In an age where women are increasingly the more successful breadwinners in the relationship–particularly in the entertainment business–men seem to have a difficult time accepting female ascendancy. A primo example of this was the mid-00s romance of M.I.A. and Diplo.
While both parties may have fake names, the intensity of the drama they shared together was very real. While cobbling together enough money for her London lifestyle through graphic design and videography jobs, M.I.A. was living with former Elastica frontwoman Justine Frischmann. It was Frischmann who gave her a Roland MC-505 music sequencer and drum machine that propelled M.I.A. to start recording her own demos.
These demos would eventually land in the hands of XL Records, the label through which she would meet up and coming producer Diplo. The two would record M.I.A.’s mixtape, Piracy Funds Terrorism, before M.I.A. went on to achieve international fame with her debut album, Arular, in 2005.
M.I.A.’s reflections on her relationship with Diplo sound harrowing, especially her recounting: “By the time [Arular was] happening to me, I was with Diplo and he basically just like shat on every good thing that was happening to me, and I just didn’t enjoy it because if I was on a cover of a magazine he’ll be like, ‘What do you want to do, like be on the dentist waiting room table? Like, is that what a magazine is for? It’s corny. Like, don’t do magazines.'”
At the time, however, she didn’t yet have the confidence to recognize that it was Diplo’s jealousy–not his accuracy–that was talking. And so instead of having the strength to leave him, she stayed and took it for awhile longer, amounting to a two-year period of self-doubt, confirmed by her sentiment:
I wish I enjoyed [my success] because I had this person on my shoulder the whole time saying, ‘It’s shit, it’s shit, it’s shit. You shouldn’t be on the charts. You shouldn’t be in the magazines and you should not be going to interviews. You should not be doing collaborations with famous people. You should be an underground artist.’ So the whole two years I was with him, I just let him dictate. I basically had this man dictate to me how everything in America that I experienced was completely, like, irrelevant and it was nothing.”
It all smacks vaguely of Kesha and Dr. Luke, perpetuating the disturbing trend in the strangling hold and effect producers have on the women they work with, except, of course, Madonna, who has worked with both M.I.A. and Diplo–perhaps proving that equality in prosperity is possible, so long as you’re not in a relationship with someone you’re “competing” against.