When M.I.A.‘s music video for “Born Free’ premiered on Monday, just about every Internet outlet stamped it with a “viewer discretion advised” tag. The graphic, 10-minute video, directed by controversial visionary, Romain Gavras, left many viewers stunned and was pulled from YouTube for its violent imagery. Soliciting such a heated reaction, some might find it ironic that the concept started off as a joke.
“We [had] been talking about [the idea] since the start of the year, [but] I didn’t think she’d actually do it,” says Christopher “Rusko” Mercer, M.I.A’s lead producer for her as-yet-untitled third album. “It was one of those joking ideas where people would beat the shit out of me because I was ginger [a natural redhead]. It has a whole double meaning. The gingers are kind of anyone who’s been oppressed. She’s so deep and crazy political.”
The English producer also explained to VIBE that the video’s shock-value mirrors that of M.I.A.’s forthcoming album. “Her record is going to scare people I think. We went a bit crazy – really, really, really left. But then again if you’re an M.I.A. fan, you want to be surprised and be like ‘Whoa, what the hell is that?'”
Rusko, who says he and M.I.A. wrapped up the album in Hawaii, shared details on what fans can expect sonically.
“We stood in waterfalls recording with microphones. We recorded her kid’s heartbeat and cracking ice – really experimental,” he says. “We recorded 20-minute jams of me on the computer with my synthesizer and M.I.A. trying different lyrics and singing styles. Then we just pieced it together afterwards. We wanted it to have a live feel. Almost like [there was] an electronic band behind her.”
Though Rusko says M.I.A. is still delivering her usual “everything’s fucked up” spiel, the new wife and mother will also be showcasing a surprisingly softer side. “There’s two or three different mentions about her baby and her new fellow as well. It’s not all ‘Fuck the world.’ There’s a track made out of power drills and electrical tools, which sounds like craziness and then there’s a song with a piano and organs in it,” he says. “I figure a beat made out of chainsaws is just as surprising as a love song with M.I.A. singing beautifully. Both are not what you would expect.”
Rusko is currently prepping for his debut album, O.M.G, set for release May 4. M.I.A.’s third album is scheduled to drop on June 29. —Tracy Garraud