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In the wake of the release of 2017’s Savage Times, Hanni El Khatib found himself wracked by depression, anxiety, and substance abuse problems. It became readily apparent that if Khatib didn’t make drastic changes to his lifestyle, there might not be a life to speak of. So he quit drugs and liquor, stopped touring, and took an indefinite hiatus from the studio. What would eventually become Khatib’s fifth studio album (FLIGHT coming May 15th), began as a spontaneous experimentation. Over the last several years, Khatib had become close friends with Leon Michels, best known as the mastermind of the soul controllers, the El Michels Affair, but who has also quietly racked up producer credits for the likes of pop juggernauts Travis Scott, Lana Del Rey, Rick Ross, A$AP Rocky, and Eminem -- as well as frequently working in sessions with Grammy-winning super-producer Mark Ronson.
At first, their jams were intended as riffs and breaks for other producers to sample, but quickly, Khatib decided to say fuck the middleman. Why create samples, when they could create the entire beat themselves? The process unfolded casually and organically into recording an album in upstate New York. The finished result is a rollicking sampledelic opus that recalls the beautiful chaos that the Dust Brothers created on Paul’s Boutique and Odelay. It’s the type of thing that Dilla and Madlib would’ve created if they had come up on The Cramps. It is garage rock, it is hip-hop, it is soul, it is blues, it is psychedelic. And yes, the debut single 'STRESSY' has a ghostride the whip reference because you can take the artist out of the Bay but…
On 'STRESSY', Khatib says "I wanted to evoke those feelings that come along with stress and anxiety due to each one’s personal struggles and environment. It can be suffocating and overwhelming when your in this mental state. However, I want to be clear that the message is more about understanding this and channeling what could be negative energy to break free. I felt the tension created by the music was the perfect backdrop for this idea."
Like so many others, this came like a bolt out of the blue and, even though it's well before payday, I had to have this astonishing album on vinyl to prove it exists. The feel of the tunes makes me feel like the Impressions do, Curtis Mayfield, the big spaces and instinctive horns and stuff drifting in and out. Great grooves and I can see lots of ghosts nodding along to this with big smiles on their faces. At last! Anthony Cottrell
I haven't heard anything as just completely perfectly formed out of the gate--every decision the right one, what to include but more what to exclude--maybe ever. Don't know who Sault is, but they do not sound like they could be anyone who hasn't paid some dues to get this good. Or signed some Satanic contracts. 100% confidence, and it sounds 110% earned. Musicophilia