This song is a collaboration with Zayn Malik with the ex-One Direction-er on hook and harmony duties. M.I.A. told BBC Radio 1's Annie Mac: "I made the song a long time ago and always thought it was too mainstream sounding for me, so [the collaboration] just seems like it's perfect, if I was going to have a collaboration and have someone like Zayn, this is the perfect song, it sort of takes me out of my comfort zone but it also takes him out of his a little bit as well."
The pair first formed a bond when she considered penning tracks for Malik's debut solo album, Mind of Mine. "We have the same publishers and they wanted me to demo some songs for Zayn," M.I.A. told Entertainment Weekly. "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."
Because MIA was in India, she collaborated with Zayn via the instant messaging client WhatsApp. "We just basically did it while I was here, because I've been here for a week-and-a-half," she said. "We've just been going back and forth on, you know, WhatsApp."
Asked by Consequence of Sound
what was it about Zayn Malik as an artist that appealed to her, M.I.A. replied: "Me and Zayn are the two opposite extremes. Two brown people. I'm from the underground and he's from the overground, and generally we're not allowed to really talk to each other. That was us crossing lots of bridges."
M.I.A. revealed to Vevo that she and Zayn Malik struggled to produce a video for the song as racial tensions between India and Pakistan made it too "dangerous" for the former 1D singer. "I never finished 'Freedun.' But I shot for 4 days," she explained. "It was dangerous to have Zayn come to Kashmir [because] he's half-Pakistani and I couldn't get a visa to the US at the time. There was so much bureaucracy."