World music with an attitude is the sound of the Sri Lankan MC, Maya Arulpragasam, who goes by the name M.I.A. Her debut album, Arular, is a hard knock life and beat. Underneath the big and bouncy arrangements are the bold and provocative lyrics ranging from politics to prostitutions. The jungle beats suggest partying and dancing, but her words advocate bombing and rioting. So don’t mistake the petit figure and the pretty face for being fragile. She is nice, but “a nice nice fighter,” and she will “fight you just to get peace.”
What sets M.I.A. apart is her fusion of controversial contents into the playful productions. On “Pull Up the People,” she raps behind the trunk-crusher bass, “Every gun in a battle is a son and daughter too / So why you wanna talk about who done who?” She aslo proves that less is more with her minimalism rhyme scheme. Hiding in between the heavy beat and her wordless refrain on “10 Dollar,” she flows in the British accent, “Lolita, was a man-eater / Clocked him like a taxi meter. Fuck gold, she was platinum digger / Shakin-ass-making moves on a mover.”
When M.I.A. talks about sex, she makes bubbles rise in our bloodstream. On the dancehall reggae “Hombre,” the verses are simple yet disturbing, “You can stick me / Stab me, grind me or wind me / Fuck, we can even ask your wifey / Rich bored at home with a kiddy / She don’t know about you getting nookie.”
The power of her music is rooted in the rough rhymes that are merged inside smooth beats. She wants the body to move, but the ears to listen as well. That’s the M.I.A. thang.