As hip-hop itself begins to become less and less interesting, there’s always someone new who comes along and breathes new life into the artform. M.I.A. isn’t exactly a hip-hop artist, but make no mistake, to emcee is her ambition. The style of the Sri Lankan born Maya Arulpragasm can perhaps be described as revolutionary-girl-power-reggae, a strange fusion of politically charged 80′s spandex fem-rap over electronic dancehall beats – and somehow it works. She comes from perhaps one of the worst areas on the earth, but unlike her American rap counterparts, she doesn’t exploit this fact or use it to gain credibility. A true artist, M.I.A. uses her music as a true form of expression; leaving the fact that her father was a freedom fighter with over 3000 bodies on his conscience, out of her rhymes.
The apple doesn’t fall from the tree, making M.I.A. just as concerned with political issues as her father, trading sword for pen. The album immediately catches your attention when the disjointed bounce of “Pull Up The People” kicks in, where her agenda is made clear: “You no like the people / the people no like you / then they go and set it off / with a big boom / every gun in a battle has a son and daughter too.” It’s followed by the ridiculous “Bucky Don Gun”, where producer Diplo rings the alarm with a mix of Rocky-esque horns and classic Miami bass, where M.I.A. fuses commands of “get crunk” with “I’ll fight you just to get peace”.
The mixture of dancehall riddims with powerful political messages is nothing new – it’s been happening in reggae for years, but M.I.A. adds a new dimension to the style – more electronic, less rootsy. Both “Fire Fire” and the radio ready “Galang” are perfect examples of this, with undeniable movement and energy. She also tackles topics such as the prostitution of women in third world countries, on “10 Dollar” and “Amazon”, but also embraces the empowerment of female sexuality on “Hombre” and the ridiculous “URAQT”, which freaks a chopped Sanford and Son sample to the hilt.
Put it all together and you’ve got one of the most interesting, fun, exciting, original, sexy, enjoyable, energetic, controversial, surprising, and smart releases of the year. With remarkable consistency, M.I.A is a natural emcee that effortlessly shines on virtually every song here, leaving never a dull moment – even the skits, such as “Dash The Curry”, which ended too soon. Where Fergie, JJ Fad, Sista Souljah, and Ms. Thing failed, M.I.A. somehow combines elements of each personality trait into a winning combination. Fire Fire!
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