1977, Anita Tijoux

1977, Anita Tijoux
Nacional Records, Chile
Rating: 64
by Andrew Casillas

I’ll be honest: I just don’t listen to a whole lot of rap music these days. I have nothing against the genre: four of my top ten favorite albums on my Stylus Decade ballot were rap/hip-hop records. And there’s some genuinely interesting stuff that pops up from time-to-time on great hip-hop blogs like the Passion of the Weiss, and even our dear Editor posts some novel Latin rap on occasion. But again, for the most part, the pure amount of time per week that I spend listening to rap music probably amounts to no more time than the length of an average St. Louis Cardinals game (by the way, have you seen Albert Pujols this season? Good Christ.). But I’m not here to waste any more of your time discussing my listening habits, or to extrapolate these changes into a dissection of the “State of Hip-Hop.” No, we’re here to discuss the latest album from Anita Tijoux.

Tijoux’s back-story is pretty familiar and kind of interesting actually. Daughter of a French national and Chilean ex-pat, who was in exile during the Pinochet coup d’état, who then returned to Chile upon the dictator’s supplanting, where she then discovered rap music as a teenager, subsequently devoting her life to honing her craft through her association with various South American hip-hop groups, finally breaking into a solo career around 2006, which was also the year that she received her biggest boost in publicity by guest-rapping on Julieta Venegas’ mega-successful single “Eres Para Mí.”

Her debut album, Kaos, was a mild success, but ultimately got lost in the scene. Her latest is titled 1977, which is also the year of her birth, and as such a title would seem to allude to, it’s a very personal record. Within the record are stories about death, family, conflicts, and writer’s block, and some of these topics are finely detailed and enlightening. But musically, it’s a bit stunted. Take the album’s intro, which basically sounds like a whole rip of a Thievery Corporation interlude—sounds great when you’re ordering a Rob Roy in a cigar bar, but not when you’re trying to pump up your audience for a personality-driven rap record. 1977 occasionally falls back into these faux-cosmopolitan traps, where sleek MOR keyboards, dim drum machines, and light guitar licks attempt to punctuate some sort of beat but really just take away from Tijoux’s genuinely appealing flow. Such an approach can work on a Pacha Massive record, where the vocals are not entirely essential, but Tijoux is too good to be buried in what’s essentially the aural equivalent of strawberry cocktail mix.

There are certainly some bright moments to be had on this album, however. “Partir de Cero” has a catchy mechanized sample, and Tijoux’s wordplay is in great form, and doesn’t even lose much paunch when the guitar lick becomes pronounced and the inevitable record scratching starts to envelop the track. “Crisis de un MC” has a sleek little beat, and captures the effortless, easygoing style that artists like la Mala Rodriguez do so well, and I’m sure that Tijoux was attempting to recreate on 1977. And “Oulala” has a few genuine jazz hints and sonic flourishes that may be the best soundscape on this record. The tail end of the album are essentially The World According to Anita, and are very well-written, but then…the same old musical issues.

And really, that’s the big problem. Anita Tijoux is an obvious talent, and seems to have a lot of dedication to her craft. But great rap music requires more than a great flow and personal ambition, it requires sonic diversity, and until these beats gain a bit more substance, her music will still feel incomplete. Hopefully by the time that happens, my rap listening schedule will be a bit more substantive.


8 comments :

Adrián Anaya said...

As a hip hap enthusiast, I thoroughly enjoyed 'Partir De Cero.'

Gus said...

really low score, but I do agree the album goes a bit off after the first amazing first part...

still Anita's flow is too good, really nice and even classy MC

GiL said...

i haven't heard this album, though a lot of my friends are falling in love with it, but i agree with your position. i've heard so many latin rap albums in which the music is just a dull graceless background. as you said, music is as important as the flow and lyrics and whatnot, you can do a lot of things with it and the interplay. there are so many wasted opportunities.

on the other hand, zozaya's re album is a good example of something done right.

Carla Morrison said...

i dont know if i like your reviews....you always sound like someone who is not happy...you always find something wrong in peoples music...i dont know...sorry but i have to be honest...hehe....anita tijoux is the 1st rapper i completely love! so...i do feel her album and her music is amazing and complete in its own beautiful way!...

carla.

Carlos Reyes said...

it's called honest music criticism :)

but I actually agree with the comments, I enjoyed this album a lot more than you did, I am a happy person haha (joke)

FalsaBaiana said...

Is this going to be another "Ya conoceran"? I adore Anita and I've actually turned a bunch of people on to her. She has huge appeal, I reckon. To be fair, a few songs do leave me a little cold towards the end but I find myself listening to 1977 all the time. Surely, that is a mark of a pretty great (not perfect) album?

BTW there's a cool remix of "Partir de cero" kind of "kaos"-ified here:
http://www.ritmonauta.com/2010/02/mientras-tando-en-1977.html

lidopimienta said...

Anita me pone como a caminar con actitud por las frias called de Toronto.
Si quisiera que los arreglos fueran mas complejos, pues su lirica es demasiado fenomeal.

juan Data said...

hold on, did you just suggested that Ana Tijoux was trying to copy La Mala Rodríguez? LOL
That "effortless, easygoing style" is actually the one first made Anita famous back in 1998 with Makiza's debut... way before anybody knew about Mala.

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