Friday 23 February 2018

MIA's finger on the pulse

VOCAL PYROTECHNICS: MIA has accused the Sri Lankan Government of genocide and hit out at big business
VOCAL PYROTECHNICS: MIA has accused the Sri Lankan Government of genocide and hit out at big business
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

When MIA was initially turned down to study art at Central Saint Martins in London, she convinced them to give her a place saying that if they didn't she'd end up a "crackhead prostitute" and her life would be ruined. Crackhead prostitution's loss, however, was political rap-with-an-edge's gain.

The most provocative pop star of her age, she appears on the front cover of the current edition of NME with her middle finger proudly raised to the world. "MIA: you just can't take her anywhere, can you?" reads the headline.

The truth is Mathangi Maya Arulpragasam, born in Hounslow, south-west London and brought up in Sri Lanka, travels well all over the world. She seems incapable of opening her mouth without causing an international incident or upsetting someone.

She has in her time accused the Sri Lankan Government of the genocide of local Tamils.

"My giving birth was nothing when I think about all the people in Sri Lanka that have to give birth in a concentration camp," she told The New York Times a few years ago.

When the journalist Lynn Hirschberg made quips about MIA's lifestyle – '"I kind of want to be an outsider," she [MIA] said, eating a truffle-flavoured French fry' – MIA posted Hirschberg's phone number on the net, as well as the recording that showed it was the New York Times writer not the pampered pop star who ordered the upmarket chips.

The famous newspaper even gave her an apology.

The beautiful 38-year-old rapper is not to be messed with – and I applaud her for it and her fiery idealism. She hatched the dastardly plan of going on The X Factor in disguise.

"I was thinking of wearing a burqa and auditioning," she mused recently.

The Sri Lankan provocateur is absolutely her own woman. And we wouldn't want it any other way.

"People always tell me I could be Madonna if I shut up," she said recently, referring to – among many other things – her giving the finger to 200 million Americans watching her perform with Madonna and Nicki Minaj at the 2012 Super Bowl.

There is talk of the NFL trying to fine MIA $1.5m for the controversy. Her reaction to the alleged lawsuit was typical MIA: she was, she claimed, the victim of "corporate dick shaking".

What was possibly worth the money was MIA's performance on the night showed that she can more than match Madge and Minaj on any level.

"Brown girl, brown girl," MIA raps on Matangi, her brilliant new album, her fourth to date, "Let you into Super Bowl, you try to steal Madonna's crown."

In short, MIA makes Roy Keane look like Mother Teresa.

Equal parts Johnny Rotten and WikiLeaks in human form, MIA rapped on her last album on a track called The Message about certain media companies helping big bad governments to snoop on us: "Connected to the Google, connected to the government," MIA rapped.

She has, of course, being vindicated by recent developments. Indeed, when The Observer suggested to her that she was a conspiracy theorist, she gave them considerably short shrift.

"What I said about the internet is what's happening now. It's on the front of your own newspaper.

"It's not a conspiracy theory, is it – unless your paper is supporting a conspiracy theory? Conspiracy theory is too much of a small pond for me to swim in."

Sunday Independent

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