Having grown up in political exile in France during Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet's reign, it seems natural that rapper Ana Tijoux — now 34 — would cover a lot of political ground in her lyrics.
People ask her about her music's social and political commentary a lot, she says. “I don't think I'm involved in politics; I feel that politics is involved in all of us. It's part of life.”
But politics is nonetheless a major theme in her latest album, La Bala, Tijoux's second solo release after 2010's highly-praised, Latin Grammy-nominated 1977. She wrote much of the new work while following international news about the Occupy demonstrations and local coverage of ongoing student protests in Chile.
Her lyrics have struck a chord with international audiences since the album's release. Even, apparently, those who don't speak Spanish.
“Language hasn't been so much a frontier in what I do,” she says, “Hip hop is the language of the neighborhood, it's the language of immigrants. It's like a country where the people come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.”
Tijoux, who was born Anamaría Merino in France in 1977, moved back to Chile in 1990 with her family and had to work on mastering Spanish. Through that transition, she says, music was always the universal language she could share with anyone.
“I don't like to be closed off to any kind of music because it's about energy,” she says. “Like, I can still listen to AC/DC and say, 'Wow, that's an amazing riff!'”
When we first caught up with Tijoux on the phone earlier this month, she had just arrived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and was helping her kid with his homework on Skype. She'd have to call us back, she apologized.
Her lifestyle as a popular MC has been a constant adjustment — something Tijoux details in 1977's “Crisis de un MC.” But she says she's learned to appreciate all parts of the process.
“It's like when you meet a guy and you like him and there's all this flirting. Then there's the relationship that's more comfortable and more mature,” she says. “Recording is like flirting with your songs. Touring is the relationship.”
Let's hope this is a relationship that lasts.