Why Is M.I.A. So Obsessed With Sell-Outs?

Last month M.I.A. went after Lady Gaga for selling out. In a new interview, she says "I don't want to say Jay-Z sold out, but..." Is this about her marriage to the nepotistic son of a music industry billionaire?

Discussing the Jay-Z vs. Nas rivalry of yore, M.I.A. comes down on the side of the man with less money:

Jay became the biggest representation of rap music who's still alive, started dating Beyoncé—everything was so much bigger and better with Jay-Z. I hope people don't think that that wins. The fact that Nas didn't become all this sort of stuff changes people's perception about the music and the work he achieved in his lifetime. I don't wanna say Jay-Z sold out, but I just feel like we have to wait another 10 years to see what happens. Jay-Z's ambition was to become like Frank Sinatra, a household name all over the planet, and own a casino in Vegas and stuff like that. And I think Nas was really sticking to knowledge. I still think the biggest point about hip-hop is in there somewhere, what happens to those two artists.

She appears to be trying to explain the difference between a personal branding juggernaut and a plain ol' musician. So in that sense, she isn't calling Jay-Z a sell-out, just a capitalist egomaniac. (Which is true!) This seems to be the same problem she has with Lady Gaga, whom she brought up multiple times during an interview with NME:

Lady Gaga plugs 15 things in her new video. Dude, she even plugs a burger! [...] Again, there'd Lady Gaga—people say we're similar, that we both mix all these things in the pot and spit them out differently, but she spits it out exactly the same! None of her music's reflective of how weird she wants to be or thinks she is. She models herself on Grace Jones and Madonna, but the music sounds like 20-year-old Ibiza music, you know? She's not progressive, but she's a good mimic. She sounds more like me than I fucking do! That's a talent and she's got a great team behind her, but she's the industry's last stab at making itself important—saying, "You need our money behind you, the endorsements, the stadiums. Respect to her, she's keeping a hundred thousand people in work." But my belief is: Do it yourself.

After M.I.A.'s attack on Jay-Z, Complex's interviewer turns the conversation to husband Ben Bronfman, the son of a billionaire media mogul,, who now controls his own music label. Asked how she feels about her husband "coming from money," M.I.A. admits, "I think it's still sort of weird."

Complex: Are you worried about it [Ben's money] changing you?
M.I.A.: No, 'cause it's not like I've changed my lifestyle. It's more about Ikhyd; I don't want him to be comfortable. I'm always going to travel and be open to the world and people, and I want Ikhyd to have a firsthand experience of it all and not just go to a really amazing posh school and learn it. And Ben lets me do it how I want to do it.

Maybe, now that she's a rich lady and music industry juggernaut unto herself, M.I.A.'s afraid we'll forget where she came from—or that she deserves it. Or maybe she's worried about raising her son in a world of privilege?

Complex: As painful and tough as those times are, I hope my kids have tough times to learn and grow from.
M.I.A.: I have those thoughts about my son, but I think his adversities are going to be on a different scale. I had to spend ages on stupid shit, like getting to know about racism on a really street level, growing up in the projects. I think he's gonna have it in a different way.

Complex: How so?
M.I.A.: At the moment, he's staying with me at my mum's—her house is in the projects, so the house is like the size of somebody's closet in California. But at the same time, he's got his grandpa on the other side, Ben's dad, who is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I think as long as he has both extremes, that's where his lessons are gonna be learned. I want him to grow up here and spend as much time as possible with his grandma to learn the things I learned growing up in this house. He needs to hang with everybody and meet people and find out what they need and find out what the problems are and what the solutions are. I can't explain it.

Also hard to explain: M.I.A.'s recent claim that "Google and Facebook were developed by the CIA, and when you're on there, you have to know that." But that's a story for another day. [Complex, NME via ONTD, Nylon, image via Bauer-Griffin]