M.I.A. visits Pittsburgh Monday, April 28, at Stage AE. In the past decade she's grown from making underground dancehall hits to become one of the biggest names in hip-hop worldwide. She is touring in support of her new album, Matangi, that was released at the end of 2013. Here's the first single off that album, "Bad Girls."
In 1976, when she was only six months old, Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam's parents moved their family away from London and back to Jaffna, the Tamil center of Sri Lanka. Her father took the name Arular (which M.I.A. took to title her first album) and joined the growing Tamil independence movement. Maya and her siblings and mother led a semi-itinerant life during that time, fleeing the sporadic fighting. She lived in India for a short time before moving back to England, in 1986.
Maya studied art at university. Her works centered on media, contemporary consumer culture, and her childhood memories of war and the struggle for Tamil independence, something visible in many of her early album covers. Her work was held in high regard by many in the underground arts scene at the time, which led to her entrance into the fashion, music, and arts circles that she's at the helm of today.
In 2005, "Galang," only the second song M.I.A. had ever written, became an anthem in dance clubs all over the world. It featured an addictive chorus, glitchy beats, and a frenetic tempo. In no time she was on the radar of most major music publication on both sides of the Atlantic. And this was still a few years before "Paper Planes" would become an international sensation.
As mentioned before, M.I.A. is on tour to support her new album, Matangi. It's less off-kilter than her previous works, a more cohesive album that is still singularly Maya, a cross-cultural odyssey for the global underground. The Independent (UK) gave the release a perfect 5/5, while NME used the opportunity to call her "a hyper-intuitive artist with a mongrel sensibility who bows to no one."
Opening for M.I.A. is A$AP Ferg, BET's "Rookie of the Year" for 2013. The Harlem-born rapper is part of the A$AP crew, which includes, among many others, A$AP Rocky. (A$AP Crew is supposed to release their first album sometime this year, but they said the same thing in 2013.) Here's the remix of Ferg's hit "Work," featuring French Montana, Schoolboy Q, Trinidad James, and A$AP Rocky.
Tickets for the show cost $38, fees included, and are available via Ticketmaster. Doors open at 8.
– B. Conway