She’s got the USA eating out of her grubby, electro, futuristic nursery rhyme-creating Cockney hands
“Mi-Am-Eeeeeee quieten down, I need to make a sound/AMERICA quieten down I need to make a sound”. Mid-set, during the opening bars of the new single ‘Bucky Done Gun’, British/Sri Lankan MC MIA is giving Miami’s annual dance music blagfest (the silicone SXSW) a jittery ragga-pop warning shot. It’s the final night of her mini US tour, yet MIA. (it stands for Missing In Acton) needn’t shout so hard. As the assembled hipsters, beat geeks, ravers, indie kids, ragga heads and white ’Fros attest, America is already receiving her loud and clear.
Unlike the doubters in the UK, they don’t give a shit that she’s not ‘road’ (since when was escaping a civil war in Sri Lanka, being the daughter of a freedom fighter and growing up on a racist housing estate not ghetto enough?). Nor do they dismiss her as a Nathan Barley fashion fad because she went to St Martins and was encouraged to work her 505 groovebox by Peaches. Or refuse to play her records on Asian radio ’cos she ain’t ‘Asian’ enough. Whatever. In America MIA joins fellow DIY Britpackers such as Bloc Party and Kasier Chiefs in getting the Yanks hot under the collar over the UK’s musical renaissance. She’s also the the gobby “Brick Lane” rude girl, a lo-fi Missy Elliott, the displaced pan-global grime/crunk starlet it’s OK for indie kids to like, a purveyor of sex pop à la early Lil’ Kim and a wet dream for the blogging community who quote Marshall McLuhan and meta-textures(!) when reviewing her records.
OK, so the statements suggest the Yanks haven’t got it exactly right, either. But freshly signed to Dr Dre’s label the smart money’s on MIA to go where few have gone before.
Joined by her sidekick Cherry and Philly DJ Diplo, tonight’s stage show contains all the energy of an early hip-hop video. There’s no superstar production, just raw stylings, a whole load of electro bounce and sixth form dance moves feeding off the mass break-out of hands in the air and grinding. Some of this is down to Hollertronix beat wizard Diplo who effortlessly bleeds filthy party bangers like Ciara’s ‘Goodies’, J Kwon’s ‘Tipsy’ and 2 Live Crew’s ‘Get It Girl’ into MIA’s Richard X and Cavemen-produced beat-up UK electro. But most of it’s down to Maya Arulapragasam’s quirky nursery rhyme melodies and crazy tales of guerrilla fighters, lollipop-licking man eaters and Nokias. By the time she drops her calling card ‘Galang’ and ‘Pull Up The People’ it’s all over. The rest of the dance music conference may as well pack up and go home: there won’t be a better reminder of what made electronic music such a life-affirming, edgy and thrilling proposition in the first place.