We go behind the scenes with dancers Natz and Whyte Boi, British/Tamil rapper MIA’s culture-clash party starters
Rumbling, menacing beats and a bold artistic vision – M.I.A, as we know, is a creative force to be reckoned with. Everything the British/Tamil rapper touches – from her recorded opus and Grammy nominated music videos to her recent collaboration with Versus Versace – defies expectation and demands a reaction. And, if you haven’t experienced it yet, all of the victory and vitriol comes to life at her live shows. Delivering an unapologetically frenzied and incendiary mix of hip-hop, new rave, bhangra, sex, pop and politics, M.I.A demands one thing over all others when on stage – that you dance. As someone who caught her incredible Glastonbury outing I know this to be true, but sitting opposite me are the two people that know it better than anyone: Natz and Whyte Boi, M.I.A’s dancers.
On the right, 19-year-old Londoner Natz (real name Natalie Glover) tentatively leans forward – nervously perching on the edge of the worn brown couch. Her small frame is shaped by a firmly structured black jacket, and from Natz’s ears hang big gold hoop earrings framing a mass of hair. On the left sits 27-year-old Baltimore born Whyte Boi (real name Rob Armstrong). His half-strung dungarees sink back into the same torn leather cushions; his face and shaved ginger head are instantly recognisable from M.I.A’s controversial, Roman Gavras directed, “Born Free” video.
Natz has been on tour for about 2 years now, having been personally invited to join M.I.A following a performance with 8 other dancers at Hackney Weekend in London. A spot dancing in a video for N.E.E.T signed Baltimore rapper Rye Rye earned him the respect of the lady in charge. The pair look to each other for answers with such wide grins it’s obvious they’re more than just dancing partners. “I mean I wanted her to be my girl but I didn’t know when it was going to happen,” confesses Whyte Boi. “We were just ending some tour this time last year and we saw R. Kelly in Chicago and with all the RnB type shit, I guess you know, we were in that mood!” Natz stifles an embarrassed laugh and admits it’s “kind of crazy” that M.I.A’s only two regular dancers would fall for one another.
Despite differing demeanours, the pair clearly feed off each other’s energy on a regular basis. “Over time we’ve nicked a few steps from each other,” admits Natz. “When we’re on stage we’re just being hype, it’s not what we’d usually do. I’m more hip-hop when I’m free-styling but for M.I.A it’s African, Azonto-inspired. We have maybe two routines together, she doesn’t really like choreography so there aren’t really any rehearsals.” Whyte Boi nods in agreement “My thing is called ‘Shaking Off’, which is like real aggressive footwork. A lot of kicks and punches too. I did Taekwondo for 5 years: me and my whole family are black belts. But with her, it’s just really hype club dancing. The more people, the more hype I am, I love it. ”
Their love of, and loyalty to, M.I.A isn’t in doubt. “Unless Missy Elliot starts touring and wants me, I don’t really plan to go out again,” says Natz. “For me, unless MC Hammer comes back, I’m not dancing for nobody else!” agrees Whyte Boi – but with the tour ending, we can’t help but wonder what is next for the pair. Whatever happens, we’ll be seeing more of Natz and Whyte Boi and their culture-clash routines in the near-distant future.
Natz wears orange quilted jumper by Neil Barrett and Whyte Boi wears black tech tracksuit by Cottweiler
Natz wears pink and white zebra jacket by Dolce and Gabbana, white cotton cropped shirt by Neil Barrett and pink sequinned trousers by Ashish, and Whyte Boi wears navy cotton closed shirt by Craig Green, printed cotton trousers by Cavempt and white leather trainers by Reebok
Filmmaker: Cieron Magat
Photography: Cieron Magat & Leonn Ward
Fashion: Mischa Notcutt
Words: Lauren Down
Hair and Make Up: Theresa Davies using Mac Cosmetics and Bumble and Bumble
Fashion Assistants: Emma Hamilton and Joely Watford
Special thanks to Otis Marchbank and Dean Blunt for music: Hype Williams “Throning”