More MIA


Well-known member
Been skirting this one. I only heard the LP today, I heard Piracy funds Terrorism ages ago and was totally underwhelmed, but this one (which has undeniable strengths) actually needs a good kicking cos its the more seductive version of that.

Amazing how little in the way of pronouncements i make these days in my guise as (primps himself) forum leader! anyway my "shanty house theory" was quoted in the original article, and SR polled me for my opinion before he unleased it, so i reckon i'm allowed my 5cents.

Button down the hatches.

(extracted from email converstaion with simon reynolds, the big boss man)

simon in red only

>>just found my blood boiling

>cos you felt it was derivative, or faux?

wrote a whole page of stuff about it at work. its broader than that. thats the rupture position innit (yawn). hes alright though rupture, its pleasing to see him wrap himself up in knots. we like people who get all screwed up.

i guess i'm one of a type (what sometimes feels like a dwindling handful) of person who are incredibly uncomfortable with who they are, or at least tries to figure out ways of being that arent contradictory. who JUST HATE it when they sense theyve compromised their integrity. and this stupid woman (can you imagine a a bloke being allowed to get away with a line like "i am a soldier") just couldnt seem to give a toss/is so brazenly dense to any contradictions, it just makes me writhe with anger, ha ha ha. its JUST like you said in that bloke's comments box. there are many ways of communicating your love for baile/desi/grime which dont rely on making poor carbon copies of the records. you can blog for starters, lol.

> it's weird, you can tell there's
> nothing behind it, in the same way that a grime record or dancehall or____,
> even a second-div one that on some level's not as good as a better MIA
> track, it'll still excites because there's all this stuff behind it-- a
> whole culture. it's a minor fragment of a greater whole. for me it's not an
> intellectualized response, though, it's something you can just feel,
> auditorily, as a presence or a lack.

my irritation with christagau is that he represents a huge majority of people who (horrible to say) just will never ever get whats special about something like grime. you say "whats behind it", and i one hundred percent concur, but the expression i came up with was that some people fail to connect with the genre's higher frequencies. there is a sound there that only speaks to a certain type of person, like a dog can hear high-pitched whistles....... you listen to that maya record in five years and itll sound like shit whereas the grime'll sound "zing"

was infuriated the other day by a friend who dismissed the grime comp i gave him as rubbish. and i just knew that he couldnt connect with its ugly tonalities. i wasnt bothered that he didnt like it, just pissed that he dismissed it in such a cavalier fashion. hes kind of masquerading as an underground hipster, is exactly the sort who put on the MIA and breathe a sigh of relief, "at last a grime/dancehall/desi/baile record i can listen to. i will thus defend its authenticity at all costs" which again is christagau's secret agenda.

i know its practically a calvinist position, and lord knows i look at other peoples laid-back/harmonic collections of music and wonder just what the fuck is wrong with me, but only for about a split second (i promise ;-)) whats wrong with a bit of hard-headed anti-pop righteousness every now and then? people seem extremely reluctant to take a violently anti-pop position online. stelfox was just about the strongest anti-MIA thing i read, and it practically amounted to "shes a bit a meh" i do dig your indifference angle, but i just find the record so cloyingly insiduous, so (again v.protestant) seductive. i dont want be seduced by that! same way i dont want to be seduced by a shitty jingle in a nestle ad.

and there are those awful awful moments on the record, like the start of "sunshowers" where you can just see the cracks in the fantasy part cockey/part patois/part ____ voice showing. you can just see her with her cup of tea round justine flats with her slippers on.

more things i hate:

- any lyrics which rely on the -tion ending. revolution/segregation/pollution.
- the rubbish poney gun firing sounds
- the clash's sandanista, the clash's idiot 3rd world sloganeering is just like this.
- MC Kinky (Ok i dont hate MC Kinky but doncha think SHE is the 'riginal Maya, not Neneh?)
- famous music journalists effectively turning their periodicals into blogs!!! Keep up at the back Grandad!

things i like:

- i was unsure whether diplo was referring to deise tigrona or the compiler of the slum dunk carioca record as being an asshole I have a feeling he meant bruno verner of tetine. if anyone wants a lesson on how to transform your love of a music into powerful original art they'd do as well to check out and see what crazed antics these dudes get up to. compilations, performance art, wearing wigs etc we love you tetine!
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Taking History Too Far
I'm a little unclear about why there is such resentment from some quarters against MIA... I was pretty underwealmed by the mixtape as well, but so what?

Is it just because some places/critics are so in love with it?


Well-known member
No, he's written about 50,000 words on why he basically resents her "fans" (one of the great strawmen ever.) He's spent a couple of sentences on what he resents about her (although, of course, even that veers dangerously close to simply being an indictment of her "friends"--who oh irony of ironies are obv at least casual acquaintences with folks Matt knows--nice cover up that fact though.)


Clubberlang said:
No, he's written about 50,000 words on why he basically resents her "fans" (one of the great strawmen ever.) He's spent a couple of sentences on what he resents about her (although, of course, even that veers dangerously close to simply being an indictment of her "friends"--who oh irony of ironies are obv at least casual acquaintences with folks Matt knows--nice cover up that fact though.)

there is plenty of background on dissensus plus here altho i concour you have misread.


Mercury Blues
WB, much as i love your work - here i'm going to disagree:

what really is the problem? the main complaint seems to be that she co-opts underground sounds to fuel a pop record. so what? more people should be doing it, if the underground artists are unwilling to make something popularly listenable. as you say, when you listen to grime, you and i hear whats behind it - your mate, like 99% of the population, justs hears ugly noises and people shouting. so when someone makes a record that is sonically progressive and sonically appealling without having spent years (or even a year, singular) working up from the streets, well, honestly so what?

i guess the crux of my argument is this: do you dismiss timbaland because he hadn't spent years in the indian tabla underground before releasing get ur freak on? no, we just jumped up and down and said, more or less, 'what superb appropriation of unusual and bizarre sonics into groundbreaking pop music!'


Active member
Get Ur Bootleg On

Hm. Get Ur Freak On - just one record though, innit?

So many authenticity issues - despite all the controversy, I'm still siding with Reynolds so far, particularly on the completely valid critique of terrorist imagery, promotion of T.T. and her presumed (and kind of arrogant) appropriation of Other People's Music; all under the banner of a questionable form of 'transnationality'.

But I wonder how much of this is also fed by the format - if M.I.A. had merely released singles and remixes - not promoted an album, maybe it would be less irritating? It's the pop format that additionally offends.

And speaking of which, there's another angle on Byron Bitchlaces' theory of the blogosphere spawning a ghettoized music; that pre-Diplo mash-up scene of Boom Selection/2ManyDJ's/Richard X etc. It's the underlying format of Piracy Funds Terrorism - made esp. clear during moments where the world-as-ghetto/Black Altantic essay comes apart and these sort of electroclash tunes come in - Sweet Dreams on China Girl and what sounds like Felix Da Housecat or something on Lady Killer. (There's a fair bit of electroclash about M.I.A. anyway; the obv. Peaches connection, the same tools and 'live' karaoke performance style, the 'knowingness' of it all).

In any case, bastardpop was another scene under fire for lack of locality, for not coming from anywhere (other than the Internet and P2P); back then, it was as if ILM had spawned it's own 'subcultural' scene! But if M.I.A. is like subaltern bastardpop; what about the massive amount of semiotic damage to the Other clocked up as a consequence? Pop mash-ups are fine, it's popular music after all; but this is a similar technique applied to marginal music, peripheral scenes.


Well-known member
i have to say that, nuff respect to the bot and blissblogger as per, i think some key points are being missed in these little tete a tetes. (i havent read the dean's "reply" yet, so if i am just rehashing points he made here, apologies.)

whatever you feel about cultural appropriation, maya's own politics, and the relative aesthetic worth of the album, it's pretty clear to me that MIA as a project exists well outside the "straight" confines of street genres and belongs to a wider post-punk/riot grrl style continuum. the comparison that first sprung to mind once i heard the album as a whole, absorbed more of her backstory, etc. was the slits. (i mean for chrissakes ari up converted to a full blown rasta, spoke in a ridiculous patois, chased down bovell to produce them, covered roots songs. and without the evidence at hand, i can't say she didn't take a lot of shit for it at the time. but that certainly doesn't seem to be a concern now when the slits are almost as important in the history of "underground rock" as can or the velvets.) the thing is that many people are now waking up to the fact that grime/dancehall/desi/whatever sonics are the most exciting thing going. but the voices - be they sizzla or dizzee or daddy yankee - arent's speaking for <i>them</i>, in the voice of lefist, feminist, queer, whatever. i certainly wouldn't blame a woman or a gay man for being intensely turned off by any of these genres. (i am reminded of something matt said once along the lines of the reason he feels like he lets dancehall guys get away with their homophobia and gynophobia is because he's neither gay nor a woman. i only remember this because i guiltily empathize.) shouldn't we, on some level, be happy that "margin walkers" are finally abandoning the hoary old trad grrl rock format for something with a bit more sonic bite/nowness?

just to put my cards on the table, for all its faults, i like <i>arular</i> quite a bit. but maya has yet to make a <i>song</i> as good as anything on matt's grime comp or the <i>Best 21st Century Dancehall</i> CD i made last week.


the British-Asian projecting towards black culture thing simon mentioned got me thinking about the complexity of how 'marginality' is being used in these discussions (there's something to be said about US-Asians and this tendency as well but that's another ball of yarn). jess's last point esp. seems to highlight a marginality which encompasses an exclusion from a 2nd marginality, the sort mika mentions. of course women/gays/Asians/etc aren't barred from making grime or dancehall but sometimes these particular Othernesses function as both a distance - a nowhere-factor? - and paradoxically a pass into a broad sort of minority-alignment. i don't know if MIA is exactly being accused of this kind of conflation but the projection/investment seems to carry things into stickier territory than any bastard-pop appropriation. i sometimes wonder though if she did play up the contradictions of what she does, wouldn't there be even more of an art-school-project shadow draped around people's perceptions of the music? and so that's already sort of a condemnation, or maybe a suggestion that blogging is the sane choice at that point :)


Well-known member
going back in on something i said in my last post...i was at a bar in nyc talking to a fairly well known rock critic and when the subject got around to dancehall - the merits of the "bubble up" riddim, riddim madness in the US, etc. - it was very enjoyable for a bit. then we got to talking about dancehall's politics, and he said something to the effect that TOK's "chi-chi man" was an amazing tune and it should be left at that. now admittedly i was pretty hammered at that point so i just kind of nodded "guuuh" along with him, but i am not sure if we're any better off that enough people are sufficiently turned onto the wonders of dancehall that a song advocating violence against homosexuals (fuck you, it does) gets a free pass. having it both ways seems to be the great pasttime of the 21st century. we want to be able to be down with the amazing fab wow music of da streetz (as it is the leading, bleeding edge, etc), but we want to be able to selectively filter out the stuff which offends, rankles, or challenges us. to some extent this is what everyone does with music (what artist completely mirrors your world view?) but the whole "feminist cheerleader" thing (it's okay for me to dig this groovy gansta tune for its dance qualities so long as i am subconsciously critiquing the implicit way it keeps me down) has people tuned in who would have balked at the idea of listening to someone like lil jon a decade ago. (i am trying to imagine the members of huggy bear launching an impassioned defense of the submerged late-capitalist critique in too $hort.) it's easy for me to affirm a culture like drum & bass (especially in 2005) because its politics are aesthetic. i am merely affirming my allegiance or disloyalty to a set of sounds, a style, not a way of looking at and interacting with the world. well, ideally, your involvement with a scene should permeate the way you see the world, but dnb doesn't come with a (very vocal) set of opinoins/prohibitions/ideas on everything from homosexuality to cornbread. dj's and dillytants have it easy: they get to pick and choose what they hear/present/use. standing behind an entire culture, especially when it espouses ideas you find repellant, is a lot more difficult and problematic.


Active member
i was most turned off her by her vid; she's a shit dancer. (this detail may be the key to the whole goddam deal with her)


Active member
i fully understand the anti-maya position, woebot & reynolds make much sense as always, and i guess my position on arular is soft-support. but following on from dubplatestyle, sort of: i always feel a pang of sympathy for the diplo/rupture types, they do look so immediately foolish to ppl who see what they're up to, but what else is possible? you have some kind of ear for what's been happening, what is happening in music, esp from places with vastly different (and worse) circumstances than your own, and you want to make something that's yours, you want to participate, and you see your own audience, mostly collegey white kids, the ppl you've grown up with (i've no idea of diplo's background, but rupture went to harvard dinne?)... the specific quality that woebot hears as "maya with her tea at justine's flat" i hear as this near-paralyzed attempt to Get It All Right At Once, the ghetto-politics-realness-booty bit, the academic-cocaine-silver-eyeshadow-loft-party bit (er i could reshuffle those). I dunno, what would you try to sound like?? (yeah middlebrow apologetics pt 9238434)


Well-known member
haha i think there are only five tracks on it that weren't also on the greensleeves comps for the last five years! i am no stelfox!


Well-known member
i'm one of a type [...] of person who are incredibly uncomfortable with who they are, or at least tries to figure out ways of being that arent contradictory

I believe this to be the crux of the MIA debate. Those who champion her new efforts haven't been turned off to grime/dancehall/etc. - they have not been exposed to it. Example: I left the Piracy.. mix in my mother's car while visiting over the holidays and she totally got into it because of a Eurythmics sample.

Those of us whincing at the contradictions are likely involved deeply with our own issues of identity. Certainly I wrangle with my whiteness as the majority of the music I find exciting uses the word "niggas" to describe its fans and doesn't include me. Questions of authenticity resonate at all levels. Look at how fiercely and foolishly 50 Cent has worked recently to defend his own "street" status. Similarly, kids on the grime boards question the minor sucesses of locals who haven't logged enough hours on the pirates.

The nerve that MIA scrapes for me is the one that says, "if she can do it (and get away with it) - why can't I?" Despite the copious demographic statistics in my favor, there is always an element of tourism to my participation in hiphop et al. Perhaps seeing MIA find people's favor is irritating because she appears immune to the same scrutiny. Is she off the hook just because high school history never quite reaches the Tamil Tigers and their civil war?

Also, to seriously suggest blogging as an alternative to making music is a stretch.


can't be stopped
I don't know what to think about this any more. And the music doesn't even help, because I like it but it doesn't grab me enough to make me want to make passionate stands in its defense, and like Jess said w/r/t Run the Road and dancehall...


Active member
I'm with Jess on this. Maya never said she was grime or dancehall, did she? Who are Woebot or Reynolds to say what genres an artist can use. The nitpicking of her album title and her lyrics seem like something Reynolds would never do to his dear Cabaret Voltaire, and others wouldn't do to dancehall.