Rapper M.I.A., real name Maya Arulpragasam, recently sat down with Huck Magazine to discuss the new documentary film MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A. Directed by Stephen Loveridge, the film runs for roughly an hour and a half, focusing on the life of the female rapper.
The film illustrates the early chapters of her life, growing up on the Phipps Bridge housing estate in southwest London after moving with her family from Sri Lanka as refugees. Her family moved to London just before her 11th birthday, except for her father, who stayed behind due to his political activities in the Sri Lankan Civil war.
While speaking with Huck Magazine, Arulpragasam complains that the film was on the cusp of portraying her experience as a refugee as a major setback to her goals.
“I think that’s why it’s important that I have a go at telling the story because this film is on the cusp of saying, ‘oh refugees have had it hard and she got lucky and became a pop star.’ I don’t want it to seem like a really hard, painful thing, something that people have to shoulder. It doesn’t have to be like that and I never saw it like that.”
Although M.I.A. feels that the film exaggerates setbacks she may have had in that regard, she says that she feels that the film understated the negativity that came about from the lawsuit she was hit with by the NFL for a controversial gesture she made at her 2012 Super Bowl performance with Madonna.
In the middle of her halftime performance with Madonna, M.I.A. briefly threw up a middle finger, resulting in the NFL issuing an apology to the public and slapping M.I.A. with a $16.6 million lawsuit. According to the NFL, Arulpragasam breached a pre-show agreement to maintain the NFL’s “reputation for wholesomeness” by flipping off an audience of 167 million television viewers. See her discuss the issue in the video below.
She says that the lawsuit was a catalyst for others to come at her on all different levels, saying that hatred was coming from everybody around her. She says that Loveridge was able to make this episode in her life a “nice little cookie”, but that in reality it was way worse. In the interview, she also noted how her manager at the time, Jay-Z, felt about the situation:
“If you’re talking about racism and sexism, that moment in my life showed the cracks in everyone I knew. I was at Roc Nation at the time and Jay Z was managing me. The lawsuit was so ridiculous, it proposed that they would keep one hundred percent of my earnings for the rest of my life if I ever earned more than $2 million dollars. Jay Z was, like, ‘you should sign that shit’ and I was, like, ‘no.’”
Shortly after she divulges this information, Huck Magazine writes that she was advised not to speak any further on the subject. Pitchfork has reported that M.I.A. has reached a settlement with the NFL over the middle finger incident, but details of the agreement remain private.