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M.I.A: Is She Made of Hero DNA, or the Same Rubbish as Us?

Posted on : 28-05-2010 | By : Chikodi Chima | In : Media Criticism

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Successful musicians have a lot in common with professional athletes; they live and die by public perception. A long, prosperous career is something of a miracle.

Just to make it to the big show is to surmount frightening odds. History is littered with one-hit wonders and first round draft picks who never quite found their stroke. Why did Guns-N-Roses only produce one good album? Why didn’t Ricky Williams ever shine as a pro quarterback? To be the real deal—- Jordan sinking the the buzzer beater, Beckham nailing the set piece, Usher bringing an audience to tears—-this is why we worship heroes. They’re one in a billion, made from different stuff than us.

British performer M.I.A (real name Maya Arulpragasam) was to treated to a real stinger today when this week’s installment of The New York Times Magazine went live. Not given to hero worship, writer Lynn Hirschberg, in her 8,5000 word profile, either fired the opening salvo in an attempted career assassination, or she penned the kind of press that acknowledges a new superstar has reached the pantheon.

That's the M.I.A. thang!

Traveling with the artist to L.A., New York and London as she wrapped up work on her most recent, album Hirschberg unpacks M.I.A.’s craft (a penchant for recombination), her collaborative nature (manipulating bulldozer) and perhaps most damning, her haphazard adherence to revolutionary principles regarding the Sri Lankan civil war. It’s hard not to take sides, but by most accounts, Hirschberg’s piece was an ego thrashing. What is M.I.A made of?

Even as a fan of M.I.A, I was impressed by Hirschberg’s craft and her attention to detail. Weaving together a narrative with rich details, sounds and colors, I felt as though I was bumping through LA gridlock or walking the streets of London on a cold, clammy day. When she spoke to people who know Maya, she gathered opinions that were far-ranging, authentic and insightful. Furthermore, with NY Times bona fides, Hirschberg had access to Interscope Records CEO, Jimmy Iovine, Maya’s old boyfriend, Diplo, and scores of others.