Album review: Ana Tijoux's 'La Bala'
Two years ago, Chilean MC Ana Tijoux changed the face of Latin rap with her second solo effort, “1977.” An epic statement of purpose, the album introduced audiences outside South America to Tijoux's seductive flow, the smoky texture of her voice and a weakness for rhymes that don't rhyme, rearranging the Spanish language with broken syllables and staccato accents.
Building on that same foundation but adding layers of actual singing and an eclectic gallery of guest vocalists, “La Bala” is Tijoux's magnum opus, perhaps the most sumptuous album that rap en español has known. After she expressed the desire to “rap against violins,” producer Andrés Celis assembled a miniature symphony orchestra of strings and brass, recorded live. On “Desclasificado” the result is gorgeous, a majestic blend of Prokofiev and hip-hop, the ominous orchestration underscoring the sweet drama in Tijoux's delivery.
A knowledge of Spanish is not required to enjoy this album — the sonic richness of the whole thing keeps you entertained. That said, Tijoux's lyrics are particularly incisive. She applauds the recent student protests in Chile on the single “Shock” and evokes the intimacy of meeting an old friend for an evening of laughter and philosophizing on “Quizás.” There are a couple of low moments (a jarring duet with Cuban rappers Los Aldeanos belongs on a different album), but overall, “La Bala” showcases Tijoux as one of Latin music's most sensitive and inventive artists — regardless of genre.
Three and a 1/2 stars (out of four)
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