You may have noticed that we have a weakness for well executed tales of earning a more … unconventional living (see: Clipse, Killer Mike). But M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” still catches us off guard every time. And now that it’s being featured in the Pineapple Express trailer, the Sri Lankan’s stock is rising even higher.
You’re probably already familiar with the hypnotic beat, courtesy of Diplo and a Clash sample. But M.I.A. also sports buttery delivery and a structure that is brilliant in its simplicity (every verse is exactly four bars, repeated twice over).
I fly like paper, get high like planes
If you catch me at the border, I got visas in my name
If you come around here, I make ‘em all day
I’ll get one done in a second if you wait
In just four quick bars, M.I.A. gives an image with detail most coke rappers haven’t produced in their whole catalogs. The tropes are these: you’re a modern day Pablo Escobar, you supply kilos, you know different ways to work in yet another variant of the words “girl,” “white,” and “fishscale.” Our girl from Sri Lanka doesn’t waste breath on that, instead going for a picture that really sticks in your head. We bet even Pusha-T, a vivid writer in his own right, is kicking himself for not thinking of “visas in my name” first.
Even if bragging is your thing, and we’ll admit, we’re suckers for a clever boast, M.I.A. still handles it:
No one on the corner has swag like us
Hit me on my burner pre-paid wireless
We package and deliver like UPS trucks
Already going hell just pumping that gas
Again, here’s the specificity we crave is here — ask Omar or the Baltimore PD if you want to learn about “burner” phones and why they’re needed. And flooring the accelerator on the highway to hell? That’s brazen.
Finally M.I.A. leaves us with a punchline so good, it almost feels wrong to spoil it for you if you haven’t caught it yet. To close it out, she casually proclaims:
Yeah I got more records than the KGB
So uh, no funny business
That’s an exit worthy of some serious gunshot samples.
(Many thanks to hip-hop scholar and RNN co-founder R.T.D., who helped make this post possible.)