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Tuning in with Thomas Conner

M.I.A. + Kanye = Two artists who feel very misunderstood

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US-GRAMMY-MIA.jpgHip-hop provocateur M.I.A., a k a Maya Arulpragasam, has been stirring things up all year long, from a polarized reaction to her ultra-violent video for the song "Born Free" (from her third studio outing, "Maya," released mid-July) to last spring's feud with a New York Times journalist that culminated in her tweeting the writer's personal cell phone number. This summer, you've probably read more headlines about M.I.A. than heard songs by her.

She ruffles feathers the same way Kanye West does, acting before thinking. So it's no surprise she and West have connected and begun working together; M.I.A. just contributed some music and vocals to West's upcoming album, "Dark Twisted Fantasy."

London-born, Sri Lankan-raised M.I.A. first came to the attention of the mainstream when her 2008 single "Paper Planes" wound up on two hit movie soundtracks, reaching two largely different audiences, "Pineapple Express" and "Slumdog Millionaire." West sampled that track for his own "Swagga Like Us" with T.I., Jay-Z and Lil Wayne; he then convinced her to join them on stage to perform it at the 2009 Grammys. M.I.A. was nine-months pregnant at the time.

with Rye Rye
8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday[10/29-30]
Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield
Tickets: $34,

Q. Were you at all conflicted about being on stage, ready to drop that baby any minute?
A. Kanye did it. They all said, "Come check out our rehearsal." I turned up and they shoved a mike into my hand. The next day it was, "If you feel like you can do it, do it. If you don't, don't." It worked out. I thought, if it's wrong, the baby will let me know. Kanye said, "Don't worry, if it comes on stage, I'll deliver it."

Q. And how is the wee one [18-month-old Ikhyd Edgar Arular Bronfman]?
A. He's great. He's on tour with me. He's the world's youngest roadie. He's loading my bags right now.

Q. What have you added to Kanye's new record?
A. I just wanted to work with him. I'd never actually worked with him before. I did write something fresh from scratch. It was interesting. I can't talk too much about it. I gave him something he can do something with.

Q. You're friends, the two of you?
A. I like Kanye. He puts it out there. The way people understand him is similar to the way they understand me and my records. I talked to him this week. I think he's more affected by the whole thing with the VMAs [his 2009 interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech, and this month's performance by both of songs about the incident]. I told him, "You kinda knew that you can't say sh-- and expect everyone to get it, you can't point out sh-- that's uncomfortable and expect people to support it." With Kanye, I think he genuinely tries, and even though he's truthful it's just surprising to him when he gets sh-- for it. But at the end of the day, he's talking about an award ceremony that kinda does the same sh-- every year.

Q. Three videos for this new album are so wildly different -- the violence in "Born Free," the sexiness of "XXXO," the computer graphics website experience for "Story to Be Told." What's the through-line for these? What makes them all from the same artist?
A. Well, the last one is not even a video, really. I wanted to create something on the Web that was, creativity-wise, like back in the day, in 2005, when people were decoding and reformatting pages and making a much more artistic Internet. Now the feel of so much of it has changed. Even if you go to the most creative person's website, like an amazing painter's website, they still have the same corporate look that everyone has -- a header on the top, some sh-- on the side, all the info in the right places. It's a good representation of where we're at right now in terms of freedom to be creative and vocal and explore something outside of our little bubble. It's like the wrong people have learned how to use [the Web] and the way people communicate. ... If you see me in any of this, it's just, I don't know, just that: me trying to push outside that bubble.

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She's right about the internet not being as creative as it was 5 years ago, even for true artists! It'll be interesting to hear her collaboration with Kanye West.


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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on September 26, 2010 8:00 AM.

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