If Nelly Furtado kicked ass, her name would be Mathangi Arulpragasam. Hailing from both London and Sri Lanka, the frontwoman for M.I.A. is a Jill-of-all-trades. On her debut album for Beggars XL, Arular, she shows multigenre strength beyond comparison, putting out truly globalized hip hop. Hell, it isn’t even hop: It’s just ridiculously good music, combining elements of electronica, Top-40 dance and even dub to create the album’s 12 catchy tracks.
At its core, the album feels homespun. A computer-generated hip hop beat opens “$10,” morphing into an enormous dancehall anthem, with Arulpragasam babbling nonsensical rhymes over the beat. “Pull Up the People” contains more of the same onomatopoeia, as she sings, “I got the beats to make you bam-bam-bam.” This is beat-intensive music; if it doesn’t make you want to shake your ass, then nothing will.
Arulpragasam has enormous potential as a performer. But this is only her first album, and she often comes off as a novice. The album tapers off midway, and the beats eventually become repetitive. With the exception of “Galang,” an insanely addictive final track, Arular’s second half seems underdeveloped. This is often the case with up-and-coming performers, however, and M.I.A. is only in early bloom. This is a fine achievement, especially for a first release. The next few years may bring incredible things for Arulpragasam.
[Though Artsweek appreciates the offer, Matt Cappiello, California law prohibits newspaper sections from engaging in the sanctity of marriage.]