M.I.A. was born on July 18, 1975 by the name Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam. The first eight years of her life in Sri Lanka was a frightening one. There was civil war in the country back then and her contact with her father was strictly limited as he went to the battle field. As the environment became unsafe, she and the rest of the family moved to India with sporadic visits from her father. In 1986, she was moved again, this time around to London as a refugee along with her family. During this period of time, she started learning English and then enrolled to Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, with a degree in fine art, film, and video.
After graduating from college, M.I.A. held her first exhibition in 2001 at the Euphoria Shop in Portobello Road, London. She displayed graffiti art and spray-paint canvasses mixing Tamil political street art with images of London life and consumerist culture. One of her works impressed Jude Law who then bought it. On top of that, the exhibition was nominated for the coveted Alternative Turner Prize.
Following the success of her exhibition, M.I.A. was hired to create artwork for band Elastica and tapped to serve behind the lens for one of the band's music videos. Her close connection to music made her know and learn how to make it herself. She eventually recorded a demo for her own album. Out of six songs in the independent mini album, two of them "Galang" and "Sunflowers" earned M.I.A. a name in music industry.
She was quick to land a major record deal with XL Recordings. In 2004, "Galang" was re-released along with a music video which depicted military-themed scenes. "Sunflowers" followed next before a first full-length album "Arular" was dropped worldwide in March 2005, just few months after she drew diverse crowd at her North American live debut in Toronto. She briefly toured with Gwen Stefani after the album release.
Two years later, she came out with a sophomore set "Kala" which was named after her mother. She recorded the album while traveling across the globe from India to Australia to Japan. With this effort, she still talked about her past experiences like war and politics. Unlike other musicians who preferred to keep quiet about something they disliked, M.I.A. was an outspoken artist.
Before her second album arrived in stores, she confronted media which harshly took a jab at her for making duets with less famous artists like Afrikan Boy and The Wilcannia Mob. "I find it kind of insulting that I can't have any ideas on my own because I'm a female, or that people from undeveloped countries can't have ideas of their own unless it's backed up by someone who's blond-haired and blue-eyed," she blasted at the critics.
Two years went by and when Lady GaGa who inked a deal with Interscope, the same recording company which signed her, rose to stardom with electro-pop tunes, M.I.A. slammed the dance queen for not being original. She accused the "Poker Face" singer of copying her style, but won little sympathy from music fans.
In a bid to fight back and re-claim her spot in dance/pop music, M.I.A. worked on a new album titled "/\/\/\Y/\". Before it dropped in the United Sates on July 15, she preceded it with controversy surrounding music video for a buzz song "Born Free". She set tongues wagging by debuting a bloody violent video. She additionally had a beef with a New York Times journalist for writing an "unflattering" story about her and took a jab at Justin Bieber which she has traced back.