Maya Arulpragasam’s music masters complex simplicity; over the course of her controversy-filled career she’s given listeners social commentary that you can wine to. On Matangi, her fourth album, the rapper sticks to her eclectic message music, speaking to the careless, the warriors, bad gals and everyone in between.
Since her aggressive 2005 debut Arular, M.I.A. has crafted her sound with bursts of feminine dominance, personal struggles and dancehall jams in the best way possible, but her radical messages have drawn criticism. Tracks like the dominating “Bucky Gun Don” and the bouncy “Galang” off her maiden project showed that the pint-size artist had a lot to say about the slums of Sri Lanka.
Yet on Matangi, her rebellious raps are more balanced. The Danja-produced single “Bad Girls” is a feminist anthem that references car sex and matches her biggest hit, “Paper Planes,” in irresistibility. “Sexodus” is another seductive anthem that—like it’s counterpart “Exodus”—samples The Weeknd’s “Lonely Star.”
M.I.A. shows off her lyrical chops on “aTENTion,” a creative ode to refugee tents that samples Bone Crusher’s 2003 hit “Never Scared.” She continues speaking her mind on the Hit-Boy-produced “Boom Skit,” which addresses on her ongoing Super Bowl lawsuit, stereotypes, naysayers and the guerrilla group KONY in 75 seconds. “Brown girl, brown girl, Turn your shit down/You know America don’t wanna hear your sound,” she mocks.
Named for the goddess of spoken word and the overall ruler of supreme knowledge, Matangi finds M.I.A.’s IDGAF attitude shining. She seems to rap with the intent to raise eyebrows. On the title track—a clear standout—she insists: “We started at the bottom but Drake gets all the credit.” She takes another swipe at Drizzy on “Y.A.L.A,” a dismissal of the overused “YOLO” mantra, citing the Hindu religion’s belief in reincarnation (You Always Live Again). And on the opener “Karmagedon,” she continues her preaching Hinduism (Moral: Karma is coming and you will be under her reign).
If the goal was to be heard, M.I.A. does it masterfully well. Her unique blend use of Indian classical music, hip-hop and electronica is the product of a visionary. Taking chances is in her DNA and her double entendres are jam worthy, even if you choose not to catch the Aesop fables within. —Desire Thompson (@Desire_Renee)