M.I.A. is putting the finishing touches on her fifth album, AIM (out Sept. 9), and the Sri Lankan rapper is scoring high-profile names for the project. She’s teaming up once again with Diplo, her estranged ex-boyfriend and collaborator with whom she’s since reconciled, and producer Blaqstarr. Now, she tells EW that she’s got another big guest star on the album: One Direction’s Zayn Malik.
The rapper will feature the singer on the track “Freedun.” “That’s the song we mastered yesterday,” she tells EW on the phone from India, adding that she worked on the cut with Malik remotely. “We just basically did it while I was here, because I’ve been here for a week-and-a-half. We’ve just been going back and forth on, you know, WhatsApp.”
M.I.A. says her friendship with Malik goes back to when she considered writing songs for his debut solo album, Mind of Mine.
“We have the same publishers and they wanted me to demo some songs for Zayn,” she says. “Before I started writing properly my own stuff [for AIM], I was thinking maybe I’ll write for other people instead. I really wanted to write a song for Zayn….We had a couple people in common. And that’s how it came about. I didn’t really approach him for my own record until later on. First, I thought I wanted to try writing a song for him.”
While M.I.A. has hinted that her forthcoming album might be her last, she tells EW she wants to focus on other creative pursuits once AIM is released.
“I want to do something else for a bit,” she says. “I just feel like I need to spend more periods of time somewhere. When you get into music and you get into a cycle of a record, how life goes, is very fast. You don’t get to just live things out and get involved with communities. I want to spend some time in Greece, make a documentary [there]. Something useful for a bit.”