20 Dollar – Decoding the Clash of Cultures and Consumerism


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for M.I.A.'s 20 Dollar at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. The Bargain Price of Conflict: What’s the Real Cost of ’20 Dollar’?
  5. The Symbols She Wears: Deconstructing M.I.A.’s Visual Protest
  6. Flipping the Script with Layers of Irony
  7. The Echoing Question: Where is My Mind?
  8. Understanding the Mind Behind the Map

Lyrics

War, war, war
Talkin’ about y’alls such a bore
I’d rather talk about moi
Like, do you know the cost of AK’s up in Africa?
Twenty dollars ain’t shit to you
But that’s how much they are
So they’re gonna use this shit just to get by

Is gold, diamonds helpin’ ya?
Don’t you like my bandana?
My stains hang low
On my shirts like a-ya-ya
Monkey brains and banana
I’ll hit you with my antenna
Put soap in my eye
Make it red so I look ra-ra-ra

So I woke up with my holy Qur’an and found out I like Allah-lah
So we shootin’ ’til the song is up
Little boys are actin’ up
Baby mamas are goin crazy
And the leaders all around crackin’ up
We goat rich, we fry
Price of livin’ in a shanty town just seems very high
But we still like T.I.
But we still look fly
Dancin’ as we shootin’ up
And lootin’ just to get by

(Ha) with your feet on the air and your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head’ll collapse when there’s nothing in it
And you’ll ask yourself
Where is my mind? (mind, mind, mind, mind, mind, mind)
Where is my mind? (mind, mind, mind, mind, mind, mind)
Where is my mind? (mind, mind, mind, mind, mind, mind)

(Ha) war, war, war
Who made me like this?
Was it me and God in co-production?
My devil’s on speed dial
Every time I take the wrong direction
All I want is one thing and that is what you got
Sometimes I go lose my mind, then I feel numb

There’s twenty-four hours in a day
I used to split it eight, eight, eight
Eight work, eight sleep, eight for play
Now I give it all it takes

Now people on the Internet
A new life for the intellect
People judge me so hard
‘Cause I don’t floss my titty set (ha)
I was born out of dirt like I’m porn in a skirt
I was a little girl who made good with all that I blurt
I put people on the map that never seen a map
I show ’em something they ain’t ever seen
And hope they make it back

With your feet on the air and your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head’ll collapse when there’s nothing in it
And you’ll ask yourself
Where is my mind? (mind, mind, mind, mind, mind, mind)
Where is my mind? (mind, mind, mind, mind, mind, mind)
Where is my mind? (mind, mind, mind, mind, mind, mind)

(Ha) with your feet on the air and your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head’ll collapse when there’s nothing in it
And you’ll ask yourself
Where is my mind?

Full Lyrics

In a musical landscape often glossed by the veneer of escapism, M.I.A.’s ’20 Dollar’ is a stark, rousing jolt back to a less convenient reality. It’s a powerful social commentary that not only resonates with a global audience but also confronts them, blending the personal with the political in a way that only M.I.A. could.

The track boasts the classic M.I.A. musical thumbprint: an energetic fusion of global sounds with gritty, urban beats, but ’20 Dollar’ also serves as a calculated exploration into the inequities and idiosyncrasies of our contemporary world. From scrutinizing the value of human life to challenging Western consumerism, M.I.A. traverses a sociopolitical landscape in her own distinct fashion.

The Bargain Price of Conflict: What’s the Real Cost of ’20 Dollar’?

The titular ’20 Dollar’ is more than just currency; it’s a metaphor for the cheapness of life amidst conflicts that are themselves commercialized. When M.I.A. questions, ‘Do you know the cost of AK’s up in Africa? Twenty dollars ain’t shit to you,’ she’s laying bare a harsh global economic disparity and commenting on the ease with which life can be taken away in places fraught with violence.

Through pinpointing the price of an AK-47 rifle, the song underlines how the developed world’s negligence and consumerism indirectly fuel violence elsewhere. A sum considered negligible in affluent societies can buy an instrument of death elsewhere, perpetuating a cycle of suffering.

The Symbols She Wears: Deconstructing M.I.A.’s Visual Protest

M.I.A.’s reference to her attire—a bandana and stained shirts—becomes a loaded symbol of both rebellion and the residue of violence. The stains are metaphorical representations of the burdens and bloodshed in the regions that inspire her music, while her bandana could suggest solidarity with those who resist oppressive systems.

Through her own fashion, she challenges listeners to consider whether the gold and diamonds adorning their lives are contributing to the exploitation and conflicts overseas. Her imagery is vivid and confrontational, asking the audience to look beyond the surface into the deeper implications of their consumption.

Flipping the Script with Layers of Irony

The memorable lines ‘But we still like T.I./But we still look fly/ Dancin’ as we shootin’ up/ And lootin’ just to get by’ juxtapose the glamorized version of urban culture with grim realities. M.I.A. unfolds the irony of emulating hip-hop extravagance when one’s existence is marred by poverty and violence, creating a stirring contrast that’s hard to ignore.

These lyrics serve as a commentary on how Western culture, particularly as it’s disseminated through music and media, influences and distorts the aspirations of people living in turmoil. The juxtaposition reveals a stark duality—the adoption of a glamorous lifestyle against a backdrop of survival and conflict.

The Echoing Question: Where is My Mind?

Channeling the Pixies with ‘Where is my mind?’ M.I.A. leaves listeners pondering the state of their consciousness amidst the chaos she describes. This haunting refrain stands as a call to self-awareness, asking each individual to reexamine their cognizance amidst modern-day distractions and disarray.

It’s a powerful, lingering question that encourages a deep introspective look at personal values and position in a broader, off-kilter world. This lingering doubt seamlessly transitions from a personal to a universal inquiry, evoking a sense of collective disorientation and disconnection from reality.

Understanding the Mind Behind the Map

M.I.A’s self-reflection, ‘I was born out of dirt like I’m porn in a skirt/I was a little girl who made good with all that I blurt’, speaks to her own story of emergence from the depths of conflict to a platform where she’s able to make a significant impact. By being the voice of the unseen, she empowers others through her art.

The track concludes with a challenge to the listener to experience such places and perspectives themselves, hinting at the transformative power of exposure to different walks of life. M.I.A. essentially calls for a breaking down of psychological and geographical borders to facilitate understanding and stimulate change.

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