Piracy Funds Superstardom

Photo by Matt OttoM.I.A.

With two back-to-back gigs opening for Gwen Stefani at the Arrowhead Pond looming just a few months away, M.I.A.'s set at the Glass House seemed more a farewell bash than the Sparks-fueled scenester love-ins that had been typical of the London by-way-of Sri Lanka style guru/hip-hop savant's SoCal gigs. Oh, sure, Dim Mak founder/omnipotent tastemaker Steve Aoki was there—with Mark the Cobra Snake, his hipsterazzi sidekick, too—but even as the see-and-be-seens alternated between self-conscious head-bopping and uninhibited shit-shaking, there was an inescapable doomsday vibe permeating the thick, fog machine-d air.

For the past year, it was obvious to anyone who heard even the tiniest clip from M.I.A.'s single, “Galang”—and guess what? Thanks to those Honda Civic commercials, you did!—that Maya Arulpragasam wasn't long for the underground hip-hop/indie-kids-in-the-know world. Today, M.I.A.'s name remains maybe six months away from being namechecked alongside Missy Elliott and Timbaland (ed. note: already done in last week's Get Out!)—she already guested on Missy's latest—and even she admits in this month's Jane that she won't really let herself think about how life will change after the Stefani tour.

Which is all well and good; but for M.I.A.'s ear-to-the-ground fans—who first heard of her a year or more ago, and who've been in the front row at every one of her SoCal gigs since—the Glass House show was an opportunity to say so long: so long to her refugee-themed, mini shanty-town stage (featuring a papier-mch helicopter and palm tree); so long to her unrepentant political pot-stirring—”I'm just an aj-it-tate-tor,” she enunciated in her far-from-proper English accent, “not a leader”; and so long to, well, all the good times she's given us.

“I'd like to thank all my fans . . . who've been here . . . since the beginning,” she announced slowly shortly before closing her set, her tone suggesting that we were all in on the same joke: next year, her voice will provide the soundtrack to every frat party and limo ride up to LA. But tonight, she was all ours. Have fun at the Pond, dear.

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