Reviewed by Robert Gabriel, Fri., March 18, 2005
Elysium, Thursday, March 17
Fresh off of a jet from London, M.I.A. fired mortar rounds of politically charged bass just above the heads of those braving the gauntlet of the Elysium door patrol. "I got the bombs to make you blow, I got the beats to make you bang" became much more than an empty claim as Diplo backed his Sri Lankan darling with instrumental snippets from Sean Paul, Petey Pablo, and Dead Prez interspersed between riddims from her debut album Arular. While M.I.A. only marginally proved herself as an adept MC capable of captivating a crowd with a wicked flow, the idea that she encompasses the realization of Afrika Bambaataa's vision of a unified global hip-hop mutes such petty criticism. Catchy hooks and a revolutionary spirit trump verbal mechanics within such vicious arrays of unyielding boggle, and of course looking so damned good doing it doesn't hurt her cause one bit. Rifling through a nine-song repertoire that included "Pull Up the People," "Fire Fire," "Sunshowers," "$10," "Amazon," and her break-out 2004 hit "Galang," M.I.A. allowed her adoring public to persuade her into a rare SXSW encore. Bridging the gap between stereotypically sexist strains of Southern crunk/Jamaican dancehall, and the carefully devised strategies of Public Enemy-inspired rap, the formula for intelligent fun on a dance floor is mighty comfortable resting in the pocket of M.I.A.'s swerving butterfly. While too many folks were left standing in line outside, the perfectly positioned rebel in permanent exile did everything within her power to justify her combustible media hype.