To the mainstream audience, the name M.I.A. is synonymous for her song Paper Planes, which made a splash in 2008 as a catchy anthem because of its quirky use of cash register and gun shot sound effects, but the basis for it’s inspiration was the artist’s own struggles with immigrant acceptance and stereotypes, as she was once quoted in The Fader:
“The sample of the gun reloading and then the cash register ringing was a joke. I was having this stupid visa problem and I didn’t know what it was, aside from them thinking that I might to fly a plane into the Trade Center—which is the only reason that they would put me through this. I actually recorded that in Brooklyn, in Bed-Stuy. I was thinking about living there, waking up every morning—it’s such an African neighborhood. I was going to get patties at my local and just thinking that really the worst thing that anyone can say [to someone these days] is some shit like: ”What I wanna do is come and get your money.” People don’t really feel like immigrants or refugees contribute to culture in any way. That they’re just leeches that suck from whatever. So in the song I say All I wanna do is [sound of gun shooting and reloading, cash register opening] and take your money. I did it in sound effects. It’s up to you how you want to interpret. America is so obsessed with money, I’m sure they’ll get it.”
The English–Sri Lankan musician and visual artist was invited for a Q&A with the Oxford Union Society recently, of which the interview in its entirety was made available today. While admittingly underprepared, the 53-minute open session offered honest insight into M.I.A’s long-time activism through music, including her thoughts on the authenticity of recent movements, how she’s battled with fake news since 2009, and her struggles with the Sri Lankan government. Its also an interesting study into the complex mind of an artist who’s journey as a refugee has been an admirable source of inspiration for many since her rise in the mid-2000s.
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