YOLO? M.I.A Has Her Own ‘Motto’ On Matangi

M.I.A. uses Drizzy's popular anthem to touch on themes of reincarnation on her latest album Matangi.

M.I.A. reached back about 5, 000 years to find inspiration for her latest album Matangi naming the LP after the Hindu goddess of music, arts and spoken word, which happens to coincide with her rarely used birth name “Mathangi.” Still, there was definitely some pop culture inspiration in the creative process, courtesy of Toronto all-stars Drake and the Weeknd.

The Sri Lanka native explains that sonically Matangi is her most wide-ranging album, and also the most spiritual, since it pulled concepts from old traditions. The track “Y.A.L.A., (“You Always Live Again)” for example, refers to the Hindu belief in reincarnation, and it also serves as a response to “Y.O.L.O. (You Only Live Once)” which Drake made insanely popular with his late 2011 single “The Motto.”

M.I.A. actually credits Drizzy with helping her to find a way to make the song connect with fans. “I know people are making it like it’s an anti-Drake concept or whatever, but it’s not. Reincarnation is really old,” she told MTV News. “Politics had gotten really boring and I’d been through a lot of issues and concepts and felt like I understood it all, but then I had issues with putting it to my fans because it was a weird one.”

“[Reincarnation] is 5,000 years old and it’s a bit weird for people,” she added. “At first I didn’t know how the concept of Matangi even works in India, in the place where [it originated], so to bring it to the West and be like, ’There’s this concept that’s a bit weird’ was difficult. But if you believe in reincarnation, then there’s one way of doing it, which Snoop [Lion] did — you can reincarnate your character, or there’s reincarnation based on life, so I was playing with both of those things, based on the ability to change.”

So, no shots at Drake, but maybe Y.O.L.O. isn’t the final truth, then?

Elsewhere on the album, Drake’s pal and collaborator the Weeknd makes his own mark.

“I was exploring and as the album grew I realized it was a landscape of sound,” M.I.A. explained. “It wasn’t like Kala or any of my other albums where it was really a specific sound. It was an ode to everything that was good about music that I love, so it’s a retrospective of music — not particularly mine, but everyone’s–and the Weeknd was played a lot during the years I wrote this album so I guess it seeped in.”

She sampled the Weeknd’s vocals from “Lonely Star” on her album cuts “Exodus” and “Sexodus,” tapping his producer Doc McKinney to nail down the proper sound. “When I first heard [’Lonely Star’], I wanted to make a remix version but then the song grew,” she said. “I sang on top of the song, but when I heard it back it didn’t really make sense as a remix so it [became a] totally different concept, and then it grew into a full song.”

We probably shouldn’t expect a collaboration between the two anytime soon — “I don’t think I’m an R&B singer,” she said laughing, “So I don’t know if that would work, or I would even try to sing kind of in that vibe” — but the foundations are laid, at least.

Matangi is in stores now.

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