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M.I.A. Biography

Home > Music > M > M.I.A. > Biography

Birth Name: Mathangi Arulpragasam
Born: 1975/07/17
Years Active: 2000–present
Genres: Alternative Hip Hop, Hip Hop, Electro, Electro Hop, Electronic Dance, World, Funk Carioca

M.I.A. (born Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, July 18, 1975), is a British born Sri Lankan Tamil songwriter, record producer, singer, rapper, fashion designer, visual artist, and political activist. M.I.A.'s early compositions relied heavily on the Roland MC-505 sequencer/drum machine, while later styles have created layered textures of instruments, electronics and unusual sound samples. A noted philanthropist and activist for many causes, her activism has been met with both appreciation and criticism. In 2002, she received an Alternative Turner Prize nomination for her art, and has been recognized for her work as a music video director, graphic and fashion designer.

M.I.A. began her career as a visual artist and film-maker, and moved into making music after filming a documentary on the band Elastica in 2001. The band's lead singer, Justine Frischmann, lent her a Roland MC-505 sequencer/drum machine which she used to make a demo tape that secured her a contract with British label XL Recordings.

M.I.A.'s first album, “Arular,” was initially scheduled to be released in September 2004, but the release was delayed by six months due to problems with the clearance of samples used in the songs. She released two singles and a mixtape in the interim. Although the album had limited commercial success, it was highly regarded by music critics for its blending of genres such as grime, hip hop, ragga and Brazilian baile funk, and for its politicized lyrics. The album was nominated for the Mercury Prize in the United Kingdom.

Her second album, “Kala,” was released in 2007 along with the single “Boyz” and was also praised by critics, drawing more extensively from African, Tamil and Caribbean music. It proved much more commercially successful than her debut, reaching #18 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart in the U.S. and entering the Top 40 of the U.K. Albums chart. “Paper Planes,” a track from the album, proved to be M.I.A.'s breakthrough hit and was nominated for Record of the Year at the 51st Grammy Awards. The song appeared on the soundtrack of the 2008 film “Slumdog Millionaire” along with "O... Saya", a song written specifically for the film by M.I.A. and A. R. Rahman. The song, which appeared on the film's soundtrack album but not on an M.I.A. studio album, was released on M.I.A.'s own label N.E.E.T. and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 81st Academy Awards.

Her third album, “Maya,” was released in 2010 soon after the song-film short “Born Free.” In its first week of release, the album entered the U.K. Albums chart at #21, becoming her highest-charting album in the U.K. It also became her highest-charting album in the U.S, reaching #9 on the Billboard 200, and debuted in the Top 10 in Finland, Norway, Greece and Canada. The album also topped Billboard's Dance/Electronic Albums chart. The single “XXXO” reached the Top 40 in Belgium, Spain and the U.K., and “Teqkilla” entered the Canadian Hot 100 on digital downloads alone.