After somewhat of a flunking Maya, MIA is back in the music scene with a brand new album for the world to enjoy and criticize. Mantagi was officially released on November 1st under her own label N.E.E.T. Recordings. Mantagi features artist The Weeknd on two tracks, and was produced mainly by longtime collaborator Switch.
MIA never fails to enlighten the scene with a fun and controversial piece of pure art. Her new record is a tasteful compilation of ethnic and spiritual vibes, infused with hip-hop, electronica and dancehall. When these worlds collide, you get an MIA trademark, which is both charismatic and independent from typical pop.
For inspiration, MIA looked to Hindu Goddess of music and the arts, Mantagi, and consequentially named the record after her. Within a 15-song tracklist, MIA manages to prove that the whole world is her influence and concurrently her audience, breaking genre boundaries, sampling both Eastern and Western instruments and referencing pop-culture.
“Karmageddon” and “Warriors” both begin with sampling the soft-pitched Asia
n instrument, the pipa. “Karmageddon” leads into a relaxed, trance-like rhythm with underlying falsetto vocals and whispering leads. MIA finishes with cutting the instrumental and reciting, “My words are my armor and you’re about to meet your karma.” MIA implies that her lyrics and her music make her impervious to criticism, and this album is yet another response to the general public.
“Warriors” takes a different route, utilizing heavy bass synths and tribal drums while MIA raps. One of her first lines reads, “Top dog even though I don’t speak English.” Once again MIA is mocking her critics. But she plays with a double entendre, as she purposefully recites the line with a heavy Asian accent. She is referring to her music being unique and not “American” or typically “English”, like other Western rappers. Despite this fact she is still one of the scene’s most valuable players. She continues with this theme as she sings “Gangsters, bangers we’re puttin’ them in a trance” before the instrumental dives into a purely ethnic and spiritually enveloping breakdown.
“Exodus” and “Sexodus”, a matching pair of tracks featuring the Weeknd, produce a much more atmospheric and ambient sound. With the use of harmonies, falsettos and 808’s The Weeknd’s touch is explicit. His songwriting nicely complements MIA’s accent, as she takes advantage of these tracks to show off her pipes. But the breakdown hits home with bongo drumming and the sample of a helicopter flying overhead. The tribal percussion and unique sampling reference MIA’s childhood experiences, as she lived in Sri-Lanka during the civil war.
Mantagi symbolizes freedom and expression, which is rare not only in the music scene, but in society as a whole. A fearless songwriter, MIA does not mask her identity. Instead, she uses it as a way to expand and complicate her musicianship. Her track record is incomparably unique and unorthodox, which has worked mostly in her favor. As a true artist and pioneer of sound, she never fails to entertain.