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Over the last year probably no single musician has gotten the music criticism community into such a lather as Maya Arulpragasam. M.I.A., as she is otherwise known, is the Sri Lankan-born singer whose debut album is just about to drop on XL Recordings. Her back story has stoked much of this controversy. Her father was (is?) a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, generally known as the Tamil Tigers, and she has named her debut album , Arular, in his honor. As a child she moved with her mother to West London where she went to school before going on to become an art student and become friends with some of London's most known hipster types, like Justine Frischmann from Elastica. So, this hugely varied life-experience, as well as her music (which mashes together dancehall, grime, hip-hop, and variants like reggaeton and baile funk), has provided the grist for a thousand mills churning over the eternal questions of "Is she 4 REAL? Does it matter?"
Personally speaking, I think that her stuff is a bit meh, some of it's pretty good, but I haven't heard anything that really blows my brains out. I like the mixtape she did with Diplo, Piracy Funds Terrorism, but it wasn't absolutely incredible. What has been cool has been the discussion about her. All the debate-type back and forth has been awesome, so here's a collection of stuff to read through:
From Dissensus: "MIA - "Galang" on XL" and "Is MIA really that in tune with the hottest sounds?".
Sasha Frere-Jones on her in The New Yorker.
A Nirali Magazine feature.
If you made it this far, you deserve some mp3's. These are tracks from Piracy Funds Terrorism, so you'll get an idea of the sort of thing she's up to:
MIA - China Girl (Diplo Mix)
MIA - Fire Bam (Diplo Mix)
MIA - Uraqt (Diplo Mix)
Update, 3/8/2005, 3:53pm: Matt 'Woebot' Ingram weighs in.