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By ; August 12, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG


/\/\/\Y/\ Bonus Tracks
“Internet Connection” / “Illygirl” / “Believer” / “Caps Lock”

[N.E.E.T. / XL / Interscope; 2010]

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Even if you didn’t like /\/\/\Y/\, there’s no question of the force of the indictment M.I.A. puts forth of the album. This force is no less on “Internet Connection,” essentially a story someone with an internet connection that’s down, so they’re down. Silly as that may seem, I can recall many moments when being connected to the internet was like a piece of me was missing or suspended. I remember feeling a bit dejected. It’s by no means a sad song, but I imagine it’s a common story for more people than just me.

So, here we’ve arrived at one of M.I.A.’s primary arguments with the album: the common story of our generation. The second point she wants to hit is that her background as a Sri Lankan, which she does in “Illlygurl.” She raps on the title of the song as it melts into “Illegal.” Patriarchal and police brutality frame a portrait of a tough girl in the making.

I think what baffles me most about this record is that, while the rapper would like to lay something deep and uncomfortable in the ear of the listener, there are moments where the conventions of rap intrude on an otherwise decent listening experience: sexy beats and arrogance in spite of hardship. On “Believer,” she raps that, “If I’m coming from the streets/ Then I’m getting money/ But my ideas in the bank are worth plenty,” to a delicately sung chorus about a faith tried too many times. This is the classic tension in hip-hop: the struggle versus (typically male) power. The only thing innovative is that there’s a female as a subject within the struggle; otherwise, the tension degrades into a contradiction.

Another jarring moment that happens in that song specifically is the rap convention that sticks out like an ugly sweater: “If it’s got feet then, it’s on N.E.E.T./ Anything on N.E.E.T. has got that beat.” The plug usually a way to waste time on other singles and it’s no different here. Why it commands so much attention is that, in this album’s criticism of information control, consumerism, materialism and sinister advertisement, the rapper herself becomes a billboard.

I don’t damn M.I.A. for being a conventional rapper at certain points. That’s like damning the English major for enjoying comic books. It certainly doesn’t negate that she’s made an undeniably powerful album. Nevertheless, her vision seems to slip from her at certain points so her music degenerates into mediocrity and the expected. Similarly, “Caps Lock” is an ambiguously mournful jam about something heavy: “But I don’t wanna be deep on this beat/ But I can’t fucking let go of whats around me.” The rapper is self-prostrating, but true. The entire track is a dark room with little direction, but there is a desire to disclose something meaningful, rather than easy. In this, she has more successes than failures, and listening to her explore the expression herself is never easy, but proves to be rewarding to the patient listener.

“Internet Connection” 7/10 | “Illygirl” 5/10 | “Believer” 7/10 | “Caps Lock” 6/10

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