Gnawledge :: Granada Doaba
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
Gnawledge Records has been making noise
at RapReviews for a minute. Even though Mr. Hernandez knocked the label for their "corny
name" reviewing Afro DZ ak's album yet he
still got a 7 out of 10 across the board. Elemental Zazen fared even better with "The Glass Should Be Full" and got 8.5. Clearly
there's something fresh going on in Bloomington, Indiana whether or not that's a city one
traditionally thinks of as a hip-hop mecca. Perhaps "corn" is an apt term after all given
it grows tall and strong in the midwest; after all, Rhymesayers Entertainment is based
out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Putting aside any preconceived notions of what a label
based out of Indiana would sound like, these kids are fresh, and fresh is where you find it.
We've heaped the praise on Gnawledge early in this review, so let's counter-balance it
with the skepticism any critic would have reading the press sheet for "Granada Doaba."
The opening paragraph sounds too good to be true. Aspiring artist Canyon Cody sends
his demo tape TO THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT and gets a Fulbright
scholarship in return. It gets better - Cody takes the money from his scholarship, moves
to Spain with rapper/producer Gnotes, builds a recording studio above a guitar shop and
starts recording with the locals. This is not a press sheet people, this is the rough draft for a
movie to star Antonio Banderas that's directed by Quentin Tarantino.
It's hard to argue with what one hears on "Granada Doaba" though, but it's worth noting
this is far from a traditional hip-hop album. In fact listening to the opening track
"Flamencologia" one could mistake this for a Paco de Lucía album. Ironically this is
what one SHOULD expect from a team of rap producers living above a guitar
shop in Spain - an album of hip-hop influenced flamenco guitar music. The word
"influenced" is key because on many of these tracks, the hip-hop element isn't obvious
sans the fact hip-hop artists produced it - they're just guitar instrumentals. On others it
is much more clear, such as "Bohemia Al-Andalus," which matches the guitar playing
with a rolling boom bap drum track and a snake charmer melody. The rest of "Granada
Doaba" falls somewhere in between, from the low-key hand clap beat of "La Senda Del
Abuelo" to the new age "Menudo Jaleo" that sounds like DJ QBert should be on it.
In fact there is a turntablist who fades in and out, but I can't find credits for him and I
wish he played a more prominent role.
Despite the fact the Gnawledge people seem to be marketing this as a "world music"
album as opposed to hip-hop per se, one can't help but hear the kind of old school drum
beats looped in the heyday of the Furious Five lingering behind songs like "El Manisero
De Potemkin," and the rolling jazzy bass that could be a Us3 track in "Calabazar De
Sagua." If the music itself didn't prove out that these hip-hop producers influenced the
sound they were capturing and recording in Granada, the bonus "remix" disc certainly
does by matching all of these songs with rappers and singers joyfully flowing over
these melodies, the best of which may be the Nona Kai remix of "Calabazar De Sagua,"
though I'm also partial to the Elemental Zazen take on "Nunca Fui a Granada." The
latter is inspired by a Rafael Alberti poem, and the title loosely translates to "I Never
Saw Granada," although you'll certainly feel like you've seen and felt what it's like
to be there by the time you finish "Granada Doaba."
This double disc set will leave your head swimming like a night spent in Madrid drinking
too much wine and eating too much tapas. To be fair about it I can see how the skeptics on
both sides will see it. One group will say "If I wanted to hear flamenco music I wouldn't buy
a rap album" and the other will say "If I want to her underground rap I wouldn't buy an
album of Spanish guitar." Okay - "Granada Doaba" is not for everyone - but if you're
as open-minded and adventurous as Canyon Cody and Gnotes were in putting "Granada
Doaba" together then you're in for a treat. I can't honestly rate the lyrical portion of this
set given only the remixes have lyrics, and a lot of the lyrics aren't performed in english,
so the ratings below reflect a different set of standards I think you will in the end agree with.
One more thing readers of this review should know - each numbered copy of "Granada
Doaba" comes with a message at the bottom saying "please copy, share and remix" so even
though this initial pressing might be a limited edition of sorts there's no limit to
how far and wide this music will spread. Don't be afraid to check out a download - that's
what Gnawledge wants you to do, and "Granada Doaba" is certainly worth sharing.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10
Guitar Vibes: 9 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: August 4, 2009