M.I.A. – “MATA” review

M.I.A. is a 47 year old rapper, singer, producer & activist from London, England who came up in 2005 off her full-length debut Arular that XL Recordings & Interscope Records jointly put out. Her popularity would begin to increase following the sophomore effort Kala & was even granted her own vanity label N.E.E.T. Recordings by the time ΛΛ Λ Y Λ became her most-left field body of work to date inspiring future acts like Death Grips & PC Music. She eventually fulfilled her Interscope contract by dropping Matangi & AIM but after 6 long years, she’s returning by having Island Records back her 6th full-length album over here.

After the “Freedom is a State of Mind” intro, the actual “Freedom is a State of Mind” song itself that kicks the album off with a tribal EDM banger asking what’re you gonna do with her freedom while “100% Sustainable” serves more as a Tamil folk music interlude. “Beep” though dives into moombahton territory thanks to Skrillex & Rick Rubintalking about being who you want leading into the warm yet empowering “Energy Freq” encouraging to feel the synergy.

“The One” continues on with M.I.A. over some cloudy trap production provided by T-Minus talking about sticking to who you are just before “Zoo Girl” hops on top of some bongos & woodwinds declaring herself as such. “Time Traveller” has more rubbery quality to the beat laced by Pharrell advising not to slip on no matter what you hit on, but then “Popular” returns to the moombahton sound with the help of longtime collaborator Diplo sarcastically detailing how hard it is to maintain popularity.

Meanwhile on “Puththi”, we have MIA spitting in Tamil for nearly 3 minutes with an entrancing instrumental while the song “K.T.P. (Keep the Peace)” has a more peppier groove to it warning not to con her a certain way. The penultimate track “MATA Life” has a more spiritual flare to it sonically talking about going all in with “Marigold” ending the album with an airy ballad declaring that we need miracle.

Compared to how mid AIM was, that’s absolutely not the case with MATA here. In fact, I’d say that it’s the best thing she’s done in nearly a decade. It’s cool to see her recharged on the mic as her ego & spirituality clash accompanied by production that expands on the moombahton sounds of her last 2 albums by fusing it with the likes of Tamil folk & funk ostentação.

Score: 3.5/5

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