Rapper M.I.A. Vs The New York Times: Food Fight!
M.I.A., the provocative British-Sri Lankan rapper, is famous for supporting righteous warfare in her highly-political lyrics. Now, she’s engaged in a pitched battle with a celebrity journalist over an unflattering profile that appeared in the New York Times Magazine.
This weekend, she hit back by posting to the Internet two secretly-made recordings of the interview that she claims proves the Times framed her.
Writer Lynn Hirschberg spent time with M.I.A. — famous for her hit ‘Paper Planes’ and more recently her controversial ‘Born Free’ video — in Los Angeles and London for the story. In it, she slammed the singer as politically naive and intellectually light-weight, albeit an original and creative artist.
In what has been been dubbed the “truffle kerfuffle,” Hirschberg depicted her enjoying truffled French fries at the swank Beverly Wilshire Hotel, while insisting she was an “outsider” concerned about the oppressed people in her ancestral Sri Lanka.
M.I.A. is especially vulnerable to questions of credibility because despite her image, her fiance and baby-daddy is Ben Bronfman, son of Warner Music Group head Edgar Bronfman Jr. and heir to a billion dollar fortune. Consequently, the singer lives in considerable luxury in the posh LA suburb of Brentwood. (In one especially wince-inducing part of the interview, M.I.A. implies she is in mortal danger from the residents of Santa Monica, since that pleasant beach-side community contains a large group of people from a different Sri Lankan ethnic group than her.)
In retaliation, M.I.A. (born Mathangi Arulpragasam, known to friends as Maya) tweeted Hirschberg’s personal cell phone number. The journalist at first said she wouldn’t bother to change her number, but was forced to after several days of harassment by irate fans.
So what was the big deal about the truffled fries? In M.I.A.’s recording, it is revealed that Hirschberg recommends them to her, as part of a mixed basket of three flavors, which the journalist, not M.I.A., actually ordered. M.I.A.’s point is that she’s not addicted to luxury food items while paying lip service to the world’s poor.
Also, some of the spoken quotes in the recording do not match their printed counterparts. Hirschberg has defended this by saying M.I.A. repeated the same things, using slightly different wording, many times.
So is M.I.A. quite as dumb as she’s depicted in the Times Magazine story? Well, if she’s proven one thing, it’s that she’s smart enough to wear a wire to an interview.