Monday, December 17, 2007

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2007: Number 14

A trained visual artist, you say?

It's only something writers with too much respect for themselves worry about, of course, but there is a nagging feeling that M.I.A is whitey's own world-electro-hip hop-dancehall totem, made for bloggers to convulse over while message boards argue about her background, collaborators, politics, perceived cultural tourism... everything, in fact, except the music. There's a case for saying that this is all something the more brazenly pick and mix-friendly Damon Albarn has never had to sit through, but unlike him it's reflective that her home country only sent it to number 39 - people don't care about the subheadings but, bar Radio 1 playlisted Bollywood disco cover curveball Jimmy, nothing here would comfortably fit on daytime music radio. The development from Arular, in retrospect no slouch but definitely an album finding its feet and scope, is that Maya Arulpragasam, along with her handpicked collaborators, now has the confidence, often borne through her reaction to the scrutiny she's been placed under, to take the ideas further and while touring the globe assimilate more ideas from the world's own indigneous musics alongside the varied music she grew up with. When she quotes Jonathan Richman or the Pixies it's not in the Dizzee Rascal sense of letting us know that, hey, even the rappers were listening to rock once, but that to her it's all music that can be worked together without sounding like cross-audience compromise.

You can dance to it as well, although you'd like to see Gatecrasher kids hang on when the baile funk rhythms, spearing 808s and Bollywood samples collide on Bamboo Banga or the soca, Burundi beats, sampled children and chicken sounds that unify the falling apart mess of Bird Flu, an opening trilogy that coalesces on the mighty banger Boyz. The politics are less of a presence but are direct when they do emerge, 20 Dollar's shredded bass considering the price of AK47s in Africa before M.I.A's computer-altered voice launches into Where Is My Mind?, seemingly for the hell of it. Paper Planes samples Straight To Hell and employs a children's choir, then undercuts it with gun and cash register samples - it's one of three tracks Arular MVP Diplo contributed to, and it shows. Appeallingly, she can also face up to her own international ambitions, taking Baltimore to Brazil on World Town and getting Nigeria-raised Brit-based rapper Afrikan Boy (solo highlight: One Day I Went To Lidl) to pull the carpet from under Hussel, and if that's not enough XR2 aims squarely at her British upbringing, named after the model of Fiesta and a tribute to the illegal rave kids ("where were you in '92?") reflected stylistically in the retina burning booklet collages. She even has the odd go at singing, sounding much like any rapper having a go at singing does. The least interesting track is Come Around, and that's produced by Timbaland, the man who bloody invented ridiculous illfitting hip-hop production. Sorry, David Cameron - it appears multiculturalism worked after all.

LISTEN ON: Paper Planes
WATCH ON: Boyz

**

My favourite album of 2007 is...

Scroobius Pip: Kate Nash - Made of Bricks OR Jack Penate - Matinee

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