There is nothing even remotely hip-hop about Hanni El Khatib.
Listening to the San Franciscan skate rat and garage rocker brings to mind howling ghosts of Southern blues clubs, people whose names started with “Blind” as opposed to “Kool” (and no, not the Blind Boys of Harlem). Over the course of three albums, Khatib has held lo-fi seances with his guitar, conjuring up spirits of entertainers from three whole generations ago, people who would not only be completely unfamiliar with hip-hop, but even his own ideas of rock and roll.
So, it’s a little strange that the hip-hop world is exactly what inspired Khatib’s upcoming album. Savage Times is a collection of the best tracks off of a series of EPs that he released over the last year and a half. And while the album very rarely confronts the idea of rap music directly, save a particularly booming drum track here or there, the entire project and the particularly the ethos that inspired it would slot right in among your favorite Soundcloud artist and Datpiff download.
Prior to the album’s release on February 17, we spoke with Hanni about why he felt the need to make a bunch of mixtapes, his suddenly political subject matter and whether or not this means a move away from the traditional rock music on which he made his name.