Ana Tijoux’s rapping style demands attention even if you can’t understand her languages of choice, Spanish and French. Tijoux, who makes her D.C. debut tonight at Liv, has a French mother and a Chilean father (who lived in political exile in France during the time Augustus Augusto Pinochet was ruling Chile). Flowing professionally since the late ‘90s, Tijoux utilizes a New York golden-era approach on her U.S. solo debut 1977—-busy, word-filled stanzas with subtle hooks over scratched and sampled jazzy beats and horns. She even dons an old-school tracksuit in a video from her last album. Tijoux, who started with the group Makiza, has been working solo or in collaborations since 2006. Her biggest success in the Spanish-speaking world was a 2006 cut, “Eres Para Mi,” with Mexican pop-rocker Julieta Venegas on the latter’s Limon y Sal release.
The title track of Tijoux’s new record refers to the year of her birth, and on it she spits forcefully over a sampled soundtrack of strings and brass. Tijoux is not a rapper in the wacky Nicki Minaj vein, employing affected tones and inflections; that doesn’t make her a dull, overly studious backpacker, either (even though she has a song called “Crisis de un MC”). On jazzy, late-night R&B cuts like “Problema de 2” and “Mar Adentro,” her delivery and the music combine to tell nuanced relationship narratives. The instrumental approach on 1977 only varies from old-school boom-bap on the roots-reggae “Avaricia.” While the album’s musical palette may not be broad or state-of-the-art, Tijoux’s delivery consistently conveys a head-nodding, timeless Gang Starr feel that’s more than just retro or academic.
Ana Tijoux performs with DTMD and Rebel Diaz Thursday July 15 at 8p.m. at Liv Nightclub, 11th and U streets NW. $12-$18.