For those who wondered in 2010 what had become of M.I.A.’s once seemingly unerring pop instincts, ViCKi LEEKX–the free mixtape she released in the middle of the night on New Year’s Eve–provides a provisional answer: she did it all on purpose. Putting out your new mixtape at the precise hour the internet is least read–maybe even throughout the entire year–is an intentional act, one designed not to feed the online content machines that chewed her up this year but to use the waning hours of 2010 to throw a few more shots their way. We all probably deserve it.
M.I.A.’s critical 2010 redemption is already well underway, and should be. If ///Y/ was a failure, it wasn’t of the kind it was being described as in the press, and it’s hardly her fault that her audience was expecting “Paper Planes” when she had something far more challenging and abrasive in mind. ViCKi LEEKX, a mixtape with a relative abundance of hooks and the sibilant, defiant rapping of her earlier LPs, probably would’ve done better commercially, had she released it instead. But she didn’t. So is this a redo or a mere gloating demonstration of the fact that she can sound more sonically palatable whenever she feels like it?
We’re going with the latter. ViCKi LEEKX isn’t actually all that user friendly–the beats are more linear, maybe, but the glossy, tech’d-out, Auto-Tuned uninterrupted rave of the single track that makes up the mixtape is as bizarre as anything else M.I.A. has ever released. Plus the amount of hatred here (directed, often, at the same domestic targets ///Y/ took on) is kind of astonishing: “Imitators, haters, and some psychos/But what I hate most is bitches who are fame hoes”; “Your style is straight wack/Off a magazine rack”; “You want to be the next big thing/Do anything, but you can’t sing”; “You want high fashion so you went to fashion high/Coke’ll get you talking/Much of it a fucking lie”; “Your shoes could feed a village you should think about that”; and our favorite verse here:
Got myself a calling card, America is free!
It’s ten cents a minute after 59 free
30 minutes spent on calling baby daddy
I got ten spent on haters with the lawyers after me
Ten for my rapper friend called Nicki
I had nine left for somebody to talk to me
And then just in case you had any doubt she’s talking about Nicki Minaj–with whom she has collaborated–the track immediately interpolates a bit of Minaj’s “Monster” verse: With a bad bitch that came from Sri Lanka. M.I.A. is definitely that.
“Meds and Feds,” “Steppin’ Up,” and a handful of other ///Y/ album tracks and outtakes get thrown back into the mix here (usually in slightly more friendly–or more frenzied, anyway–configurations), as do snatches of other people’s songs, and if this tape was released by an unknown artist half the internet would probably be knocking down her door right now. As it is, M.I.A.’s second well-crafted, pointy, punk-as-fuck release of 2010 (or is her first of 2011?) seems to be meeting with relative bemusement and a fusillade of noncommittal links to her website. She deserves better. Again.