Sure, Christina Aguilera got married, collaborated with old hands Herbie Hancock and Andrea Bocelli and made an album she's called "retro," but the former Xtina still has a dirty side.
In fact, she's got a track on that new record with Nas called "Still Dirrty."
"It's part two of the one she did on the last album, but the beat is totally different," said DJ Premier, who produced several of the songs. "It's more jazz-sampled with these horn blasts."
Aside from previewing a few tracks on "TRL" recently, Aguilera has yet to say much about her new record, but according to its primary producers, fans should expect music that takes an innovative approach to honoring past eras.
"DJ Premier's half is very hip-hop with old samples, and then when my half of the album kicks in, all I can say is, just have a glass of wine and enjoy the ride," said Linda Perry, another producer on the disc. "It's a very mature, very risky album [of] old-school jazzy blues. You're gonna think that these songs were recorded and written back in 1940."
"It's called Back to Basics, and that's exactly what it sounds like, the whole album," Premier added.
Nas is the only guest on the record, according to Premier, but Outkast's Big Boi is recording a verse for the remix to the first single, "Ain't No Other Man." Aguilera is shooting a video for the song this weekend.
"It's pretty much about how her husband has stolen her from looking at anybody else, 'cause he's the one who did it for her," said Premier, who produced the track with Charles Roane. "And the record's real sassy, like an old Aretha [Franklin] 'Respect' kind of attitude. It's real raw and has breakbeats in it and everything, but it's chopped up and totally tailored to what she was trying to do [by] collaborating with me."
On Wednesday, Aguilera told Premier she was sore from learning the crazy choreography for the clip.
"The song is real, real fast, which is definitely different for me, 'cause I don't do real fast tempo," Premier said. "This thing is like 130 beats per minute, but it still sounds like hip-hop/ Christina."
Aguilera worked with Perry on 2002's Stripped but turned to Premier for the first time after hearing his jazz-influenced work with Gang Starr.
"I was surprised I got that call 'cause of our differences in the audiences we hit, but I'm always up for challenges and trying something new," Premier said. "She described what her album is about and then she sent me some CDs of what type of stuff's been inspiring her to make the record, and it happened to be a lot of stuff that I grew up on in the early '70s, 'cause I'm 40. Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Marvin Gaye, Esther Williams, all kinds of different things. Once I saw that's the vibe she wanted, I still had to make it sound like the way my beats thump and stuff but still give her the atmosphere she's trying to bring out on the singing side."
Premier used live instrumentation on some tracks and sampled old jazz records on others. On one tune, he sampled voice messages from fans left through Aguilera's Web site with one of her own classics.
"I had 'Genie in a Bottle' a cappella on vinyl, and I was scratching that, trying some things, and Christina walked in and was like, 'Yo, that's hot,' so we laid that down," Premier said. "That turned into a whole song called 'Thank You,' and I think it's the last song on the album."
Premier was only slated to do one or two tracks but ended up with five on the album, plus the intro. Perry also has several tracks, and Kwame, Mark Ronson and Big Tank, who does the music for "The Boondocks" cartoon, each contribute as well.
"She played me the stuff Linda Perry did, and everything was dope, totally opposite from what my music is, but when you put it all in the right sequence, it works," Premier said. "Her album is really, really well-rounded. She totally put it together right. And she was directing the whole thing. She knew what she wanted."
Perry, who has also been working with Courtney Love (see "Linda Perry Wants To Save 'Queen Of Rock And Roll' Courtney Love"), said Aguilera's marriage has matured her for the better (see "Christina Aguilera Marries Jordan Bratman").
"She's got a lot of wonderful things to say," Perry said. "It was really easy to be a part of the record, because she was so clear with her vision of the record and the ideas that she came with. All I did was sit and listen to her ideas and came up with a way to record it."
Christina has called the album gritty and raw (see "Christina Aguilera Finishing 'Raw' LP, Waiting For Perfect Film Role"), but Perry said fans of her angelic voice need not worry.
"People thought she could sing before — well, you haven't heard anything yet," Perry said. "But it's definitely a risky record. It's not Stripped at all. ... She's completely in a different space."
Perry has one mix left but said the album is otherwise done. Aguilera's spokesperson said to expect a late summer/ early fall release.