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Music / Kala

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I don't read, yeah, I just guess / As the world turns / Don't bother me with your mess
Hands up
Guns out
'Represent the world town
—"World Town"

Kala is the second studio album by M.I.A.. Released in 2007, it may be her best thus far, thanks to its widespread acclaim from mainstream critics. The album broke from her underground roots due to the groundbreaking success of the single "Paper Planes", which received heavy airplay and peaked in the top ten in the US. The album straddled many influences from different genres such as Alternative Dance, Funk, Alternative Indie, Punk Rock, Hip-Hop, and World Music.

The album was named after her mother, similar to how her last album, Arular, took after her father's name. The lyrical themes mainly revolve around feminism, diversity, poverty, and sexuality, which mirror MIA's mother's life since her mother was a refugee from the third world and struggled to support the family.

It allowed its featured artists, such as Afrikan Boy and the Wilcannia Mob, to break into the mainstream. MIA thus gave a voice for numerous underprivileged foreign artists who are relegated to the underground, and the record still remains widely influential due to the Genre-Busting conceits of its singles, "Boyz", "Jimmy", and of course, "Paper Planes".



  1. "Bamboo Banga" (4:58)
  2. "Bird Flu" (3:24)
  3. "Boyz" (3:27)
  4. "Jimmy" (3:29)
  5. "Hussel" (4:25)
  6. "Mango Pickle Down River" (3:53)
  7. "20 Dollar" (4:34)
  8. "World Town" (3:52)
  9. "The Turn" (3:52)
  10. "XR2" (4:20)
  11. "Paper Planes" (3:24)
  12. "Come Around" (3:53)

"I fly like tropers, get high like tropes"

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Referenced in "Bamboo Banga", which is about how she came off hiatus from her last album to deliver a more kickass record:
    M.I.A. coming back with power power (power power!)
    I'm big timer, it's the bamboo banga
  • Alliterative Title: "Bamboo Banga" and "Paper Planes".
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: Afrikan Boy has a verse in the song "Hussel", and Timbaland has a verse on "Come Around".
  • Baby Factory: Deconstructed in "Bird Flu", when she sarcastically says that when boys start to call her fat, she'll justify her weight by making babies who will grow up to be better men than them:
    So they selfish little roamers
    Jumpin' girl to girl
    Make us meat like burgers
    When I get fat
    I'll pop me out some leaders
  • Advertisement:
  • Boastful Rap: "Paper Planes"
    M.I.A., third world democracy
    Yeah, I got more records than the K.G.B.
    So, uh, no funny business
  • Call-Back: There's a song on Arular named "10 Dollar", and on this album there's "20 Dollar".
  • Cool Shades: M.I.A. on the cover.
  • Coolest Club Ever: "Bamboo Banga", which describes similarly-themed international parties in Angola, Ghana, Singapore, India, and Sri Lanka, to name a few. It also could be a tongue-in-cheek "celebration" involving the poor and those who are largely ignored by mainstream culture.
  • Dual-Meaning Chorus: The chorus to "Paper Planes" can be interpreted in many ways, the most common is that it's about an immigrant stealing for money. However, following the theme of "Hussel", the song appears to speak generally about the poor throughout the world, and how they use their limited means and superior intelligence to outwit the wealthy despite their marginalization.
  • Face on the Cover: M.I.A.'s face in a field of fractals, along with the phrase "Fight On!" written over and over again.
  • First World Problems: Deconstructed in "The Turn", which could be interpreted as a laid-back track about how the educated and the wealthy complain about their problems, at odds with actual problems with illiteracy and poverty in third world countries such as North Korea:
    The war in me makes a warrior
    Like a pitbull getting with a terrier
    I'm better off in North Korea
    Yeah, dropping from a barrel of a carrier
  • Genre Roulette: This is M.I.A., people! In fact, her style of World Music is so strange and heterogeneous that some South Asians criticized her for having melded all these styles together.
  • Hustler: In "Hussel", obviously. Afrikan Boy, the guest rapper, raps tongue-in-cheek about how lots of immigrants in the UK get into shady dealings and try to fleece the government to avoid becoming part of the system.
  • Intercourse with You: Most ostensibly in "Come Around":
    Check my coat in and I paid the dollar
    Sidekick rings - "What's up? Holla!"
    Text the address - "I'll see you later!"
    Baby, come down!
  • Kids Rock: The kids in "Mango Pickle Down River", called the Wilcannia Mob, are young rappers hailing from Australia. The song itself actually samples the group's first single, "Down River". Imagine: these kids appeared on an award-winning album with MIA when they were in grade school.
  • List Song: "XR2" lists a lot of various '90s Nostalgia to a really cool, calm beat.
  • Media Watchdog: Due to the infamous sound effects in "Paper Planes", a lot of radio stations had the gunshots censored by replacing them with literal "BANGS". This overlaps with Censored for Comedy since it does give the song sexual connotations instead:
    All I wanna do is bang, bang, bang, bang''
    And kkaaa ching''
    And take your money
  • Neo-Africa: "Hussel" and "20 Dollar" lampshade the widespread poverty within Africa in spite of globalization.
  • The Not-Remix: The Paper Planes - Homeland Security Remixes EP featured remixes of "Paper Planes" done by various artists. One of the remixes, done by Blaqstarr, is actually more popular than the original since it incorporates rap verses from artists M.I.A. had worked with.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The name "Kala" never shows up in the lyrics. Despite this, her mother does have a dominating presence in this record since a lot of the lyrics reference women struggling to protect their young, and "Jimmy" is a Sampling of an old Bollywood song that her mother liked.
  • Nostalgia Filter: "XR2" has M.I.A. reminiscing about the 90s. She even lists numerous media outlets which she felt were better at the time (BBC, MTV, NBC), music artists (R.E.M., TLC, The Notorious B.I.G.), and other various references.
  • Obsession Song: "Jimmy" is a song about a woman wanting a man to like her.
  • One-Man Song: "Jimmy"
  • One-Word Title: "Boyz", "Jimmy", "Hustle", and "XR2".
  • Product Placement: In "XR2":
    Some of them drink Heineken and some of them drink Bacardi
  • Protest Song: While it doesn't come off as one, "Paper Planes" allowed MIA to use her recognition to draw attention to what she believed was the genocide of various Tamilians in Sri Lanka.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: MIA's inability to get a work visa to enter the US (due to her parents' ties with guerrilla fighters in Sri Lanka) resulted in her traveling the world and recording with numerous foreign, diverse artists. This resulted in the impressive World Music influences in the songs, rather than the usual radio-friendly material she would have had if she had worked with Timbaland.
  • Reggae: At the end of "Boyz", the "duppa bounce" refrain refers to a special reggae dance which originated in Jamaica.
  • Sampling: All over the place, but the most notable one is probably on "Paper Planes", which samples "Straight To Hell" by The Clash from Combat Rock. It was such a success that MIA decided to credit the band as one of the songwriters.
    • "The Turn" samples The Pixies' famous song "Where is My Mind?" from the album Surfer Rosa. MIA even sings the chorus.
  • Shameless Self-Promotion: Because Timbaland had not released a record in quite some time, a lot of rumors spread that the rapper was dead. The outro to "Come Around" has Timbaland saying "Don't get it twisted, baby girl/Baby boy, cause Timbaland ain't dead", which served both to put down these rumors and to promote his upcoming album.
  • Stock Sound Effects: The infamous gunshots in "Paper Planes", the guns cocking in "World Town", and the glass shattering in "XR2".
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Jimmy". Also, "The Turn" to a lesser extent.
  • Synthetic Plague: Sarcastically invoked in "Bird Flu", which intends to mock and draw attention to countries who inoculate crops with diseases in order to allow people to starve.
    Bird flu gonna get you
    Made it in my stable
    From the crap you drop
    On my crop when they pay you
  • Theme Naming: The album is named after her mother, like Arular is named after her father.
  • Vocal Dissonance: "Hussel" is about how illegal immigrants must hustle for cash and get into terrible situations with authority. Despite this, M.I.A.'s delivery is markedly flat because she wanted to express the unaffected ambivalence these people have on their journey to such a land.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Lots of songs could reference this. "Boyz", for example, affectionately mocks boys for their more aggressive tendencies, but also addresses the fact that the more dangerous ones are the rich who start wars for money. The poor, on the other hand, pose little threat compared to this.
    How many no money boys are crazy?
    How many boys are raw?
    How many no money boys are rowdy?
    How many start a war?
    • "20 Dollar" is about how easy it is to buy weapons for little money in war-torn Liberia.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Ironically, much of the praise for the album came from the fact that some lyrics made little sense and that they were written mostly to serve the beats.