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Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, better known as M.I.A., is an alternative dance/hip-hop artist known for her rapping and political music. As a baby, she moved with her family to their native Sri Lanka, where her father became increasingly politically active in militant activities. As the Sri Lankan Civil War escalated, the rest of the family was forced to flee as refugees, first to India and then the United Kingdom. "M.I.A." ("Missing in Action") references both her London neighborhood, Acton, and her politically tumultuous youth.

Being no stranger to politics, M.I.A. wanted to spread political topics through her music. Her ability to do this via dance songs won her critical acclaim. This praise stopped with the "digital ruckus" album MAYA, which was the first about which critics felt divided. Despite this, M.I.A. is still one of the most influential and important musicians of the last 10 years, and is possibly music’s answer to The War on Terror. Some topics in M.I.A.’s music are identity politics, immigration, indie culture, the Internet, popular culture, poverty, revolution, war and the working class.


Discography:

  • Piracy Funds Terrorism, Volume 1 (2004; Mixtape)
  • Arular (2005)
  • Kala (2007)
  • How Many Votes Fix Mix EP (2008)
  • MAYA (2010)
  • Vicki Leekx (2011; Mixtape)

Tropes related to M.I.A.:

  • Call Back One of the redheaded boys from the "Born Free" video is seen near the end of the "Bad Girls" video.
  • Cover Version - "It Takes a Muscle" was originally a song by Spectral Display.
  • Dual-Meaning Chorus - "Lovalot"'s chorus is this, simply by the way M.I.A. says it. While the lyric is "I really love a lot", she doesn't pronounce the 't' in 'lot'. Given that the song's about terrorists...yeah.
  • Everything Is an Instrument - Drills are used as percussion on "Steppin Up." M.I.A. originally wanted drills and other power tools to be the only instruments in the song, but decided that it was too experimental.
  • She Also Did - A song for Slumdog Millionaire along with the film's composer (it even scored her an Oscar nom!).
  • Lucky Charms Title - /\/\/\Y/\, the official title of MAYA.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly – M.I.A.'s style is a combination of alternative hip-hop, alternative dance, reggae, world, dance hall, electroclash, baile funk, Tamil film music, grime, rave, Punk Rock, and as of MAYA, Industrial. She calls her genre of music "other".
  • New Sound AlbumMAYA was more industrial and overall harsher than her previous albums. She also sang (instead of rapped) some songs on the album.
  • Redheaded Stepchild - The music video for "Born Free" is about the horrible treatment redheads get, taken to its extremes. It opens with a SWAT team raiding an apartment to capture one redheaded young man and goes downward from there.
  • Sampled Up - "Paper Planes" samples the lesser-known The Clash song "Straight to Hell."
    • "URAQT" samples... the theme song from Sanford and Son?
    • "Meds & Feds" samples "Treats" by Sleigh Bells but speeds it up and gives it a harsher sound.
    • "Born Free" samples "Ghost Rider" by Suicide for its signature synth pulse. Suicide's keyboardist even performed the song live with M.I.A. on David Letterman.
  • Self-Titled Album: She hasn't made an album with the title M.I.A. but MAYA is an abbreviated version of her real name.
  • Signature Song – "Paper Planes."
  • Sound Effect Bleep - "ALL I WANNA DO IS *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG*AND *click* *ca-CHING* AND TAKE YOUR MO-NAY." In layman's terms, it's describing a mugging. Oddly enough, the sound effects themselves were evidently too suggestive for some radio stations - one censored version uses entirely different ones. See This Trope Is Bleep.
    • The DFA remix of the song replaced the sound effect with drum machine hits.
  • Stealth Parody - "Paper Planes." It appears to sound like a typical rap artist boasting his (or, in this case, her) monetary and violent achievements... until the artist revealed it's really about taxi drivers.
  • Stylistic Suck - The video for XXXO intentionally mimicked the sort of bizarre, glittery merging of little-girl imagery and sexualization that happens on teens' social networking pages. It will give any design student nightmares.
    • Not to mention the artwork for her music (especially during the MAYA era), which is very much this trope as well.
  • Theme NamingArular was named after the political code name her father used in his involvement with Sri Lankan Tamil militant groups. Kala was named after her mother. MAYA was named after herself.
  • This Trope Is Bleep - "Paper Planes" had its famous sound effects censored on the radio and on TV, leaving us with "All I wanna do is bang bang bang bang and a *click* *kaching* and take your money," which can be interpreted as being strikingly sexual.
  • What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: The video for "Boyz".
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