Hanni El Khatib 

San Fran’s genre collider general 

Who they? 

The San Francisco-raised, Palestinian-Filipino musician Hanni El Khatib has had the kind of magpie career which feeds perfectly into the eclecticism of his current music. A young skateboarder and amateur musician whose tastes tented towards the mainstream pillars of pop and rock, he started out as creative director of the streetwear brand HUF, before making music his main gig a decade ago. That his second album, 2013’s ‘Head In The Dirt’, was produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach gives an indication of the kind of sturdy rock territory he initially covered. 

Why Hanni El Khatib?

His imminent fifth album, ‘Flight’, is a study in personal and sonic maturity from the 38-year-old, a cross-genre collection of work which strides purposefully between the fuzzy, punkish, Young Fathers-style beat of ‘Carry’; the electro minimalism of ‘Stressy’; and the mellow, lovelorn synthesiser r’n’b slow jam of ‘How’. In collaboration with producer and musician Leon Michels, whose credits include Lana Del Rey, A$AP Rocky and Eminem, El Khatib slips in and out of short, breezy psych-pop interludes, and makes what sounds like a personal and political plea for guidance amid the bouncing, synthesised afrobeat of ‘Leader’. “You can’t tell me nothing / I’ve been hiding the button,” he hollers. “Now there’s nothing left to do but push yourself… looking for a true leader.” 

Tell us more… 

Released through his co-owned, Los Angeles-based Innovative Leisure label, ‘Flight’ – and particularly its lead track ‘Alive’, a swirling summertime groove reminiscent of Outkast, on which El Khatib blissfully cries “I can’t believe I survived!” – is inspired by his own brush with death. “The whole experience gave me some much-needed perspective on life,” he says of the high-speed collision in 2019 which saw him survive a car flip with only minor injuries. “I knew I wanted to touch on that somehow on this record.” 

‘Flight’ is released by Innovative Leisure on 15 May

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