HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 August 2007
M.I.A. is colour, rap, dance, wild jungle rhythms and a mad fusion style. The Sri Lankan rapper blew people away with her debut album, but she's actually topped herself in "Kala" -- she takes the same ingredients as before and smashes them together into a wilder, tighter album full of deliciously wild electro-funk-rap with a world-music flair.
"Road runner, road runner/Going hundred mile per hour/With your radio oooonnnnnn," she drawls detachedly over a skittering beat and the sound of racing engines.
The dancey beat kicks in, as she announces, "I'm big timer, it's the bamboo banga/You'll be hungry like the wolves hunting dinner dinner/And we're moving with the packs like hyena ena..." Things really blossom with the next two songs, the frenetic tribal rhythms of "Bird Flu," and the Bollywood-dance, horn-heavy "Boyz."
Having hooked us in with three catchy songs, she expands her sound further: funky hip-hop, disco, distorted grimy raps, playfully violent pop, detached raps over electronic anthems, tribal house, and combinations of all of the above. It ends with a mellow, catchy tune that seems to be contradicting the whole album's mood, with M.I.A. saying "Calm down calm down CALM down!"
In the end, "Kala" is actually kind of intoxicating -- M.I.A. crams so much sound into less than an hour that it's almost a shock when your speakers go silent. Stylewise she hasn't changed much at all, but somehow the music is tighter and smoother, with fewer rough patches.
Her music is the most astounding part, splattering styles like a musical Jackson Pollock -- reggae, afrobeat, traditional Asian music, house, hip-hop, Bollywood, and funk. And the raucous, dancey instrumentation is equally diverse -- tribal drums, violins and horns paired with crazy beats and sampling (birds, cars and guns), along with some harmonica, handclaps, and weird sound effects.
In fact, the only letdown is "Jimmy." Seriously, lightweight disco? It doesn't fit in at all.
But as much fun as this splash of ethnic fusion is, M.I.A. doesn't leave out the meaning ("Hands up!/Guns out!/Represent/the world town!"). It's crammed with Africa, war, dancing, jungle parties, and the feeling that she's about to smash down your door and introduce you to the third world ("I put people on the map who have never seen a map!") whether you like it or not.
M.I.A.'s second album is a glorious cacophony, a joyous graffiti mural. "Kala" is crazy party music with a serious message, and the guts to make you dance while you listen.