In a generation of twerkers, yolos, roadman and hoez, M.I.A. keeps it brutally “ONE HUNAD” (100% real) by channelling political and international sociological themes and messages into her music. Politics has played a key part in shaping her story from a young age, having escaped a civil war in Sri Lanka and eventually moving to the UK as a refugee with her family in the 1980s. Sri Lanka’s hidden genocide has pushed M.I.A. to be outspoken, outrageous and demand that her voice is heard. Here are four times M.I.A. brought music and politics together and shocked the world…
IMMIGRANTS WILL KILL YOU AND TAKE YOUR MONEY…
Paper Planes was M.I.A.’s first major hit, gaining international success on radio stations and being used as the soundtrack for the film Pineapple Express and the Academy Award winning Slumdog Millionaire. The rapper blasts gun shots and cash registers while playfully singing, “All I want to do is (gun shots) and take your money… some I murder, some I let go…”. It’s easy to overlook the politics in the lyrics, but it’s vital to remember that Paper Planes is first and foremost an immigrant song. M.I.A. raps about evading border police, producing fake visas, selling crack, and delivering
“lethal poison to the system”. She mocks and exaggerates the continued negative stereotypes that immigrants receive internationally and how they are used as scapegoats for so many social problems around the world. She satirises the image of a criminal and disturbingly has a group of children singing the violent chorus in order to laugh at your ignorance.
MIRROR THE SRI LANKAN GENOCIDE WITH GINGERS AND KETCHUP
Born Free was M.I.A.’s most controversial, creative and powerful music video reflecting a 2010 leaked video that went viral, showing Sri Lankan soldiers executing Tamil civilians whilst naked and blindfolded. The footage proved the war crimes taking place in Sri Lanka and helped bring the atrocities taking place to international attention. M.I.A. being a Tamil civilian herself, created a music video that would impact and shock viewers by replacing Tamil civilians being executed for white people with ginger hair and used ketchup as fake blood. The video received a lot of criticism and was banned temporarily on YouTube. Viewers couldn’t comprehend the truth about the war crimes being committed in Sri Lanka and didn’t seem to understand that the purpose of the song was to spread awareness… M.I.A. was showing violence to end violence.
WOMEN IN BURKAS DRIFTING AND DOING DOUGHNUTS
It is illegal in Saudi Arabia for women to drive as the religious authorities feel it could increase divorce rates and encourage adultery, promiscuity and homosexual acts! M.I.A. shot the music video Bad Girls leading a crowd of women in traditional Middle-Eastern clothing of hijabs, burkas and niqabs, swagged out with gold jewellery, watches and sunglasses while chanting “Live fast, die young, bad girls do it well”. M.I.A cleverly fuses typical Hip-Hop themes of riches, gold and money with Middle-Eastern women, thereby giving them the power and dominance that the Saudi culture and law denies them. The video continues to ridicule the ban by showing the women drifting and performing doughnuts with their cars while the men sit back, watch on and smoke hookah pipes. The video is badass and was critically acclaimed for its empowering message.
KIM K’S BUTT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN REFUGEES
As we sit back on our comfortable sofas and watch the news on our widescreen TVs, we see thousands of desperate refugees be denied entry and told to return to their war-torn homelands. M.I.A. was the only music artist who spoke on the Syrian Refugee crisis, not just through the tedium of Twitter but through her music too. BORDERS is a single on M.I.A.’s latest album AIM, which directly attacks the governments’ failure to act on the crisis. She questions our trivial morals and priorities that find value in materialistic and celebrity obsessed stories such as Kim Kardashian’s big ass breaking the internet, while we can’t seem to address or act on the war in Syria. The video follows refugees on a dangerous journey in climbing barbed wires, scaling fences and jumping on boats to find freedom in Europe.
A lot of music artists these days sing about frivolous and materialistic ideologies that are not valuable or healthy for young listeners. M.I.A. is a legend within our generation who isn’t scared to combine music and politics. She should be celebrated and recognised for her bold, powerful and outspoken music. This year she’ll be headlining the Meltdown Festival in London. Each year the festival chooses an established music artist as director of the event. Previous Meltdown directors include: David Bowie, Patti Smith, Lee Scratch Perry, Scott Walker, John Peel and Ornette Coleman. There’s no doubt in my mind that M.I.A.’s curation of this event will be as controversial, eye-opening and political as her music.