#WomenInHipHop Reviews Women in Hip-Hop


M.I.A – Kala

Released: 8 August 2007

There’s something attractive about M.I.A…maybe it’s her swagger (a word that she helped catapult in the rap game with her “Paper Planes” single off this album), her fashion, or the melting pot of influences in her music (you can hear the influence in her music ranging from Hip-Hop to Afrobeat to traditional). M.I.A’s influences come together full circle on Kala. And M.I.A fires on all cylinders all throughout Kala.

The production is great, there’s nothing else in the market that sounds like it (nor was there anything that sounded like it back in 2007). So maybe that’s why she blew up in the States promptly after her single “Paper Planes” was featured on a trailer for the movie Pineapple Express? M.I.A’s signature foreign accent hangs beautifully alongside her vibrant, sometimes abrasive production. Her vocal performance is intriguing enough to maintain the album alone, as she often raps in abstract and tells stories about her country kinfolk, painting her own perspective on worldly issues such as the refugee crises on important songs like “Boyz“.

This is an important album of the 00s, partly because it put alternative hip-hop and alternative “international music” at a forefront that it hadn’t been at for years. This album is also partially important because of the community M.I.A represents – the refugee, often unspoken for and forgotten. Even though “Paper Planes” and “Boyz” remain her only big singles in the USA, this album fared well commercially and critically and it not only put M.I.A, the musician, activist, and fashionista, in the USA spotlight, but it also compounded music from London, Africa, Sri Lanka, the UK and others into one big musical melting pot. And as a result, we got Kala. One of the most fun and intriguing alternative Hip-Hop albums in history, created by Hip-Hop’s unlikeliest trendsetter.



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