M.I.A. “Kala”

October 25, 2007

m.i.a.

Maybe I’m a little slow to jump on the wagon with this one, but what else can I say? I guess I’m not as up to beat on the next Sri Lankan hip hop star as some other people.

Already praised by the likes of Missy Elliott and Björk, M.I.A. has hit the American music scene with her sophomore album Kala. Described as “shapes, colours, Africa, street, power, bitch, nu world, and brave” by M.I.A. (Mathangi Arulpragasam by birth) herself. A catchy blend of ethnic hip hop, electronic rhythms, and entertainingly political lyrics (for example, MTV denied airplay for her song “Sunshowers” off of her debut album Arular because of the lyrics “Like PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], I don’t surrendo,”) M.I.A. is a breath of fresh air in the hip hop scene.

Variety is what keeps the energy alive on this album. “Bamboo Banga” opens up the album with infectious tribal drumming and the lovably egotistical “I’m big timer, it’s the bamboo banga.” A couple tracks later, M.I.A. pulls us into the scene of what I can only think to describe as Bollywood disco with “Jimmy.” Whether it’s a matter of musical ingenuity or artist’s block, “$20” is a blatant rip-off of New Order’s “Blue Monday” and the Pixie’s “Where Is My Mind?” Now, that’s not to say that the lyrics aren’t bizarrely unique and politically motivated; “Like do you know that cost of A.K.’s up in Africa? Twenty dollars ain’t shit to you, but that’s how much they are.” But wait, there’s still more. There’s “Paper Planes” which touches on subjects such as murder, robbery, and making paper planes all to a sample of the Clash’s “Straight to Hell.” As if that weren’t enough, I’ve got one more thing that will probably grab your attention… the final track features none other than Timbaland himself.

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