When Chilean-French rapper Ana Tijoux strolled onto the stage at the Moja Moja Pre-GRAMMY Brunch and Concert last month, I didn't know what to expect. Her bright smile and gorgeous face were the first things I noticed. Would she be just another pretty artist with nothing of substance to offer creatively? Based on the intro from host Garth Trinidad, I learned that she had just been nominated for her first GRAMMY, and was, apparently, "dope as hell." I anticipated a language barrier for most of the audience. I did not, however, expect to fall for the trilingual lyricist, instantly subscribing to her brand of soul. Smitten as I was, I jumped at the chance to interview Tijoux when given the opportunity, and I had a chance to chat with the charming South American beauty as she embarked on her first tour of Southern California.
SoulBounce: Considering all that's happened to you career-wise in the last few months, how do you feel right now?
Ana Tijoux: I feel great. I feel okay. I've been making music forever, so finally seeing results is wonderful. To just be nominated [for a GRAMMY] is great. I am relaxed. I am grateful. We're just looking to the next album, so I can't relax too much. Can't get comfortable. Can't be satisfied.
SB: I saw you at the Pre-GRAMMY Brunch and was blown away. Your passion and confidence are evident in your performance. The crowd loved your sound as well. How would you describe your music?
AT: (laughs) Well thank you. It's complicated. For an artist to describe their music is complicated. I am hip hop. It's a sum of all of my experiences. But I'd say it's hip hop that just happens to be Spanish. (laughs)
SB: You mentioned soul, and SoulBounce is about introducing our readers to new, soul acts we think they should be familiar with.
SB: ...and you're definitely soulful. What soul music has influenced you?
AT: A lot of "black" music. Coultrain. Aretha. Stevie Wonder, which was my first vinyl I purchased with my own money. Those guys were great story tellers. But I don't necessarily consider myself to be "soul" music.
SB: Why not?
AT: Well, to sing soul you have to be very talented as a singer, I think. Just any person can't call themselves a soul singer. I think it requires a certain type of voice.
SB: Well, your music comes from the heart. It's passionate, and at times very emotional, and even political. Is that not soul?
AT: Well yes. I guess so. I think that the connection between hip hop and soul is obvious. I guess you can find soul influences in a lot of hip hop. One of my favorite hip hop/soul records is "Bonita Applebum."
SB: Speaking of influences, you do comment on some social issues on 1977. The title track discusses some of the effects that life in Chile has had on your life as a whole. Has Chile's political climate shaped your approach to music?
AT: I was born in France while there was chaos in Chile. I came back to Chile as a teenager. So, that has been a big part of my life. There was a dictatorship, so we've had to overcome a lot as a country. I always heard about it from my parents, and as you grow up you tend to admire your parents and pay attention to their views. Once I grew up, their values stayed with me. Politics still interested me. And I believe that a wild political climate and having to worry a lot can boost an artist's creativity. People like Nina Simone and Miles Davis, the struggles they went through only made their music better. Anger and poverty boosts an artist's music. If it's all you know, it will become a part of your life. Everything reflects in your sound. The same goes for my music.
SB: Wow. I see that. And does the music you put out influence you on a personal level?
AT: Absolutely. My music is my release.
SB: Listening to your earlier work, you actually sang more in the past. You have a great voice. Any plans to return to that?
AT: (laughs) Well, I don't have the best voice, but I actually sang while in the studio recently. It just kind of happened.
SB: Is there some intimidation?
AT: No. I like big, strong voices, but I really prefer simple voices. Like Clara Hill. Very pretty and smooth, her voice. I just like to stay honest in my music. And I think every voice is uniquely interesting. We should find the unique qualities of every single voice. Every voice texture is different and worth celebrating.
SB: Excellent point.
AT: Yes. Everyone can't have a big voice, but everyone has something to offer.
SB: Who are you listening to right now?
AT: I love this question! Right now, I am into Quadron. I love them. The Foreign Exchange, and that new song by Raphael Saadiq. Can't remember the name...
AT: Yes! "Good Man!" I love that song. And The Roots. The best song on that album is "The Day." I play it again and again.
SB: That is actually my favorite song as well. Okay. Elefant, the mixtape, these remixes are brilliant. They all feel like completely new songs, new energy. How did this come about?
AT: Well, we are all a universe of information. So much to each of us, so it's really hard to put all of yourself into one album. I wanted to give more. When in Santiago, I listened to all the beats, just like with a new album, and we put it together.
SB: You re-sang some verses, right? There are some differences, I think.
AT: Yes, I went in and redid a few things brand new. We all need to be more obsessive about our crafts. If you really care, you should take the time to make sure your work, your craft is perfect. So I did some brand new, yes.