I was going to do this post on some Alabama Shakes song, but then M.I.A. came through this Friday and ruined me - straight up TOOK OVER my life. For those of you who don't know who M.I.A. is, let me give you the most biased rundown on her that I can possibly give.
M.I.A. is a goddess. The End.
Okay, okay, she's named after a goddess that represents outcastes (people who have no caste, or have been expelled from their caste in Hindu society), impurity, the power of the spoken word, music, art and knowledge. But what's the difference when you (kinda, sorta) live up to the name?
Mathangi Arulpragasam, a.k.a. M.I.A. is an English rapper of Tamil Sri Lankan descent. The daughter of a Tamil political activist, M.I.A. is known for her outspokenness on human rights issues. Keeping up with, well, herself, she made quite the statement on Friday with the release of the visuals for her single "Borders". Her self-produced music video for this song draws attention to the current refugee crisis, and juxtaposes imagery/lyrics about strife with imagery/lyrics of privilege.
Not her best bars, but they don't need be.
See, M.I.A. is all about a whole, artistic package. She started out as a visual artist and filmmaker, so it's no surprise that music videos are meant to hold significant weight with the meaning of her song. I do believe the song is lyrically weak, but the video is what makes the single that much more poignant - if you have 10 minutes of free time, watch and listen to another example of this M.I.A. phenomenon. The video contains graphic violence but it's a very moving film that was banned for a while from YouTube, and has its own Wikipedia page explaining it...if that means anything to you.
Anyway, having been a refugee herself, M.I.A. can relate to the struggles of fleeing areas of conflict, but also knows that as a successful rapper she can and must use her status to speak up. With "Borders", M.I.A. is speaking not only on the refugee crisis, but also on the Sri Lankan Civil War. The release date of the video (November 27th) is the date of Maaveerar Naal, or Great Heroes Day. Banned in Sri Lanka since the end of the Civil War in 2009, Maaveerar Naal is a Sri Lankan Tamil holiday that honors fallen militants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
So yeah, since I watched this video I completely stopped replaying "Sound & Color" by Alabama Shakes and started bumping to M.I.A.'s whole discography. Like, the whole thing. In fact, as I'm finishing this up, I'm listening to her last album, Matangi, which she uploaded in full on YouTube.
I'll leave you with my favorite song off the album.