With politically provocative lyrics set to category-defying beats, M.I.A.’s innovative music is ushering in the future of pop. Born in London, she moved to her parents’ native Sri Lanka as a child, only to return at the age of nine as Sri Lanka was torn by an ethnic civil war. Originally a filmmaker and an artist, M.I.A. began to develop her own tracks after experimenting with a drum machine. It wasn’t long before she became an underground sensation by rapping about prostitution and the Tamil Tigers over a blend of hip-hop, Bollywood, and club beats.

She became a favorite of music bloggers and DJs after a small record label released just 500 copies of her single “Galang.” M.I.A. soon signed with XL Recordings, and she headlined the South by Southwest Music Festival before her critically acclaimed debut album, Arular, was even released. In 2007, M.I.A. released her second album, Kala. The album’s globe-trotting tracks were recorded in India, Australia, Trinidad, and Japan.