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Friday, April 6, 2012

"Paper Planes"

M.I.A. - "Paper Planes" (2007)

Yes, that song from the Pineapple Express trailer.

The song is easy to pigeonhole as the one with the shotgun and cash register sound during the chorus. It's also easy to say it's about weed, or it's about violence. What it is, is gangsta rap filtered through M.I.A.'s Sri Lankan dance influenced worldbeat and heavily bolstered by The Clash's "Straight to Hell". That driving guitar and drum beat with high pitched squeal that sounds like it's provided by an electric violin are all The Clash. Whether M.I.A. and her producers re-recorded it or just remixed it isn't important, that's the baseline. Much like a section of that song was looped to produce the base of this song, "Paper Planes" was sampled and looped to create the base for "Swagga Like Us" by T.I. and Jay-Z featuring Kanye West and Lil Wayne. The oddest feature of the song is that each and every verse gets repeated. It's almost like old church style, where you don't have the missal so the cantor has to sing a line and then sings it again with you.

M.I.A. has said that the song is supposed to reference the immigrant experience. Aside from the line about getting caught on the border I don't really hear it. Even that line can be interpreted as being a criminal; having multiple false visas is a sign of drug dealers as well as illegal immigrants. Almost every other line: "/bona fide huslter making my name/" "/Pirate skulls and bones/Sticks and stones and weed and bombs/" "/We pack and deliver like UPS trucks/" "/Yeah, I got more records than the K.G.B./" "Some some some I some I murder/ Some I some I let go/" (Arulpragasam) represents crime and pride in doing it well. I'm not against songs that glorify violence and criminal behavior per se, but at least cop to it. Don't try to tell me your song about how right your crew is, is actually about the worldwide immigrant and how they are perceived.

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