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Maya Arulpragasam might not be a name on everyone’s lips, but with “Paper Planes” now a breakout smash, pop’s artful revolutionary mouths off about becoming a mother, “polluting” the mainstream, and her surprising new family ties.
M.I.A. is pregnant. And not just with revolutionary ideas for her next record. The British-Sri Lankan vocalist/visual artist/producer/record-label founder/clothing designer, born Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, is due to give birth in February, and despite what you may have read online, it’s not Kanye‘s baby. (Daddy is indie-rock guitarist Benjamin Brewer, son of Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr.) As for the sex of the child? She’s pretty sure she knows, because, well, a clairvoyant bird told her. “In India, they have these parrots who tell your fortune,” says M.I.A., lowering herself into a folding chair at the spartan home studio of her Los Angeles–based production partner Switch. She’s in town to do some work on her next record and hear a new Jay-Z remix of her track “Boyz.” “They come and pick up cards for you. The guy who read my cards said, ‘When you were born, your parents thought you’d be a boy, so you came out with a lot of male energy. You can do a lot of things that men can do. You’re brave, like a dude.’ There’s a lot of male energy in me that needs to be exorcised, that’s how I know it’s gonna be a boy.”
Forget seeking advice from Madonna’s ob-gyn, because M.I.A. has her own unorthodox ideas on how to proceed, and that’s what makes her recent commercial success all the more remarkable. Nearly a year and a half after the release of her critically acclaimed second album, Kala, the 31-year-old is grabbing the attention of a public who should consider her culture-jamming ways far too weird. Go ahead — try to think of an artist who’s combined Baltimore club beats, separatist slogans, Bollywood homages, multilingual slang, Clash samples, and vivid refugee tales on one album and made it out of her bedroom, let alone onto a major label or high on the Billboard charts? Unlike her peers, many of whom still sound staunchly rooted in the prosperous Clinton years (Gwen and Missy among them), M.I.A. clearly lives in our post-NAFTA/9-11/Abu Ghraib/AIG world.
“Oh So Fabulous!!”