Review Summary: While not quite as good as the compositions she made at the peak of her career, Matangi proves that M.I.A. still has enough fire left in her belly to make fiery, sassy music.
After the critical failure of her last album, Maya, the music community wasn’t sure M.I.A. still had it in her to make an work of worldly postmodern collage as great as her second album, Kala. Thankfully, Matangi proves most of the naysayers wrong, and is another solid effort from this most flippant Sri Lankan rapper.
In many ways, Matangi is M.I.A.’s most aggressive album to date. Whereas the beats on her previous albums were still hard-hitting, they had more layers of subtlety to them. In contrast, Matangi’s beats are gloriously over-the-top, bass-heavy sonic fireworks. The title track features a tribal banshee scream, “Only 1 U” and “Bring the Noize” rely on rapid-fire stutter effects for their hooks, and “Come Walk with Me” and the latter half of “Double Bubble Trouble” contain half-time dancehall rhythms that appear virtually out of nowhere.
That’s not to say the album doesn’t have its quieter moments.“Exodus”, its slightly remixed variant “Sexodus” and especially “Lights” showcases M.I.A.’s more contemplative and subdued side, though the production remains equally just as intriguing. Indeed, the production is Matangi’s strongest aspect, incorporating and juxtaposing various styles and genres, many times within the course of a single track. What’s interesting this time around is, in comparison to her previous work, Matangi seems dedicated to innovating within the popular styles of the day, as opposed to merely taking influence from those styles. Compare “Double Bubble Trouble” to something like “Bucky Done Gun” from Arular; while the latter draws its main beat from 1990’s hip house but fills in the spaces with other textures, the former (in its first half) seems dedicated to fulfilling the desires of trap fans, albeit in a creative way. Still, it does seem like some individuality has been lost in the process.
“Y.A.L.A.” is M.I.A.’s response to the culture of (you guessed it) YOLO, but the rapper’s take on the subject matter is thoughtfully questioning and she references her faith by slyly stating “Back home, here I come from, we keep being born again and again and again.” Unfortunately, for every insightful moment like this, there’s some lyrical misfire or awkward-flowing moment, such as the first verse of the title track, where M.I.A. feels the need to list off nearly every country in the world to accentuate the music’s vibe. Moments like this are generally kept to a minimum, and when they become more prominent, at least the material surrounding her keeps things going.
While not quite as good as the compositions she made at the peak of her career, Matangi proves that M.I.A. still has enough fire left in her belly to make fiery, sassy music.
Originally posted to bsupulse.com