M.I.A.’s VMA-Nominated ‘Bad Girls’ Clip Gave Crash Course On ‘Hagwalah’

Singer introduces U.S. to Middle Eastern method of drifting and makes a political statement on the clip, up for Video of the Year at tonight's show.

It was impossible to predict what [artist id="1803648"]M.I.A.[/artist] and director Romain Gavras could come up with after their explosive and controversial clip for “Born Free,” but they tapped into a pretty fresh video idea for the singer’s “Bad Girls” anthem. Maya Arulpragasam decided to introduce Middle Eastern drifting, or hagwalah, to the masses, earning herself a nod for Video of the Year at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards.

Set in the Moroccan city of Ouarzazate, Gavras picked the perfect dusty and deserted backdrop to showcase risky car stunts like two-wheel drifting. Although drifting on two wheels is popular in countries like Saudi Arabia, it’s rare for American viewers to see stunts like these Outside of franchise films like “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.”

Ryan Friedlinghaus, CEO of the infamous West Coast Customs car shop, can’t be easily impressed after years in the business, but admits that he was caught off guard by the video. “It’s crazy, because I’ve seen all of it first hand in the Middle East — I travel there a lot for my shop in Dubai — but people in the U.S. don’t see this type of two-wheel driving and crazy stuff they do out there besides on YouTube.”

Friedlinghaus is right. Grainy videos taken on cell phones or small recording devices are the most exposure that M.I.A.’s American fans typically had to hagwalah before she dropped the video. And grainy video could never properly capture some of the stunts she highlights, plus tricked-out cars like the see-through Peugeot 404 wagon with an LED lit bottom.

“It’s pretty awesome to see it live, it definitely shows a different type of style and driving skills,” Friedlinghaus said, adding, “I’m glad they showed it in the video so people can see how different cultures still customize and have unbelievable driving skills.”

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The Middle Eastern women, covered up to their eyes in traditional wear, but dripping in trendy accessories — leather gloves, sunglasses and statement — jewelry didn’t hurt either. M.I.A. even makes some political commentary by featuring women behind the wheel in her video. (Over the past few months women in Saudi Arabia have been protesting the ban on female driving.)

Does M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” video have what it takes to nab the award for Video of the Year? Tune in to the MTV Video Music Awards tonight to find out! It all starts with the VMA pre-show at 7 p.m. before the Kevin Hart-hosted main show starts at 8 p.m.

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A native of Grenada, a product of Brooklyn, a student of hip-hop.
@neweryork