Matangi

If Maya Arulpragasam has a persecution complex, she's earned it. "Let you into Super Bowl/You tried to steal Madonna's crown/What the fuck you on about?" she spits on "Boom Skit," conjuring her haters: generic racists, critical magazine profilers, and the NFL litigators reportedly suing her for $1.5 mil for her bird-flip during her 2012 halftime performance with Madonna. It's a telling moment on her fourth LP, a mixtape-style mash-up of political provocations, ripostes, tough-gal love songs, neon DJ memes and ass-whooping South Asian-spiced beats. Like Kanye West, M.I.A. seemingly needs haters for fuel. On Matangi, her tank's full.

The standouts are rewinds: "Bad Girls," the Arabic-flavored club anthem from the 2010 Vicki Leekx mixtape, and "Come Walk With Me," a lover's proposal teased last year in a video post, here reworked with echoes of her signature "Paper Planes." It furthered the rumor Matangi would be a "positive" LP, but even her bedroom-R&B attempts – "Exodus" and "Sexodus" – are skeptical interrogations. She shows little need to resolve contradictions or make her dazzling scraps cohere. But the magic is in the frisson. "Preach like a priest/I sing like a whore," goes the quilt-like, Switch-produced title track. And the contradictions keep coming.

From The Archives Issue 1195: November 7, 2013
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