On Arular, Sri Lankan Londoner M.I.A. (Maya Arulpragasam) speaks in dizzying multinational slang over beats jury-rigged from U.S. hip hop, dancehall riddim tracks, mech-tech weirdness and the hyper-amateur thrill of South American baile funk. In “Bingo,” steel drums compete with spluttering laser beams and thumping bass. The lyrics of “Pull Up the People” have a political corollary like most of Arular, but its beats make the grander statement. “Bucky Done Gun,” too, is a taunt worthy of the political playground or global dancefloor. But as M.I.A. drops double entendres like “I’m hot now you’ll see/I’ll fight you just to get peace,” producer Diplo fuels his addictive electro pulse with the Rocky theme’s brassy fanfare. In 2004, “Galang” turned peer-to-peer networks into sticky summer street jams and it’s no less potent here, perforating your living room with call and response phrasing and quivering rhythms. “Hombre,” meanwhile, finds M.I.A. in Missy Elliot mode, flirting slyly over a deceptively simple track. She was an overbuzzed sensation before her first single hit, the face of a fascinating and borderless new sound. But Arular’s gut-flip beats legitimately convert M.I.A.’s Internet chatter into real-time booty currency. How can we dance when the blogs are burning? Press play.
Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].