Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #8 M.I.A. - Kala


Top 100 Albums of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one artist and continue every day until we unveil our #1 album of the decade!

Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.

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#8 MIA - Kala

Nobody quote me on this, but thank God for our idiotic American government! If they hadn’t botched M.I.A.’s visa, Timbaland would have gotten his puffy mitts on Kala and probably botched it. Man, I’ve riffed on Timbaland about four times in this Top 100 Album, and maybe the guy doesn’t deserve it here, but it’s hard to imagine Kala as anything other than a grabbag of global culture-crunching beats. His single effort on the bonus track – a sideways, slow spin on his usual style – was definitely welcome, but under the original plan to have Timbaland produce the bulk of Kala, it’s hard to imagine he could have kept pace with M.I.A.’s flexible delivery without staling by album’s end. Enter Visa problems, a world tour with Switch, tons of global flavor that Timbaland couldn’t have possibly matched. Kala is Kala by happy (at least on this end) accident, by spurning of America’s most wanted producer for something raw and, you know, innovative.

Kala is as political as Arular, but rawer, more directly confrontational in tone. There’s grit and confidence in the beats, and M.I.A.’s daring delivery turns blunt (“I put people on the map who ain’t never seen a map”). It adds up to an angle that kicks our ass instead of simply posturing toughness. Though her politics are muddled (what was that about your Hummer, Hummer?), there’s fresh passion behind those politics, something unmatched in hip hop on American soil. It’s in the grumbling “XR2” and the chirping, child’s play of “Mango Pickle Down River”: the crippling realization that someone who criticizes our culture may actually have a valid point we can’t dismiss with the sheer blinding glare of nationalistic pride. When she claims a “third-world democracy” on the omnipresent “Paper Planes,” we can’t help but notice that it’s an idea that sounds kind of nice. Too bad it's something we can't accomplish on our own. Just goes to show that enlightenment comes from listening to the ones we cast off. If you’re paying attention, M.I.A.’s Kala is your rawest savior.

- Phillip Taylor-Parker

Check back tomorrow for the next album! To see the full list of the Top 100 Albums of the Decade, click here.

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