Matangi – M.I.A

Released 4th November on N.E.E.T/Interscope

Hip-Hop/ Alternative/ Electronic


M.I.A is back again with a fourth record full of harsh beats, musical experimentalism, and loud, proud political proclamations. Weaving together a plethora of musical inspirations and intelligently written rhymes she has once again created a record to be lauded as one the most exciting heard in recent years.

M.I.A just breathes life back into hip-hop, a genre that has grown immensely stale. Her lyrics are overtly political and her music and samples drop bombs not heard since the likes of early Public Enemy. This is not the standard 808 drum machine loops heard on almost every rap record made in the last ten years, but rather a complex system of world musics encoded with their own symbologies set up against a backdrop of harsh, militant, almost industrial, glitch beats. This is not the thugs ‘n’ hoes drivel coming out of almost every American rapper on the scene at the moment, this is a war M.I.A is fighting every single day, and I think she might be winning.

I mean, the way she uses the meditative music of central Asia reminds one of the pre-encoded black power rhetoric heard in early hip-hop with samples from James Brown, and her convictions are so evident and solid in her lyrics and delivery that it is hard to even think of calling her anything other than sincere. Each line just calls the listener to action and each pounding beat just makes you want to actually stand up and do something about the ills in the world.

As to the criticism this record has received recently for being too inaccessible and not as pop-oriented as her ealier releases I say ‘balls’. Yes, it may be grating and undefined on the surface, but this is not its flaw, but rather its style. A deeper listen reveals that Matangi is, in fact, incredibly catchy and pointed. She is not needlessly rejecting the standards of the industry in order to refrain from the appearance of selling out, the though of needing to reject these standards has just never crossed her mind. She is doing her own thing in her own way and coming out with some truly distinctive music in the process. She is not causing a fuss simple to get on the cover of the papers, she is doing it because there are things that need to fussed over.

Matangi is not a record that is designed to sell or get widespread radio play. There’s no issue if these things happen, but they are not its primary purpose. Its purpose is to be a great work of art, and it succeeds at the amazingly. Nothing is throwaway, every single piece of the puzzle is there for a well thought-out reason, and when one decides to take the time to put it all together it becomes a rich and intricate tapestry of struggle, revolution, and journey towards a new aesthetics.

I know that this has all become a bit more esoteric than I usually go in for, but really I think that’s where the charm of this record lies. M.I.A is one of those rare artists that cannot really be judged by the standards that are used for other records, because her work is not of the same ilk as other artists. This is not a pop record, it’s not even a hip-hop record, it’s a revolution in the form of music.

All in all, I will be content to say that M.I.A’s Matangi is one of the best records I have heard in a long while, and I certainly recommend it very highly to everyone. It might not be the future of music (only time will tell), but it is a giant leap in a new and bold direction, and that pleases me greatly. It also cements my recent convictions that hop-hop from the United Kingdom is where it’s at these days, and that the American scene has to do something really exciting to catchy my ear again. Really, just go out right now and get a copy.



Further Research: Until this time I have never become to involved with the works of M.I.A. Not because they didn’t interest me, or I didn’t find them worthwhile, but simply because I never got around to it.

After such an impressive display with this new record, I think have no choice but to go back and revisit the previous albums.

Expect to hear more from me about her in the future.


2 thoughts on “Matangi – M.I.A

  1. Nice review: if you mean to leave me intrigued to hear the record then you’ve surely done your job. The days I might have described myself as a hip hop fan (or indeed, a metal fan, prog fan, indie fan…) are long gone – there’s just too much great music in every genre of pop and much that sits uneasily in any. That said, I do still dig into my library for some PE, Cypress (and offshoots), assorted Death Row, Dilated Peoples etc… and the hip hop world continues to throw up some gems from time to time, and as you say the UK has really come into its own over the years: Roots Manuva, Ms Dynamite, Dizee, Rizzle Kicks, Wretch 32 to name a few.

    Might pick this up, £s allowing. Nice blog by the way 🙂

  2. Pingback: Top Picks Of November 2013 | Lachlan J. Faces The Music

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