[Exclusive] M.I.A. talks creativity, politics, celebrity, and Maya [Playing Royale Boston October 4 + 5]

DETAILS: M.I.A. plays Royale Boston on Mon + Tues, October 4 + 5

In September 2004, Diplo still had to explain who M.I.A. was -- no one had heard her music yet, and he described her as a dancehall artist of Sri Lankan descent. Later that month, on back to back nights, "Galang" was played in Boston for the first time: Diplo spun it during a Hollertronix set at the opening of Middlesex Lounge, and down Mass Ave, Nick Catchdubs played it at Enormous Room. Barely a year later she was unmissable: in September 2005 she headlined in Boston for the first time, with a packed-to-the-gills show at the Paradise. Even in those early days, before "Paper Planes" and before Jay-Z knew her name, her performances were electric.

Five years later, to the week, she's back in town to play two shows at Royale -- and once again she's got something to prove. Inexplicably, MAYA has been attacked as a dud -- instead of hailed as a provocation. You can chalk that up to fickle tastes, or to something more sinister -- like the increasing complacency and conservatism of an entetainment industry that, as its profit margins shrink, seeks to marginalize any artist with the will, imagination, and defiance to say something that might get someone thrown out of Wall Mart.

We were unable to ring her in time to make yesterday's print edition, but the Phoenix's Daniel Brockman spoke to M.I.A. for over an hour last night -- and you'll be able to read big chunks of that conversation in next week's paper, as well as the full transcript here online. In the meantime, while our transcription monkeys work overtime, here's a sampling of what she had to say. And undoubtedly we'll hear more when she's in town this week.


I was the kid in the village who always drew, who always danced.  Even when there were fights going on, people shooting each other, bombs being dropped, I would still be drawing.  That's where I was, d'you know what I mean?  When the army would come to our house all the time, beating people up, I'd be the kid in the corner, drawing, making shit.  My mum was a seamstress, making clothes, and like her I was always busy making stuff.  And that's typical for me, I'll be like that 'til I die.

A lot of the time, if you're creative, you're born with a glitch.  I don't think I was born with a glitch, I think I got my glitch after politics fucked up my life.  And I've spent the rest of my life trying to get rid of that glitch.


Look, politics is politics.  It's all nonsense.  The real world is more about people versus corporations-- I don't even know what politics is.  I'm not allowed to talk about it, you're not allowed to talk about it, no one's allowed to talk about it, and no one has been for many many many many years.


Being a celebrity is not that great.  Sometimes it's cool if you want to get free shit, but apart from that, I don't think that I actually benefit from it.

People now are starting to be like "Why isn't she just this cute little poster child for the refugees?"  And that isn't my idea of it.  Because it's like "Hey, you're like that novelty poster child for refugees from Sri Lanka that we don't really give a fuck about-- here's your Cinderella shoes, now go shut the fuck up."  And it's like, I don't want the shoes, I don't want to be Cinderella, and I just want to talk about whatever I want to talk about!


Watching what's happening with this album is really... interesting.  Because people almost want to say, you know, "This is just like the worst album!"  And people see it like it's a failure.  To me, it's interesting to look at this album and think "Hmm, this is what people think a failure is."

People would much rather that I made a shit-tastic album and become, you know, a star like a basketball player.  D'you know what I mean?  And then everyone would be happy because I'd just be shoving money in everyone's face and then they'd be like "Oh yeah, we love her!"  But that's not who I am and it's not what I'm gonna do.  I just want to be human-- and if that's a crime...

TICKETS: M.I.A. plays Royale Boston on Mon + Tues, October 4 + 5

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