This 36-minute mixtape, released for freebie download on New Year's Eve, proves that the industrial-noise diddling of M.I.A.'s 2010 album, Maya, was no fluke. The Sri Lankan rapper still avoids anything as pop-friendly as her 2008 hit "Paper Planes," going instead for the agitprop electro-bleep high jinks that made Maya such a polarizing (yet rewarding) album. With production from her usual cohorts (Diplo, Blaqstarr, Switch, Rusko), Vicki Leekx has playful snippets like "Marsha/ Britney" and the romantic "Let Me Hump You." But "Bad Girls" is her most undeniable tune in years, with Bollywood beats, scratchy synth strings and M.I.A.
M.I.A. is coming off of a pretty brutal year, what with a string of PR disasters and /\/\/\Y/\, her abrasive, disheartening clang of an album. As a self-consciously confrontational experiment in all-out agitprop and industrial sonic overload, that record had snarl and ambition but little of the sassy snap and sidelong force of her first two classics, Arular and Kala.
According to M.I.A.‘s Twitter Feed, she’s been going by the name “Vicki(y) Leekx” since late November or so. At that point, it felt like yet another one of her all but trademarked non-political political statements, a pun built on a reference to something political that allows her to acknowledge political controversy without really taking a side. It’s one of the many aspects of her personality that came under fire in 2010, a specific instance of her need to come off as confrontational without actually sparking confrontation on anything deeper than a purely personal level.
If nothing else, M.I.A. sounds like she’s having fun again. “Sounds like” is the operative phrase here: Say what you will about Maya‘s poverty of hooks, but I have little doubt that Ms. Arulpragasam took as much bratty delight in unleashing that alienating avantronica sound collage as she did in leaking Lynn Hirschberg’s digits.
Some thought M.I.A.’s last installment, ///Y/, was a complete and utter failure (we did…). Others weren’t so harsh (Stereogum’s Brandon Stosuy made a particularly compelling argument about why it wasn’t all that bad). But no matter your opinion of ///Y/, we can all agree that M.I.A. had a rough year in 2010.