As the sun sets on Hogan's Beach in Tampa, Florida, the silhouettes of scantily clad girls twerking atop their boyfriend's shoulders stretch back as far as the venue space allows for undoubtedly the largest crowd this beachfront EDM oasis has seen. The "suns out, guns out" t-shirt donned crowd, equipped with homemade, yet elaborate, "#ChipotleGang" posters, are ready to get ratchet to the highly-anticipated arrival of young trap lord Carnage.
Wrestling's most famous face and venue owner, Hulk Hogan, hops in the booth, grabs the mic and dubs the 23-year-old as the "Hulk Hogan of EDM" - the ultimate #TBT for any member of Generation Y. But beyond the 4th of July confetti, barely legal groupies fighting to gyrate on stage and college bros waiting for the drop, is the real Carnage - aka Diamante Blackmon, the outspoken, no-holds-barred, unapologetic and unofficially titled "Kanye West of EDM."
Born in DC, Blackmon moved to Guatemala as a one-year-old to live with his aunt and army lieutenant uncle, while his mother continued to attend school in the US. "It was supposed to only be for a summer," Carnage reflects from the living room of his hotel suite in Tampa, following a quick post-show stop to Taco Bell, his open favorite, Chipotle, having been closed, "but I kind of just stayed there."
With his mother visiting from time to time, he didn't return back to the States until the age of eight, when he touched back down in Germantown, Maryland. After a few more moves, Blackmon settled about a half-hour away in Walkersville, where, unbeknownst to him, his passion for making music would be ignited. "There was nothing to do except play sports," he explains on the lack of options that drove this youthful experimentation.
So, in the summer between eighth and ninth grades, he joined the town's youth football team, and just two months before team training began, rediscovered the music software, Fruity Loops, that his mother and stepdad bought him as a birthday gift the year prior.
Sitting at home as a bored teen in the middle of summer, in the middle of Nowhere USA, he began creating rap beats and told himself: "I'm going to do the DJ Khaled thing, where I make dope songs and put them out on MySpace… looking back now those beats were shitty."
But they must have improved quickly, because less than two years later, after heavy practicing, Carnage reached out in a MySpace message to songwriter and producer Niles "Cyranizzy" Hollowell-Dhar, best known as one-half of LA-based, hip-hop/indie duo The Cataracs. Carnage remembers "rarely keeping in contact" with Niles (which he understood as being politely brushed off), until one day posting a song Niles liked that subsequently rekindled their talks of collaborating. "'The song wasn't that great, but I love your personality,'" he remembers Niles telling him.
To take his musical aspirations to the next level, Carnage knew this was the opportunity to get his foot in the door. After meeting his now manager, Mark, during CMJ Music Marathon in New York City, Carnage decided to drop out of high school his sophomore year to get his GED, which his mother didn't take so lightly. "She basically disowned me," he exclaims, taking a giant personal risk at the time. "In Latino families, if you drop out of school you're a flop."
In order to bounce back, not only into his family's good graces, but as a serious producer in the music industry, he took a leap of faith and moved where all dreams go to live, or die: Los Angeles.
Many people's expectations of LA deteriorate after this relocation, discovering it's nothing like a staged MTV reality show. And Carnage's own leap started with a definite crash to earth when it turned out that he'd be sleeping on The Cataracs' couch for the next four months in the midst of their “Like A G6” fame.
Surrounded by all their success, Carnage was ready to hit it big next, and stick it out to become an in-demand rap and pop producer. But instead, he says with a wry smile, "nothing happened." With success nowhere on the horizon, his stint in LA lasted about as long as this paragraph.
With his musical hopes at an all time low, Carnage returned home at 20-years-old to pursue getting his high school diploma (you have until age 21), but procrastinated doing so knowing that's not where his heart was. It seems his intuition was spot on, because soon after the mega-success of A$AP Rocky's track “Big Spender,” Carnage's remix of the record landed itself on Brooklyn rapper Theophilus London's 2012 mixtape Rose Island Vol. 1, becoming a viral hit online.
But even this brush with success wasn't enough to prove to his mom that he didn't need a diploma. Finishing up high school via night classes, he moved back to Los Angeles to try to build the momentum behind his music.
After landing a minor publishing deal, he ditched sleeping on the couch and had enough money to pay rent on an apartment for six months. With time ticking by quicker than the hour glass in a game of Pictionary, the lease on his apartment was soon up, and so was his time to potentially create another big record - even if he'd had a track included on Tiësto's "Club Life" radio show.
"At this point I'm like, nothing's happening for me,” he says on the understandable despondency that followed. “I'm not doing shit. I've been in the studio every day and nothing's happening. It was time for a change.”
Time can be a blessing when not forced. Just as Carnage's career was at a crossroads, the coalescing of the elements that would become known as “trap” saved it. With the hip-hop sub-genre rapidly growing at electronic festivals and shows, Carnage was listening to productions from other artists like Baauer and Flosstradamus, but his management warned against it. "You shouldn't do it, dance music is just a phase. You're not going to make this work," he chuckles inwardly as he tells us their warnings. Leave it to Carnage to not care and still do it.
A game changer soon unwrapped itself in the form of “Spaceman.” Carnage's festival trap remix of Hardwell's massive hit was the break he'd been searching for. "I didn't think I could make the song better," he says modestly now, "I didn't want to destroy a record I had so much respect for." To ride the sudden massive wave he'd finally caught, he knew that he needed to keep targeting this rapidly growing "festival trap" audience.
"Immediately after, I decided to release a new track every Monday for the next four weeks and it just got bigger and bigger and bigger," he explains, a glimmer of nostalgia in his eyes as he glances over at his manager. "It was sick! SoundCloud wasn't even as big then and I was getting 10,000 plays a day."
That energy manifested into more heavy hitters like “Bang!” and the monstrous collaboration “Incredible,” alongside bass DJ and good friend Borgore, which hit No.1 on Beatport after support from Avicii.
Still, as big of a dreamer and doer that he is, Carnage knew he wasn't at the top. Riding the coattails of other trap producers like R.L. Grime, Baauer and Flosstradamus and their respective bangers “Mercy,” “Harlem Shake” and “Original Don,” topping those tracks seemed about as likely as the Pope converting to Judaism. "Being a trap president or a king," he continues, "you can't really beat the people who already started it.
And people started doing the same trap shit over and over again. And I was like, I'm over it… trap will be dead by summertime." This was hard to fathom after a jam-packed festival set at Ultra Music Festival 2013, and about a dozen other bookings that Carnage had during Winter Music Conference that year. "It was a big spectacle when I said that and all the bass guys hated me for it, which I really don't care [about],” he claims with typical laidback honesty. “Funny thing was, it did die, especially from the level it was at.”
Refusing to play anymore trap, dubstep or bass shows, Carnage wanted to get back to his house roots. After a mammoth set at Electric Daisy Carnival, TomorrowWorld and over 13 million hits for “Incredible” on YouTube, blending together various sub-genres appeared to be the next best formula for longevity. Carnage chimes, "The bass fans and artists are like bros, they're [my] homies. But the house guys are a very small, elite circle. Once you're in, you're in. And after 'Incredible' they were like, 'Who is this guy?' They opened their arms to me."
Waiting for the car service to arrive downstairs that will take him to the after party, we ask Carnage to rank his biggest "WTF?!" memory and he unhesitatingly tells us about meeting the legendary Swedish House Mafia man and SIZE label boss, Steve Angello. "We were in Vegas and I was supposed to play before him at XS, but I was the new guy, so his team had no clue who I was and they didn't want me playing before him,” he tells us on the inevitable DJ politics that surrounds such big players. “As I'm walking away, he shows up for his gig and stops me and invites us to his table behind the stage to chill and take shots. He told me he liked my work," Carnage gushes. "That was a moment my manager and I will never forget."
Another scenario that he'll likely never forget is the Summer of 2013, playing to over 3,000 screaming kids in Kiev, Ukraine as tensions were bubbling just before the riots in early 2014. Here's to hoping more career-humbling highlights will be seen on the documentary he plans on completing this year, tentatively titled Uno, following his massive past year.
With his new hit “Bricks,” featuring Migos, just released, you can expect his debut album, still untitled, to "have no storyline," as Carnage puts it. "It's the most obnoxious, random medley of just great songs. I got everybody I wanted to work on this album."
On top of Latin and Reggaeton sounds, which he dropped during his performance in Tampa, he teased a new festival twerk song, all in Russian, titled "Problema," which he says is the only twerk song he'll make. "I like to do things as statements. I never liked the twerk stuff, but I just wanted to prove that I can also make the best twerk song ever made."
With countless headliner festival dates ahead, a new "clusterfuck album" debuting this year, his upcoming Parental Advisory tour in North America this fall and, most importantly, a free-food-for-a-lifetime Chipotle card, Carnage's resume is longer than the ladies room line at a nightclub.
If you've never had the privilege of meeting Carnage in person, he can best be likened to the huggable and inappropriate teddy bear Ted. He says what he wants, eats what he wants, gets whatever girls he wants and has always followed what his heart wants. He has the personality, confidence and courage - musically and personally - millions of twenty-somethings around the world wish they had. That's why his fans and peers adore him. No matter who, what, when, where or why, he is undeniably himself – ensuring maximum carnage whenever he hits the stage.
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