In the life of any interesting artist, there is the perpetual war between the simplicity of public perception and the complexities of reality. Consider Hanni El Khatib, a definitive purveyor of visceral, blues-wracked, punk-spiked, soul-warped, knife fight rock n??? roll over the last decade. You may be familiar with him through any one of his four acclaimed solo albums on Innovative Leisure, his work with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, or as one of the rare polymaths able to artfully blend serrated guitars and hardcore rap on collaborations with GZA and Freddie Gibbs. And while these are all real things that could accurately yield a sketch of the multi-dimensional Los Angeles-based artist, they amount to little more than a black and white pencil sketch.
More compelling is the Hanni El Khatib of terrestrial existence, who is less susceptible to being pigeonholed by shrewd branding or capsule biography. There is the Hanni El Khatib who existed before he was a professional musician. This was the rap and punk-revering San Francisco skate rat, who grew up digging in the crates for samples to flip on his bedroom MPC -- who would eventually become the creative director for the venerable streetwear label HUF. There is the second chapter in which El Khatib moved to LA to pursue music full-time and almost immediately found himself embraced by KCRW and on tour with Florence and the Machine. Music supervisors synced his music in Audi commercials that played at the Super Bowl.
The LA Times said that El Khatib's voice is like ???woodsmoke or bourbon, acrid yet sweet, as timeless as jeans and a T-shirt??? versatile enough to make a classic sound fresh again.??? While across the pond, The Guardian claimed that El Khatib was like ???if Joe Strummer came back as an angry young Filipino-Palestinian American.???
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El Khatib, Hanni