Ana Tijoux, born Anamaria Merino, MC
Politically-charged, funky, Latin-infused hip hop from French-Chilean rapper Tijoux. Discography to-date includes Vida Salvaje (1998), Aerolíneas Makiza (1999), Casino Royale (2005), Kaos (2007), 1977 (2010), Elefant Mixtape (2011), La Bala (2011) and Vengo (2014).
The daughter of Chilean parents living in political exile in France, Tijoux returned to Chile once the political situation stabilized, and from then on spent much of her youth getting involved with the burgeoning hip hop scene in Santiago. “I began like 12 years ago freestyling with my friends,” she recalls to Brooklyn Bodega. “I never thought I’d make it my career you know. It started because I used to write a lot as a teenager; just my feelings and thoughts and then it progressed. Then I started doing it on a more professional level.”
Those early years were certainly a baptism of fire. Tijoux was initially part of seminal and influential Chilean hip hop act Makisa. Signed up to a major deal with Sony, Tijoux decided to dissolve the band "for personal reasons" before the release of their second single. A long sabbatical from the world of music followed, moving back to France until 2004. A few reunion events with Makisa ensued, before Tijoux began to devote herself to her solo career. “When I started it was almost like a game,” she tells Club Fonograma. “Not that I wasn’t very involved in what I was doing, but I never thought I was going to make my work of it. When I first started, I had a lot of passion and I wasn’t expecting anything from it. It was more like, who knows what’s going to happen? And I never expect much, so everything is amazing for me.”
If she’s only playing a game, then she’s pretty damn good at it – as the success of her 2009 release 1977 goes to show. Since then she’s gone on to hone her distinctive sound even further, embarking on her first North American tour in 2010 and even having her music featured in millions-selling video game FIFA 2011. And get this – Radiohead’s Thom Yorke is a particularly vocal fan. As for the whole "female rapper in a man’s world" dynamic that starts to become an issue once someone hits the big time? Not a concern: “it’s bigger than being a guy or a woman; it’s about the universe that you want to show.”
So what is Tijoux aiming for? What are her creative goals? It helps to backtrack and take a look at her influences, which – as anyone who has listened to her stuff will be able to predict – are a notably diverse breed. She lists Fela Kuti, Erykah Badu, Invincible, Ruben Blades and Brazilian music in general as the things that inspire her to create her sound.
It’s a sound that incorporates a fusion of many different elements, too, and can often stray outside the vague umbrella term of hip hop. Tijoux has actually expressed an interest in working in other genres too. “I really like to rap, but, why not?” she explains to Club Fonograma. “I would love to make bossa nova. I believe in researching all the formats available for what you want to do. It’s like a painter, who her whole life has just been working in one medium, then all of the sudden discovers sculpture, and it’s like another universe. In creation, you have to be very free, never closed. To be free is the better way to arrive at what you want to arrive at.”
Given her ascendance to date, as well as the hype-chatter that is building around her (the next M.I.A, anyone?), Tijoux shouldn’t have too much trouble turning her hand to whatever interests her. For the time being, let’s enjoy those beats.