By: Tucker Cummings
July 17, 2013


Not to be confused with the German and American bands of the same name, the Tamil-British recording artist M.I.A. (Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, born 1975) is best known for the 2007 track “Paper Planes,” a global hit featuring a catchy blend of punk samples, cash register dings, and gunshots. The daughter of a political activist and engineer, Arulpragasam’s childhood in Sri Lanka was marked by both poverty and violence during the country’s civil war. After her school was destroyed in a raid, the family moved to the UK, where young Maya faced racial discrimination. Prior to beginning her musical career, she experimented with documentary filmmaking and visual arts. When she started performing, she took on her current moniker in tribute to a cousin who was missing in action. Her other pursuits include fashion design, activism, and philanthropy. Other celebs wear causes like costumes, changing them with the seasons: M.I.A.’s causes run through her body like blood. Blending highly political lyrics with infectious, upbeat rhythms, she is dedicated to creating art that is rooted in reality, not theory. Unpretentious, energetic, and rooted in a distinct point of view, M.I.A. has true musical depths… and it’s likely her best work is still to come.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Geezer Butler, Wong Kar-wai.

READ MORE about members of the Revivalist Generation (1974-82).


HiLo Heroes, Hip Hop, Music