Reviewed by Ian Morales.
Ana Tijoux is a popular Chilean emcee known all over Latin America, thanks to her membership in now-defunct Chilean hip hop group Makiza. More recently, a guest appearance on Mexican pop star Julietta Vinegas’ single “Eres Para Mi” introduced Tijoux to a whole new mass audience. Her flow is smooth and her lyrics lean more on the conscious tip rather than the superficial. Tijoux has an old-school sensitivity while still maintaining her Latina edge. Tijoux stands out amongst all the other whack emcees that saturate the radio and top 40 markets everywhere you turn.
Now the French-Chilean Ana Tijoux is releasing her second solo album, 1977, in the U.S. thanks to Latin alternative’s biggest and arguably best label, Nacional Records. Named after the year of her birth, 1977 is a return to the ‘90s school of old when things were simpler. There is no auto-tune, no over synthesized or overly engineered production. Instead 1977 is a chill, jazzy and raw. Listening to the album, it is hard to believe this was made this decade.
After a jazzy, Tribe-like into, “Partir De Cero” gets your head noddin’ and body moving just a little bit due to the simple beat and flow. It was nice to hear the integration of the turntablism that is not often used in American hip hop singles these days. It is a perfect warm up for the smash that comes next, “1977.”
The album’s title track also happens to be the best track by far. Besides the backbeat, a lightly strummed Spanish guitar is complemented by trumpets to accompany Tijoux’s Missy-like flow. Once again, DJ-scratching is worked in with a hint of a synthesized violin raindrop effect. It is one of those rare singles than can please club-goers and the snobby “I only like real hip hop” backpackers of the world.
Speaking of backpackers, there are a few tracks in that realm. “Crisis De un MC” is Ana Tijoux rapping over a beat that should have been on A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory in 1991. The same can be said with the laid-back, jazzy “Problema De 2.” Even Tijoux’s flow on these tracks is very calm, a little raspier and even therapeutic.
Tijoux also goes back to her French roots on “Oulala.” Her flow in French is just as smooth as her Spanish flow. Also a bass-heavy jazz/hip hop track, Tijoux recalls the essence of early Digable Planets, because she is “cool like dat” and can “rap like dat” in two languages. Chances are this will be a big hit not only in France but also by hip hop heads in Quebec, Canada.
While 1977 is fantastic album from beginning to end, there are only a couple of things that may keep listeners from digging it. English-speaking audiences may be put off by the language barrier. But the beats and flow more than make up for any language barrier. The only other potential negative is that since every track sounds like a ‘90s hip hop classic, 1977 may come off as very samesy. Only the title track and “Oulala” really stand out as hot singles on an album full of solid material.
Red River rating: 9 out of 10