“Sorrrrry,” M.I.A.’s been busy - very busy. So busy our interview happens 44 hours later than was originally scheduled. Maya Arulpragasam has valid reasons for living up to her stage name, though, she’s only just back in London after being marooned in the US for 18 months; “banned”, she says, from leaving. Maya is seen by the government of her native Sri Lanka as a dissident, publicly accusing them of “genocide” for their part in a 26-year civil war that ended last May. She claims they’ve been “pulling the strings” recently to make life difficult: disappearing visa applications and hacking into her Twitter and email accounts, “wishing all kinds of crazy illness on my baby and stuff like that”.
“People used to come and park outside my house in LA,” she says. “I felt so powerless”. Add in a mother alone and made sick by similar visa bullshit this side of the Atlantic, and it’d be churlish of NME to rue a few hours spent twiddling thumbs. It hasn’t been all espionage and irritation, though - there was the arrival of that aforementioned baby, son Ikhyd is a year old now - and a new album too. Due out this summer, the follow-up to 2007’s Kala sees M.I.A. hook-up with dub-step hoodlum Rusko and rekindle her creative relationship with Wes Pentz, aka ex-boyfriend Diplo, for the first time since ‘Paper Planes’ (“it’s OK now, but was awkward at first,” admits Maya, now engaged to Ikhyd’s father Benjamin Bronfman).
Last year also delivered an Oscar nomination for her music’s appearance in Slumdog Millionaire, while she’s recently signed Sleigh Bells and Blaqstarr to her own label, NEET. She also scooped a lot on Time magazine’s list of the ‘World’s 100 Most Influential People’, and this true star looks like she will continue to set the agenda into the next decade. We can’t wait to see what M.I.A. has in store for us…
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