Music: M.I.A.

Providing the music equivalent of little girls playing hopscotch with bombs exploding behind them since 2005.

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.


  • Piracy Funds Terrorism, Volume 1 (2004; Mixtape)
  • Arular (2005)
  • Kala (2007)
  • How Many Votes Fix Mix EP (2008)
  • MA YA (2010)
  • Vicki Leekx (2011; Mixtape)
  • Mathangi (2013)

Tropes related to M.I.A.:

  • Boastful Rap
    M.I.A., Third World democracy. I got more records than the KGB.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: The cause of some contention around the release of /\/\ /\ Y /\. She got an not entirely underserved reputation for promoting left-wing causes and rising up against The Man despite the fact she was signed to major label Interscope, is married to the heir to the Bronfman fortune, lives in Brentwood and modeled for Marc Jacobs.
  • Call Back - One of the redheaded boys from the "Born Free" video is seen near the end of the "Bad Girls" video.
    • There's a song on Arular called "10 Dollar" and a song on Kala called "20 Dollar".
  • Censored for Comedy - "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.
  • Cool Shades: She wears them on the cover of Kala.
  • 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.
    • Quoth The Other Wiki: The song "Hussel" began as an image in M.I.A.'s head of refugees being smuggled in boats, which she expressed musically by imagining how "if they banged that beat on the side of a boat, what would it sound like? That's why it's all echo-y and submarine-y". The sounds on the intro were recorded from Keralan [sic] fishermen chanting as they pull their fishing boats into the water. "World Town" used instrumentation from the temple music she recalled waking up to as a child in Sri Lanka.
  • Genre Roulette
  • Hell Is That Noise: M.I.A.'s performance of "Born Free" on The Late Show With David Letterman (featuring Martin Rev from Suicide) was so chaotic that it left Dave very visibly flustered. Brace yourself.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy - Defied Trope. She still performed in concert while pregnant with her son.
  • Lucky Charms Title - /\/\/\Y/\, the official title of MAYA.
  • Lyrical Dissonance - 95% of her entire discography. Whether it's about child prostitution, ethnic conflicts, terrorism, or simply going out to raves, her songs have the ability to make one dance AND think.
  • 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. This caused a bit of a broken base among fans.
  • Punny Name: Her album "Vicki Leekx" is a pun on Wiki Leaks.
  • Redheaded Stepchild - The music video for "Born Free" uses a genocide against redheads as a metaphor for the crimes against humanity committed in Sri Lanka, in particular against the Tamils. It opens with a SWAT team raiding an apartment to capture one redheaded young man and everything goes downward from there.
  • Sampling: "Paper Planes" is based on a sample from The Clash's "Straight to Hell".
  • Self-Titled Album: She hasn't made an album with the title M.I.A. but Mathangi is her real name and MAYA is an abbreviatIon of it..
  • Sensory Abuse: The cover to Matangi can be very disorienting to look at
  • Sound Effect Bleep - "ALL I WANNA DO IS *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* AND *click* *ka-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.
    • 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.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair - One of her many different hairstyles, which include various wigs and hair colours (here combined with a bob).