Record Label: Interscope Records
M.I.A.'s debut record is both intensely urban and aggressively modern. The group's sole member, Maya Arul, infuses her blend of hip-hop and chunky electro with raw, tribal overtones and a healthy dose of sex appeal. There are elements of world music here, in Arul's multilingual vocal as well as the tonal shifts and instrumentation (like the drone that opens up "Hombre"). Her delivery uses a variety of yelps and tics full of street-wise confidence and bratty energy.
But there's also an appealing melodic sense, like early Neneh Cherry or Miss Kitten when she's not in diva mode. M.I.A. doesn't really sound like anybody; the music is just experimental enough to wiggle out of easy comparisons. The IDM-style bleeps and beeps of "Galang," for example, give an already catchy song extra punch. The only problem with the record, a common flaw for debuts, is a sameness from track to track which robs it of the ability to surprise. Still, Arul is hugely talented and her abundant originality packs a wallop.