If you haven’t heard of Soul Khan, you’re definitely in for a treat.
Everyone knows I’m a really picky person when it comes to hip hop. Mainstream literally has nothing to offer me for my addictions towards music. So when I like to co-sign someone in the hip hop world, you know it’s going to be an offering of intellectual art at its most entertaining.
Soul Khan is a witty up-and-coming emcee. His appearance is coated with the image of an nuclear-lab technician, but his presence & projection offer a shrewd, dexterous style that would bring a rainstorm of tennis shoes to anyone who ever tried to emulate it. Soul Khan grew up in Los Angeles but eventually moved east to Brooklyn, becoming a well-known staff member of the late/great Fat Beats (now located online). He’s also the well known member of underground’s newest hip hop crew “Brown Bag All Stars.”
In the beginning, Soul Khan earned most of his fame by joining the battle circuits here in the United States. He quickly gained notoriety by destroying almost anyone that was placed before him, building a reputation for himself as the world’s most feared underdog (look at all the top names who are afraid to battle him). A stand out with his pulpiteering delivery, laugh out loud punchlines — for example this line against Madness “Soul’s an innovator, you’re just copying his lessons// it’s like your dinner was played, by Nicholas Cage, it’s Gone in 60 Seconds.” He started against marshmallow-amateurs like Rhapsodist, but quickly moved up the ranks and began embarrassing top tier guys like poRICH, Sensa, Aspire, Real Deal & Fresco in tag team competition (Beat Fresco also in a one on one match). In my opinion Soul Khan put on the only real life reenactment of 8-Mile ever seen, receiving a standing ovation after he finished his third round verse against QP. He’s destroyed names in every top league there is, URL & Grindtime (United States), King Of The Dot (Canada), Don’t Flop (United Kingdom) — but guess what? That’s not even the best part about this guy.
Recently Soul Khan dropped his brand new (and free) album entitled “Soul Like Khan” — which like anything created by a scientist took awhile to reach the public. The album features B.B.A.S. members such as Sene, Homeboy Sandman, 8thW1 and more. Crafted with an ensemble of conscious flows, “soul-full” beats, fluent multi’s and intelligent metaphors, the album is by far one of the best I’ve heard in 2010. Obviously Soul isn’t a a member of mainstream, Soul Like Khan didn’t get the kind of promotion Eminem or Kanye West’s album did, but if quality was the only benefactor, then Eminem and Kanye who? On the production side is another up & coming beast in hip hop — J57 (fellow B.B.A.S. member & manager), peep out his Myspace page or Google that cat when you get the chance. The beats are insane (to my liking if you know my chill style), and the lyrics are so raw and unforced, makes you kind of feel like a kid again living in the golden age of hip hop. With thirteen solid tracks, my personal favorites from Soul Like Khan are “Shitted On” & the very last track “Soul Like Khan” (which is probably one of the best hip-hop song’s of 2010), there truly is no soul like Khan people!
You know his story, now get to know him and his music.
CORY: What’s going on with the Brown Bag AllStars album? Tell us a little bit about what’s going on with that and when it drops?
SK: The Brown Bag album is in the works, and it’s going to be spectacular. No release date for it yet. Brown Bag Season Volume 1, which is a compilation of remastered old and new material (more new than old), is dropping in the first quarter of of 2011, with a fully remixed second disc with new beats by Canadian DMC champion, DJ Brace. It’ll be monstrous.
CORY: What’s your favorite track off of Soul Like Khan and why?
SK: It’s either “Minyan” because it cuts so deeply both lyrically and instrumentally or “For That” since it’s got a nice nostalgic warmth to it. And I love me some warm nostalgia.
CORY: How do you feel you’ve improved as a battler over the past few years? What was it you forged ahead in the beginning, and now feel you’re coming into your own? The punchline? The set up? The rebuttal? Take the reader through the cultivation of Soul Khan, what are you’re honest strengths?
SK: Honestly, I just stopped giving a shit about who my opponent was and only concerned myself with entertaining the crowd by being as brutal and incisive as I could, no matter the opponent. I don’t know if I’ve gotten better in too many essential ways. I just took what I already had and got rid of the excess. I’m still a little sloppy in my preparation because I hate having to devote that amount of time to something that will only happen once and then be nothing but a viral video memory.
CORY: I also hear that you’re going to be taking a few months off to focus more on your music? From what it sounds like, you just aren’t getting the battles you want, do you think it’s because they’re scared? Tell us what you got planned for 2011 and what kind of music you’re cooking up in the lab?
SK: I honestly don’t give a damn what they’re thinking anymore because I’m impatient and battling is dope, but at the end of the day it’s just a commercial and I’ve made quite a few of them for people to watch as it is. In 2011, I’m dropping four four-track EPs, each with a different Brown Bag-affiliated producer, as well as a commercially available EP with J57 on the beats, a secret project with Audible Doctor on the boards, and a few other miscellaneous recording endeavors before my next big album (which won’t be free this time, y’all, sorry). I’ve got a lot in the works.
CORY: How do you coach yourself for a battle? What are the fundamentals to your battle preparation? Do you need to be alone and in your zone? Or does it all come spontaneously?
SK: I write my stuff, sometimes after having to isolate myself for long periods of time, and then rehearse it over and over again. It isn’t a particularly sophisticated method.
CORY: Do you ever set aside really personal lines in a battle? Lines you aren’t gonna use, but keep just in case your opponent drops something personal, so you can be like “oh, ok, so it’s like that? Well how about this…”
SK: Not really. If it’s so bad that I’d only use it as a response to a line that’s in poor taste about me, I just won’t use it out of principle. There are lines not to be crossed. I will never disparage children nor talk about people’s family members in any realistic detail with respect to their daily lives. That’s not anyone’s business.
CORY: What inspired you to get into battling? What kept you against the stereotypes of racism & prejudice (like everyone attacking your Jewish heritage in battles).
SK: Battling was synonymous with rapping when I grew up. If you rapped, you occasionally battled, too (pre-8 Mile). And there’s nothing wrong with using jokes against any demographic, including Jews, as long as it’s witty. I’m not some kind of Semitic crusader against the enemies of tolerance. I’ve said some pretty degrading, awful things in battles, too. We don’t mean any of this stuff. It’s why I don’t care on a meaningful level when people say it to me.
CORY: Kind of on the same topic, one you can really vent on, what are the things you’re getting tired of your opponents using in every battle? The Jewish jokes? The references to your glasses? What is it that your like — “come on, find someone new already.”
SK: It’s all fair game. Content and subject matters don’t matter, but the presentation does. I can do three rounds of fat jokes because they’re all good and original fat jokes, just as someone could do three rounds of all Jewish disses, as long as they’re witty.
CORY: Who were some of your inspirations in hip hop growing up? Who’s your favorite battler?
SK: My inspirations in hip hop growing up were everyone from ODB to Posdnous to Kane to Pharoahe and a million mc’s in between. It’s too hard to pin it down to a discrete and small number but you can hear who’s present in my music if you listen hard enough. My favorite battler is Serius Jones (although he’s not on the circuit anymore).
CORY: And last but not least, what advice do you have to give all those young battlers and young emcee’s out there? I’m talking about the ones that choose to follow smart mechanics & refuse to dumb down their art. As a battler, and a man with a voice of a lion, what do you have to tell those little SK’s who are in the same place you were, preparing to battle what lies ahead?
SK: I’ll say the same thing here that I say in response to this question any time I’m asked it. The audience matters most. If you’re not saying something worth hearing by someone other than yourself, shut the fuck up and take a seat. If you’re making art for yourself, keep a journal and do it at home. If you want to be a performing artist, whether it’s as a battler or a musician, the input matters, negative and positive (though learn what to get from each), and you need to make your art worth the audience’s time. And that’s my word.