Artist Spotlight: Ana Tijoux

The spin on hip-hop’s front lines

In the hip-hop world, the fight for recognition, centrality and representation for women rappers will most likely continue to be quite the struggle. With her most recent album Vengo, Ana Tijoux takes a spin on hip-hop’s front lines, not through its historic roots in the United States, but from our neighbor, the Southern Hemisphere.

What exactly does it take to be a mother? To nurture, feed, protect and care for a child? How does this in any way compare to the “hustle” and struggles that very many male rappers boast about and at times, even glorify? In an interview with NPR, the French-Chilean rapper described writing the album while caring for her own children as trying to find words with no sleep and constantly nurturing “babies with diapers full of caca”. Essentially, not only was this ambitious mother trying to write and compose her album, but she had little ones at home that kept her motherly hustle on a high.

The result from all of this? Some of the best Hip Hop so far this year. The words that Tijoux was able to pull out while majorly sleep deprived, hit very powerful, personal yet universal themes. Her album touches upon people of color, indigenous peoples and even rights for women. She strongly advocates for resistance to authority, environmental causes and anti-patriarchy. The title track “Vengo” asks her listeners to come with her, to experience her clear vision of a natural world. In her world, there are free birds, a healthy Earth and spirits of the sky. She herself is the center of all beautiful chaos posing as the life-giving Mother Earth.

To keep on with the trend, her music feels organic and cohesive. It has a very perfect lush, jazz funk feel. She personally did not want any sampling for the album and worked closely with producer Andres Celis and her band. There are times throughout her album, where beats run back to ‘90s Hip Hop that has lost a bit of its shine over the years, however Tijoux keeps things fresh and new with her global/local outlook.

What’s unique to her beats is the emphasis on South American traditional music; Andean flute in particular. What Tijuox is trying to do here, is not only “save the rainforest” marketing, but breathe new life into a genre beaming with rich heritage and culture that has been too commercialized and marginalized for its own good.

One of the album’s high lights, the track “Somos Sur” featuring Palestinian rapper Shadia Mansour, calls to action places like South and Central America, Africa and the Caribbean as forces to oppose global oppression. Vengo isn’t just an album slapped together or made to talk about how great the artist is, it’s a piece dedicated to purposeful indignation.

Global social upheaval becomes more and more common and it is important to be able to distinguish exactly which artists put forth their mind, body and soul into the causes they preach for. By digging deep into her cultural roots and history, her life as a female rapper and mother, Tijoux was able to put together one of her best albums to date. Instead of Hip Hop opening doors for this artist, Tijoux is
opening way for Hip Hop to catch up.

Montclair State | New Jersey

Nicole Duque

Undergraduate student with strong passion in journalism and editing. High interest in digital media and television production. Quick thinker, creative, determined and strong under pressure while maintaining organization. Hands on experience with professional broadcast production equipment, editing software, interviewing and writing for a newspaper.