Controversial London-born rapper/political activist M.I.A – aka Mathangi Arulpragasam – tackles the refugee crisis in the music video for her new song “Borders.” The track is the second single from her forthcoming fifth album Matahdatah, and aims to draw awareness to the global crisis of people displaced by wars. The self-directed video finds the artist performing in front of refugees who are climbing barbed wire fences and crammed next to each other on boats.
“I want to dedicate this video to my uncle Bala, my icon and role model,” she wrote on Twitter Friday morning. “One of the first Tamil migrant[s] to come to the UK in the ’60s who went [on] to inspire so many people as a creative, daring man…”
“Borders” sees her ask,”Borders/What’s up with that?” and “Broke people/What’s up with that/Boat people/What’s up with that?” and “Your privilege, what’s up with that?” MIA is also not here for those always on the #TurnUp either, as the lyrics also include: “Being bae/What’s up with that?” and “Being lit/What’s up with that?”
The main chorus of the song goes, “Guns blows door to the system, yeah, f**k ’em when we say we’re not with them/We solid and we don’t need to kick them/This is North, South, East and Western.”
The track is set to that intoxicating Eastern sound fans have become familiar with in her style, and it comes on the heels of the tragic terrorist attack in Paris, which resulted in 130 people dead and “prompted France to call for the suspension of open borders within Europe,” NME notes.
Known for mashing globally-aware lyrics with intoxicating dance beats, MIA caught her big break in 2004 when her unfinished demos landed her a deal with XL records, and while recording her debut LP, she met aspiring DJ-producer Wesley “Diplo” Pentz, and they would go on to have a volatile, romantic and professional relationship. Earlier this year, she spoke to Rolling Stone about the jealously and control he had over her career.
“When I got signed by Interscope, he literally smashed my hotel room and broke all the furniture because he was so angry I got picked up by a major label and it was the corniest thing in the world that could possibly happen. And then Missy Elliott called me for the first time in 2005 to work with me on her record, and I’m sure we had a massive fight about that.”
She went on the explain to the publication how Diplo thought she was selling out by collaborating with mainstream artists.
“The fact that I was talking to anyone who was, like, popular. I wish I enjoyed it because I had this person on my shoulder the whole time saying, “You shouldn’t be on the charts. You shouldn’t be in the magazines and you should not be going to interviews. You should not be doing collaborations with famous people. You should be an underground artist.”
The world I talked about ten years ago is still the same. that’s why it’s hard for me to say it again on a newLP. can u just play the old1.
— M.I.A (@MIAuniverse) November 18, 2015
Since rising to prominence, chart-topping M.I.A has been nominated for an Academy Award, two Grammy Awards and the Mercury Prize. However, an unfortunate encounter with media mogul Oprah Winfrey in 2009 would result in a years-long industry blacklist, and the media labeling her a “terrorist.”
At a TIME magazine afterparty for “Most Influential People,” M.I.A. — of Sri Lankan descent — approached Oprah to discuss the country’s civil war in hopes that she would use her platform and influence to help bring awareness to the refugee crisis, instead, M.I.A recalled how Oprah shut her down after a photo-op, and ignited the media’s “terrorist” attack against the performer.
“She took that photo of me, but she was just like, ‘I can’t talk to you because you’re crazy and you’re a terrorist.’ And I’m like,'”I’m not. I’m a Tamil and there are people dying in my country and you have to like look at it because you’re f****ing Oprah and every American told me you’re going to save the world.'”
M.I.A.’s politics are a constant focus in both her music and interviews, and as the “only Tamil in the western media” she says it’s her responsibility to say “what is going on” in the country.
M.I.A. has made the entire “Borders” video available to watch via Apple Music, below:
[Images via Twitter]