Born: July 18, 1975, London, England
Type of Performer: Rapper, singer, songwriter
Genre: Hip hop, electronic
Maya Arulpragasam was born in 1975 in England, but she spent much of her childhood in Sri Lanka. When the Civil War worsened in the 1980s, her father founded the Tamil Tiger resistance movement and the rest of her family immigrated to the United Kingdom to settle in London. Her father's activism informed her music, and she performs as M.I.A., a play on her given name. Her debut album, Arular, was released in 2005. Since then, she has become one of the most politically outspoken and polarizing figures in popular music, leaving a string of scandals and controversies in her wake (including her appearance at a Super Bowl halftime show). She is one of the first female artists to boldly and unapologetically blend politics into her music, especially with her 2007 hit, "Paper Planes." That record was nominated for a GRAMMY in 2009, and recently topped NPR's list of the best songs by 21st century women. A film about her life, edited by art-school friend Steve Loveridge, called Matangi/Maya/MIA, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017 and won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award.