[artist id="1803648"]M.I.A.[/artist] has made it crystal clear that she didn’t take kindly to her portrayal in last week’s New York Times Magazine profile. First, she Twitter-tacked by posting the phone number of the piece’s author, journalist Lynn Hirschberg, and over the Memorial Day weekend, she escalated the battle by posting excerpts of the interview on her label’s website and dropping a biting dis track, “I’m a Singer.”
Over a slow-rolling, elastic beat, M.I.A. appears to take direct aim at Hirschberg, rapping, “And the story’s always f—ed by the time it hits/ Why the hell would journalists be thick as sh–/ Cuz lies equals power equals politics.” The sing-songy chorus of the spare, electro tune claims, “I’m a singer/ Never said anything else/ I didn’t lie to you/ Thinkin’ of somebody else,” adding, “You can talk sh– to me I’m used to it/ You can make me hard with the wounds that I have to lick/ You can pick on me and I can see it at a click.”
After promising to publish an “unedited” version of the interview this weekend, so far M.I.A. has only posted two provocative clips under the headline “War Crimes and French Fries.” In one, a woman who appears to be Hirschberg (identified as “NYT interviewer”) can be heard excitedly greeting the artist and then elaborately ordering french fries, while the other clip (labeled “Interviewee”) contains a quote that’s an apparent reaction to a question about M.I.A.’s attempts to shed light on the dire political situation in Sri Lanka. “It wasn’t about me, and me getting to the Oscars,” she is heard saying in the clip. “Or me going to the Grammys. That doesn’t mean anything. The whole point of that journey was so you can go, ‘Hey, 50,000 people are going to die next month, here’s your opportunity to help, and no one did. And they still died! It wasn’t about accolades or fame.”
Though the diss track is labeled “New Song!!!” and alludes to the U.S. Army allegedly spying on M.I.A. because of her political beliefs and other injustices against the singer based on her public comments, other than the dig about thick legs, it does not make any other identifiable references to the Hirschberg flap. It was not clear at press time if the tune was recently recorded in direct response to the Times piece, or if it was originally intended for M.I.A.’s upcoming album /\/\/\Y/\.
The whole thing got started after M.I.A. took issue with some of the reporting veteran journalist Hirschberg did in the story. In it, Hirschberg debunked the rapper’s claims that she hasn’t seen her father in years, contacted the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum to balance out her version of the country’s war against the Tamil Tiger military group, pointed out that the singer lives in “very white, very wealthy Brentwood [California]” with her fiancé, Ben Bronfman — and, in the process, painted a less-than-flattering portrait of the artist born Maya Arulpragasam.
Angry about the tone of the piece, the singer posted Hirschberg’s phone number on her Twitter page, writing, “Call me if you wanna talk to me about the NYT truth issue, I’ll [be] taking calls all day bitches.”
Hirschberg, ever the pro, handled the stunt with cutting humor, telling The New York Observer that she found M.I.A.’s tactic “infuriating and not surprising. … She’s a provocateur, and provocateurs want to be provocative.” She added, “The messages have mostly been from people trying to hook up with M.I.A. … If she wants to get together with John at Bard next week, I have his number.”
M.I.A. first took issue with the Times in January, when the paper included Sri Lanka in its “The 31 Places to Go in 2010″ story two days after running a piece with the headline “Video of Sri Lankan Executions Appears Authentic, U.N. Says.” At the time, M.I.A. tweeted, “F— New York Times. Do you think you need to go here on vacation?”
The Hirschberg flap also comes on the heels of the release of the controversial, violent first video from the album, “Born Free,” a commentary on immigration raids and genocide in which a 12-year-old boy is shot in the head.