Adventurous rap fans, those whose musical opinions aren't informed by MTV, BET, or urban contemporary radio, already know that the most compelling hip-hop isn't coming from the East Coast, West Coast, or Dirty South.
These days, the best hip-hop is straight outta London, where such genre-pushing acts as The Streets and Dizzee Rascal are clearly influenced by American rap music, but shrug off its more narrow-minded trappings.
Add to that stellar list the London-born, Sri Lanka-raised M.I.A., who gave a dazzling performance at Avalon Thursday.
Opening her set with ''Pull Up the People," from her critically acclaimed debut, ''Arular," M.I.A. then jumped into ''Fire Fire," which featured a rhythmic snippet of Sean Paul's ''Gimme the Light." Her fiercely danceable music is a mélange of sound which owes as much to Jamaican dancehall and Southeast Asian bhangra as to hip-hop.
And as lovely as she is, she's all about her music. Refreshingly, she doesn't come off like a porn star wannabe with a record contract. (She bared no flesh, unless one counts calves and forearms.) From ''Sunshowers," which samples the gorgeous 1970s disco song ''Sunshower," by Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band," to the politically minded ''Bucky Done Gun," M.I.A. delivered her rhymes with such panache and verve, the audience kept chanting for more. She wound up performing for nearly an hour, offering every full-length track on her album.
Needless to say, New York's LCD Soundsystem had to step up its game to keep the good groove going -- and it did. Led by singer-musician James Murphy, LCD is the missing link between rock, funk, and dance music, reviving the kinds of rhythmic cocktails unheard since the late, great Danceteria ruled 1980s downtown NYC nightlife. It's a sound that manages to be both retro and futuristic.
Backed by a four-piece band, Murphy yelped out such songs as the showstopping ''Yeah," the appropriately beat-crazy ''Beat Connection," and the hilarious ''Losing My Edge." With his bad haircut, ill-fitting pants, and spastic dance moves, Murphy possesses an anti-cool demeanor that still achieves a dorky hipness all its own. With an itchy paranoia reminiscent of vintage Talking Heads, LCD makes music for a party at the end of the world.
Renée Graham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.