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M.I.A. – Kala

Stacey Knott



Warning: Fanatical raving ahead.
I’m still reeling from the shock of receiving something that is so ridiculously good, I’ve neglected to listen to anything else over the last week. While M.I.A’s debut Arular was ground breaking, Kala is the best UK hip-hop album I’ve ever heard.
It’s been the soundtrack to my week. I’ve thrown a party to it, where opening track ‘Bamboo Banger’ instigated a break-dance battle, then later, the disco/Bollywood fusion ‘Jimmy’ (a re-worked cover from a Bollywood film), inspired a new disco/break-dance move. The next day I energized myself for the clean-up with the grimy ‘Hussel,’ and the political ‘20 Dollar’ with its borrowed lyrics from the Pixies ‘Where is my Mind?’ and later in the week Birdflu’s fiery, slamming polyrhythm’s was the perfect running accompaniment.
Fighting is a running theme (her dad was a Sri Lankan freedom fighter) and opening track asserts “M.I.A. is coming back with power power”.
Throughout Kala she voices concern for third world people and disaffected refugees- herself once one- encouraging them as laid out on the album cover to “Fight on! Fight on!”, herself taking this advice, as due to visa troubles hindering her from going to the US to record (alluded to in ‘Paper Planes’- which superbly uses gunshots and tills ch-chinging for rhythmic depth), Kala covers the globe- literally. M.I.A. records in India, London, Australia, Africa and Trinidad, and from her travels uses diverse samples, guests and lyrical influences. There’s the Aboriginal Wilcannia Mob on ‘Mango Pickle Down River,’ with beat boxing through a didgeridoo, Afrikan Boy on ‘Hussel’, plenty of samples of Tamil-language film soundtracks, US club banging beats, Brazilian drumming and even a Clash sample.
Like her styles, guests and samples prove her diversity – her vocals also show her expansive abilities, such as the militant commands and fierce yelps of ‘Bamboo Banger’ compared to the sultry whispering and raspy raps of ‘XR 2’ or the sweet sing-song style on ‘World Town’.
However, it must be said, the one downfall is the last track, ‘Come Around.’ While the production is slick, courtesy of Timbaland, when he starts rapping his sleazy arrogant sexed up commands, Kala’s super-ness comes down a notch. But since it’s hiding in the back and can be easily overlooked, I’m willing to forgive this shortcoming, and definitely highly recommend Kala.
Rave over.