World Beat For the Masses

Kala (Interscope Records)

By Kory Wilcoxson

Equal parts rap album, international beat summit and political rant, Kala, the second album from M.I.A., continues the artist's trailblazing path across music's global landscape.

M.I.A.'s own journey mirrors her musical leanings. The London-born Sri Lanka resident was denied entry into the U.S. after some visa issues, so instead she traveled the world, ending up with recordings from diverse locations like Australia, Trinidad and Japan.

Most of the tracks on Kala are more sound collisions than songs. Listen closely and you'll hear tribal drums, lilting synthesizers and unconventional dance-floor beats. And somehow, M.I.A. and her producers make it all work. Instead of purposeless noise, songs like "Boyz" and "Bamboo Banga" are energetic cacophonies that reflect the increasingly shrinking and violent world in which we live.

Kala is not without its flaws (the Timbaland-produced "Come Around" is just too ordinary alongside groundbreaking tracks like "World Town,") but no one can criticize M.I.A. for simply following a formula. Even if you disagree with her fuzzy politics or don't warm to her mediocre rapping, you can't say you've heard something like this before.

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