Hip Hop Band
How positive is Doble Filo’s attitude? When their car won’t start, they throw their hands in the air and party like they just don’t care. That’s what happens in the video clip for “Reparmoferiando,” the first song on Doble Filo’s album “Despierta”. Yrak and Edgaro get in the car, a beat-up white Fiat 126p. Some friends show up and push them down the road, starting in Alamar – Doble Filo’s locus operandi and the historic epicentre of Cuban hip hop – and continuing all the way to downtown Havana. And it looks like good fun.
Doble Filo translates as “double-edged,” as in blades and metaphors. The group’s hip hop credentials are impeccable. Not only did they originate in Alamar, but they share credit (with fellow Cuban hip hop pioneers Obsesión) for starting the multi-disciplinary art collective La FabriK.
As you’ll learn from their Myspace page, Doble Filo has been compared to Dilated Peoples, the amorphous, California-based outfit that continues to be labelled “underground” even while collaborating with some of the bigger names in the North American hip hop world (Talib Kweli, B-Real, Mobb Deep, Gang Starr…)
Doble Filo has been around in various incarnations since 1995, mostly as a duo. Yrak Saenz, and Edgaro, aka Edgar Gonzales, recently teamed up with a third member, DJ Dark, aka Alain Medina. “As you can see we’re no longer two,” says Yrak, the group’s founding member. “We’ve also become more than a hip hop group. We’re like a family.”
In the interest of full disclosure, Yrak points out that, in fact, he didn’t grow up in Alamar. “Yes, it’s true,” he says with just a hint of defensiveness. “But Alamar was the only place where my work was accepted.” To prove the point, Doble Filo won the coveted grand prize at the 1996 Alamar Rap Festival. “After we won that prize, Doble Filo became something interesting. Alamar was a springboard for us. Now our headquarters are here, our laboratory. People say to me, ‘Why are you so into Alamar? You’re not from Alamar!’ But Alamar has always opened its arms to me. So now I live here.”
The building where Doble Filo has their studio is painted with elaborate graffiti that announces “Laboratorio 675.” Edgaro lives upstairs with his mother. Doble Filo’s songs are sometimes composed on Edgaro’s piano.
They describe their sound as “experimental hip hop,” which means they rap over a backdrop that can shift from drum and bass to techno to “everything that surrounds us, inspires us, everything we do.”
“I think every artist has a particular obsession at the time he writes lyrics,” says Edgaro. “I would say that our obsession is the improvement of the social condition. Each of our songs should lead you to think about finding yourself, doing what you want in this life, being what you want to be. We’re in the process of writing a song about Havana – not Havana as you see it but Havana as you feel it.”
Doble Filo’s songs manage to have a feel-good vibe without ever descending into happy-face mediocrity. “You’ll never see a Doble Filo song that denigrates women, that advocates violence,” says Edgaro. “I think the most important thing is to avoid negativity. It’s all about love, about being free.”
Yrak: “We get fans beyond the hip hop audience -- from the alternative music scene, from electronic music – because our music is for everyone. We get a lot of people between 30 and 40 years old listening to us. One time a young woman came up to me and said, ‘You know, I don’t like rap, but I like what you do. Because you have a vibe that I can understand.’”
At this writing “Despierta” (Wake Up) has not yet been released by a record label. “We’ve been making demos for years,” says Yrak. “I’m not sure ‘Despierta’ is ready. It might be end up being another demo.” Whatever the outcome, the album’s title seems prophetic. “Doble Filo has been around a long time and now we’re waking up,” says Yrak. “We’re moving to the next level. In addition to ‘Despierta,’ Edgaro and I are making our own record called ‘Rayones de Mi Alma’. Alain (DJ Dark) is a producer of electronic music, and he’s making a solo record called ‘Luz en la obscuridad’. So you see, we’re in a pretty creative period.”