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M.I.A. (Buy CDs by this artist)
Arular (Beggars Banquet) 2005

"Galang," the debut single from the London-based Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A. (Maya Arulpragasam), exploded like a bomb in the marketplace in 2004. A politically aware mix of sassy vocals, wheezing and blipping synths and samples, and a defiant, self-confident stance, "Galang" was completely irresistible. Arular, her full-length debut, lives up to the single's promise — and then some. Crossing borders to plunder hip-hop, dub and many other genres ("Bucky Done Gun" makes inventive use of "Gonna Fly Now," the theme from Rocky), M.I.A. stitches it into a dizzying sonic crazy-quilt to support her global revolution- endorsing lyrics. Arular (named after M.I.A.'s father, a member of the Tamil Tiger guerilla group) is Sandinista! for the third millennium. "Fire, Fire" includes shoutouts to Lou Reed, the Beasties, Missy Elliott and Timbaland, while "Sunshowers" demonstrates she can sing as well as she raps. This is probably as close as anyone has yet come to achieving the visions of revolutionary global pop once advanced by the Clash and Afrika Bambaataa; it's equally enlightening to urban street kids and university eggheads. Somewhere in ether, Joe Strummer is raving about this album to Tupac, John Lennon and Bob Marley.

[Brad Reno]