know that I am in good hands
I’ve never been a passenger no

5. “Unapologetic Bitch,” Madonna (2015)
Written by Diplo, Toby Gad, MoZella, Shelco Garcia, Teen Wolf

Madonna‘s 13th album, Rebel Heart, featured guest vocals by boxer Mike Tyson and rappers Nicki Minaj, Chance the Rapper, and Nas. Diplo also co-wrote and co-produced several tracks on the album, including “Living for Love,” “Bitch, I’m Madonna” with Minaj, “Hold Tight,” and “Unapologetic Bitch,” the latter incorporating more of Diplo’s dancehall beats.

Woke up this morning feeling that you were gone
I thought awhile, but I’m finally moving on
Said it, did it, hit it, quit it
Then you let it go
See you tryin’ to call me, but I blocked you on the phone
It took a minute, but now I’m feeling strong
It almost killed me, but I’m better off alone
Now you sayin’ that you’re sorry, I don’t wanna know
Better face the fact you had to go

6. “Help Me Out,” Maroon 5 and Julia Michaels (2017)
Written by Diplo, Adam Levine, Justin Tranter, Julia Michaels, King Henry

Off Maroon 5‘s sixth album, Red Pill Blues, “Help Me Out” is the one track featuring singer and songwriter Julia Michaels. The album also features guest vocals by ASAP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Future, and LunchMoney Lewis. Michaels also co-wrote the song “Lips On You” for the album.

Help me out
‘Cause I don’t wanna do this on my own
Help me out, out
Help me out
‘Cause I need something up to calm me down
Help me out, out

I don’t mean to bother you
But there’s something that I want from you
Distract me from thinking too much, hm
Loose ends all tied up with a touch

7. “Heartless,” Morgan Wallen, featuring Julia Michaels (2019)
Written by Diplo, King Henry, Morgan Wallen, Charlie Handsome, Ryan Hurd, Ernest

Though “Heartless” technically appeared on a Diplo album, the song was written with Morgan Wallen in mind. First released on Diplo’s country album, Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley, Chapter 1: Snake Oil in 2020, Wallen co-wrote “Heartless” and is also featured on the track and in the video. Another version of the song performed by Wallen and Julia Michaels also appears on the Diplo album.

Wallen also re-recorded “Heartless” as more of a country song, and featured it on his second album, Dangerous: The Double Album.

Monday night was definitely not our night
Tuesday night was just another fight
Wednesday, I thought everything would change
Thursday came and it was still the same
Friday night, we went out on the town
Saturday, we should have burned it down
Sunday morning came and now you’re gone
I should probably know this shit by now

Photo by Toni Anne Barson/FilmMagic

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