Cultural Critic Touré Defends M.I.A.’s ‘Born Free’ Video


GangStarr Girl / April 28, 2010

It’s only second quarter, but 2010 is rapidly becoming the year of shocking music videos. Erykah Badu got naked in March to convey a message about groupthink. Lady Gaga and Beyoncé put on a pop culture bonanza. And Now, M.I.A., who didn’t appear in her controversial video for “Born Free,” is using extreme violence to convey the message that racism is inane.

Opinions have varied, but celebrity author, host and cultural critic Touré ( says he supports the British pop star’s vision and any video that makes a bold, thought provoking statement.

“It’s a District 9ish beautifully dystopic vision [where] kids get shot or bombed and hands or blood goes flying and it’s tragic and shocking but realistic-looking and beautifully portrayed in its ugliness,”Touré tells VIBE about the mini movie. “If it’s Blacks, Tamils or Algerians, then why not redheads?”

While Badu got fined for her expression and on her Twitter page she wrote, “I took one for the team” in response, M.I.A.’s video has been banned from YouTube. The paper planes flying pop star ranted on her Twitter page in protest but perhaps what’s most important is that the message is out, whether people like it or not. Even GaGa and Beyonce came under some scrutiny for their Quentin Tarantino-esque video for “Telephone,” which some argued glamorized mass homicide.

“What matters is does it make a point, does it impact people. We’ve had some amazing videos this year that made an intellectual and aesthetic impact,” says Touré. “M.I.A. attacking the stupidity of racism, Erykah rejecting artifice and stripping down to her natural self and her individuality, and GaGa with Beyoncé rejecting the telephone and modern hyperconnectivity, which over-links us, in favor of wanting an internal connection.

“She wants to get away from it all, to get inside herself. Stop calling me. I just want to dance. I want to disconnect from society: she does that in the song and in the video where she leaves prison, kills everyone in the diner⎯a symbol for killing America and Americana⎯and then leaves the country/society. Brilliant. Artists should push the envelope and make big political statements whenever they can otherwise they’re just rocking the dance floor.” ⎯Starrene Rhett