M.I.A, DeLon, and the Tamil Tigers

by Guest Contributor Joanna Eng, originally published at DJ Jojo

I heard from Sepia Mutiny’s post about M.I.A. getting “dissed” by DeLon, a new rapper of Sri Lankan descent. DeLon took M.I.A.’s most popular song, “Paper Planes,” called out her politics and support of the Tamil Tigers, and shows the “terrorist” side of that group. (You can see the disturbing video here.) [Ed. Note – Not safe for work. Or lunch. – LDP]

I don’t know enough about the situation in Sri Lanka to really make judgments. But DeLon’s video bothered me because he is employing exactly the same strategy that the Bush administration does: creating a dichotomy of good and evil, and using the word “terrorist” like it’s not subjective.

That said, I have always been a bit skeptical of M.I.A’s politics. Is she just projecting an irresistible (lucrative) image, or is she actually doing anything? When I went to her show at McCarren Pool in June, it made me a bit uncomfortable to be dancing around with a bunch of hipsters in Brooklyn while she has images of children from developing countries flashing across the back of the stage as her visual aids.

That’s part of the brilliance of M.I.A.’s whole persona. Her music, and the visual effects in her shows, and even her voice, are so flashy and noisy and chaotic. But I mean that in the best way possible. She seems to represent our generation of media-saturated, globalized, de-sensitized minds. And she is somehow able to shout over all the noise.

After the show, I was filled with energy for at least 24 hours. But it wasn’t noisy and aimless energy, like the energy the concert seemed to evoke. It was productive and creative and even peaceful energy; I remember I felt like writing all day after waking up the next morning. And that could be one small example of how art can make a difference. Of course she’s not going to change the plight of poor people by singing about it to a bunch of hipsters. But I do think there was something remarkable about that energy.

Going back to the “diss” I was initially talking about: It seems obvious that DeLon is doing this as a publicity stunt too. I guess that’s kind of the point of both politics and the music industry, though.

Maybe they can make peace and do a song together?

Latoya’s Note

Make sure to head over to Sepia Mutiny to check the conversation. Some samples:

35 · Sonali in New Orleans, HOLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAA! on August 6, 2008 07:39 PM · Direct link · “Quote”(?)

I have typed and retyped a response, with so many thoughts. Ultimately my point is this:

At the end of the day MIA is an artist. I really bloody good one. She is a refugee who suffered during her youth and ended up in England with a whole buncha other war-torn immigrants trying to make sense of their lives. I don’t think she necessarily has a responsibility to clarify her ideas as she expresses them. Isn’t it obvious? She was screwed out of a secure and safe childhood. She is a product of war and her art is a catharsis. I encourage anyone who reads this blog and has suffered DIRECTLY from the war chime in on this. Unfortunately, her catharsis took the world stage. She didn’t intend to be famous I am sure, it just happened and thats why there was a lot of backtracking. Nonetheless from a purely creative standpoint, she had nothing, manipulated her way into a prestigious art school as a visual artist, took on a medium she had no concept of, music, and commercially conquered it as well did something that NO OTHER ARTIST OUT THERE WAS DOING. Her sound was so fresh when it came out. And thats why she gets mad props FROM ARTISTS.

I am Sinhalese, and of course when she first came out I was all WTF?! But at least we are talking about it. And yes, terrorism is WRONG. But terrorists don’t become terrorists overnight. Perhaps if peaceful protest wasn’t so quickly squashed and ignored after independence, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in. That is not to justify the formation of the LTTE, but it is to say there is a deep rooted multi-faceted issue here that doesn’t just involve a simple “they’re wrong and they’re right” attitude. In addition, the SLA as well as the government are guilty of gross human rights violations, so much so that we were not re-elected to the Human Rights Council (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7413570.stm) We also intimidate journalists (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7487911.stm) Its one thing for a terrorist group to carry out such actions, but it is another for a government to do such things. That is government-sanctioned terrorism.

In any case, somebody is getting rich. Off both ends, and thats why we continue. Maybe weapons come from whities, but some brownie is the middle man. Both the LTTE and the governement have equally f*cked the people they “fight for”.

I can’t get mad at someone who is firstly an artist and secondly a emblem or spokesperson or whatever she is supposed to be for Tamils. I am sure she didn’t want to be. Perhaps she should accept responsibility or perhaps WE should take cues from this artistic expression and let it -simply- be an impetus to LEARN FOR OURSELVES. If you listen to a neon art school ghetto immigrant and think “Wow, fountain of political and historical knowledge” you are just stupid. And if hipster, fratster, and whatever other -ster kids believe the hype without research or questions then they were dumb to begin with and clearly have nothing of their own to fight for or believe in. If you don’t tune in and look into ideas for yourself, that can’t be helped, you know? Either way without a conscious questioning mind you are damned to be a sheep. Baaaahhh. Not my problem.

Nonetheless, Delon sucks. I mean he SUCKS. I wish someone of equal creative and charismatic force as MIA had made the Diss, cos then there could have been some REAL BEEF!!! But because Delon sucks, everyone will laugh at him. It’s terrible. Also, he is the embodiment of the S Asian American cliche—if I am not white I am black. At least MIA was her own weirdo.

AND this would be all the more believable if he wasn’t promoting himself at the end of the gruesome imagery. Thanks again Delon! Youre a douche!

RahulD on August 6, 2008 08:23 PM · Direct link · “Quote”(?)

35 · Sonali in New Orleans, HOLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

That is seriously one of the best comments I have seen on this site.

Onto the evaluation of Delon; I’m not really a fan or conniseur of rap other than owning “Follow the leader” and “Blackstar”, but without this video composed of other people’s images or another person’s musical riff…the song is not very smart or catchy…The salsa-rap is not-very (how do I put this…)good, but if he evolves and actually embraces the identity he is promoting…more power to him. But right now, as annoying as M.I.A’s music and half of her fans are, this guy is her Benzino…

40 · yeti on August 6, 2008 09:18 PM · Direct link · “Quote”(?)

He is making his voice heard throughout the global community that terrorism is NOT RIGHT!

Yes, because that message is really getting lost in the static. I, for one, was under the impression that terrorism is definitely the only way to solve problems, even small ones like when your neighbor doesn’t mow his lawn or when your kids won’t shut up.

I love that site.