Formerly made up of DJ Diplo and Switch, the two were introduced after working with M.I.A.. The duo's first album Guns Don't Kill People... Lazers Do was released on 16 June 2009, on Downtown Records. It was recorded in Jamaica at Tuff Gong Studios. Vocalists such as Santigold, Vybz Kartel, Ward 21, Busy Signal, Nina Sky, Amanda Blank, Mr. Vegas, Turbulence, Mapei, T.O.K, Prince Zimboo, Leftside and others contribute guest vocals to the album, as well as additional production from Afrojack and Crookers. This is the first release to come out of the label partnership between Downtown Records and Diplo's label Mad Decent. Major Lazer ended a US tour last summer.
The album's first single was "Hold the Line", the video for which, directed by Ferry Gouw, was nominated for a MTV Video Award in the Breakthrough Video category. "Hold the Line" was also featured in the video game FIFA 10. The track "Zumbie" has a music video that features comedian Andy Milonakis. Music videos for the songs "Pon de Floor", "Keep It Going Louder", and "Bubble Butt" were directed by Eric Wareheim. In June 2009, Major Lazer were featured for the first time on the cover of the publication The FADER, in its 62nd issue. Major Lazer performed at the Falls Music & Arts Festival (Lorne, Victoria, Australia) on 30 December 2009 and the Coachella Music Festival in April 2010. They also performed at the Pitchfork Music Festival in July 2010 and the Sasquatch Music Festival on Monday 30 May 2011. Live visuals were created by Pomp&Clout. Major Lazer performed at the 2011 Outside Lands festival in San Francisco.
A mixtape with La Roux entitled "Lazerproof" was made available for free download on 26 May. Diplo posted cover art on his Twitpic. It is the character Major Lazer in War Machine's silver suit, Elly Jackson of La Roux in the signature Iron Man suit, and Whiplash, the villain in the Iron Man 2 movie. On 20 June 2010, the group released an EP titled Lazers Never Die. It contained two new songs and three remixes, by Thom Yorke and others. Switch provided production for Beyoncé's "Run the World (Girls)", which sampled "Pon de Floor". Major Lazer also features in the track, "Look at Where We Are", from the extended version of Hot Chip's album In Our Heads, released June 2011.
Major Lazer's live shows previously included hype man Skerrit Bwoy, although he left the group in 2012 to pursue religion. In 2012, Major Lazer began working with Snoop Dogg to produce some tracks that were to be included on his new reggae project. Along with the project came his new alter ego persona known as "Snoop Lion". Switch left the collaborative effort due to "creative differences" as claimed by Diplo. He departed in late 2011 and was replaced with DJ/Producers Jillionaire and Walshy Fire. Also, Boaz van de Beatz, artist from Mad Decent (record label of Diplo), has collaborated with most of the group albums and is considered a member of the group. In September 2012, Major Lazer announced that its upcoming album, Free the Universe, would be released on 12 March 2013 on Mad Decent. They also announced Fall 2012 tour dates.
Major Lazer partly produced UK singer Rita Ora's debut album, Ora. Major Lazer worked with No Doubt for their sixth studio album, Push and Shove. The album's title track features producers Major Lazer and Jamaican reggae artist Busy Signal, and was released as a promotional single in August 2012. Major Lazer launched their Fall Tour 2012 in October, with shows in Oakland, Washington, D.C., Boston, and New York City, amongst others.
In February 2013, Major Lazer signed with indie record label Secretly Canadian. At the same time, they announced the new release date, 16 April, for their album Free the Universe. They also announced the Free the Universe 2013 World Tour, which ran through the spring of 2013.
On February 8, 2015, during the Grammy Award ceremony, Diplo revealed details of the third Major Lazer album. He confirmed that the album would incorporate artists such as Ariana Grande, Ellie Goulding and Pusha T, and would be titled Peace is the Mission.
The first single, "Lean On", was a collaboration with French producer DJ Snake and featured vocals from Danish recording artist MØ. It was released on March 2, 2015. The song was first offered to Rihanna and then Nicki Minaj, who both turned it down; however Major Lazer later expressed that no one could've done a better job than MØ in the recording. The song reached number 4 on the US Billboard's Hot 100 chart and number 2 in the UK charts. It also became Spotify's most streamed song of all time, receiving universally positive reviews while reaching over 1.7 billion views on YouTube, making it the tenth most viewed video on the site.
Four promotional singles were released; "Roll the Bass" on March 23, 2015, "Night Riders", a collaboration with Travi$ Scott, 2 Chainz, Pusha T and Mad Cobra, released on April 20, 2015, and "Too Original", a collaboration with Elliphant and Jovi Rockwell, released on May 11, 2015. On June 2, 2015, a lyric video was released for "Be Together", a collaboration with Wild Belle, making it the fourth promotional single.
The second single from the album, titled "Powerful," featured English singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding and Jamaican singer Tarrus Riley. It was released simultaneously with the album, and was added to BBC Radio 1's playlist on June 21, 2015. It reached the Top 10 in Australia and Poland.
The album was released on June 1, 2015. It featured artists such as Machel Montano, Wild Belle, Pusha T, Ellie Goulding, and Ariana Grande. It peaked at number 12 on the Billboard 200 chart and received general critical success.
In an interview with inthemix on May 22, 2015, Walshy Fire announced that Major Lazer's fourth studio album would be titled Music is the Weapon and that it would be released late 2015 or early 2016. The album never arrived in 2015 or 2016, though Diplo did reveal on April 27, 2015 during an interview with Belgian radio station Studio Brussel that Major Lazer was working on a new track with Belgian singer Selah Sue, and that it might appear on their next album. Selah Sue herself had confirmed this during an earlier interview with the same radio station on May 4, 2015.
On November 27, 2015, Major Lazer released a re-issue of their third studio album Peace is the Mission, re-titled as Peace is the Mission: Extended. It featured five additional songs, including a collaboration with Dutch electro house DJ MOTi (featuring Ty Dolla $ign, Wizkid, and Kranium), a remix of their previous track "Light It Up" featuring Nyla and Fuse ODG, and a cover of Frank Ocean's "Lost" featuring previous collaborator and Danish recording artist MØ.
Exactly one year after Peace is the Mission was released, Major Lazer announced a new remix album titled Peace is the Mission: Remixes. It featured remixes of selected tracks from their third studio album, including "Lean On," "Powerful," "Be Together," "Night Riders," and "Roll the Bass." Major Lazer had over 27 million tags in music identification service Shazam in 2015. This, along with Diplo's other collaboration Jack Ü, gave Diplo the greatest number of Shazams in 2015.
In July 2016, a new track titled "Cold Water," featuring vocals from MØ and Justin Bieber, was released. It debuted at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 in several other countries including on the UK Official Charts, making it their most popular single yet. On September 30, 2016, "Believer", a collaboration with Dutch production duo Showtek, was released as the second single from Major Lazer's upcoming album Music is the Weapon.
On November 29, 2016, Major Lazer released a promotional single for Music Is the Weapon, titled "My Number". The song is a collaboration with Bad Royale that samples "54-46 That’s My Number" which Pitchfork describes as "a genre-defining classic from legendary ska/reggae group Toots and the Maytals." The song contains newly recorded vocals from frontman Toots Hibbert specifically designed for Major Lazer, changing the original lyrics to incorporate the group into the song while keeping the original melody.
Following the success of singles "Cold Water" and "Believer," Major Lazer released their third single from Music is the Weapon, titled "Run Up". It features Canadian musician PartyNextDoor, and rapper Nicki Minaj, serving as a follow-up to the tropical, laid-back sound of "Cold Water". Music is the Weapon is expected to be released in 2017.
Studio albumsGuns Don't Kill People... Lazers Do (2009)
Free the Universe (2013)
Peace is the Mission (2015)
Music is the Weapon (2017)
A Major Lazer animated series premiered on April 16, 2015 on FXX. Diplo serves as co-creator and executive producer of the show.