not a member? click here to sign up
// / Y /
Mathangi Arulpragasam delivers intriguingly fluxed up genre bending third album
Olaf Tyaransen, 01 Jul 2010
Back in the last century, Stereo MCs advised us all to get ourselves connected. Get yourself connected Noughties-style, though, and you're never too far from 'The Man'. The intriguingly fonted // / Y / opens thus: "Head bone connects to the neck bone... neck bone connects to the arm bone... arm bone connects to the hand bone... hand bone connects to the internet... connected to the Google... connected to the government."
The third album from Mercury-nominated, British rapper and political activist Mathangi 'Maya' Arulpragasam – better known as M.I.A. – is a sonically complicated multicultural concatenation of raps, rhymes, shrieks, squawks, samples, newstalk, digital beats, bleats and techno-babble. It's also very much a record of the moment – iPhones, tweets, search engines and so forth are all name-checked in the lyrical mix.
Genre-wise, file under 'Miscellaneous'. Over 12 eclectic, skip-hopping tracks, M.I.A. never really beds down in any one place. Co-produced with Diplo, Blaqstarr, Rusko and Switch (seriously, who names these guys?), it is by turns poppy, rocky, industrial, experimental, electronic, alternative, hip-hop, etc. You can occasionally dance to it, but never for very long: that, it seems, isn't the point. Rather, it's like a wild spin of the dial through the distant stations of a Burroughs-ian dead city radio. After a few listens, then, it starts to make a warped kind of distorted sense, based on the nonsense of it all. Thematically, it's all about control, war, media, politics, religion and individuality. Just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you, seems to be the message.
There's some great music here. Lead single 'XXXO' is a brilliant slice of R'n'B, showcasing a side of M.I.A.'s talent that her label executives would probably prefer she further exploited. No chance, though, "You want me be somebody who I'm really not," she declaims.
Politically pivotal standout is 'Lovalot' (which she cunningly sings as "I really love Allah"). The song alludes to the now iconic, viral photo of a gun-wielding Russian Islamic couple. The husband was a terrorist leader killed by Moscow police last year – an act his teenage wife attempted to avenge by suicide-bombing the city subway. The working title was 'A/bdurakh/man/ova', after her surname.