Underappreciated Musician of Color #9: M.I.A

...Sweat shops have made me shifty
Like a ninja with speed I'm nifty
I hope I live 'til I'm fifty
See my city go from gritty to pretty

  --M.I.A., "O...Saya"
As you can guess...I adore MIA.

Born Mathangi Arulpragasam in England, raised off and on in turbulent Sri Lanka, in India, and finally in England again, this gorgeously chocolate Sri Lankan Tamil political lyricist almost won an Academy Award for the song quoted above.  One reason for this is MIA aims to "write songs about something and make it sound like nothing."  Hence the diverse, catchy beats and digital-affected vocals, beneath lyrics of sheer brilliance.

Her satirical song "Paper Planes" has been sampled and covered by multiple artists.  Some sample it and get it right, some straight up cover it faithfully*, while others miss the point entirely and get it horribly wrong.

MIA has done fairly well for herself, but I've noticed that when she makes her songs about "something" sound like "nothing", listeners don't fully appreciate her message.  She's a former underground artist (and probably on her way back) but her crossover has been outstanding.  I for one hope she keeps soldiering on...past fifty.

*I actually saw the NIN|JA tour!

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