February 13th, 2017 | Album reviews

Savage Times
Innovative Leisure

Over the course of 2016 Hanni El Khatib released a number of EPs under the name Savage Times. Every few months resulted in a different gift, each as unexpected as the last. Having had the opportunity to experience all of the volumes—as well as cover some as they were released—I can say they’re just as powerful now as they were originally separately. These are indeed savage times, and El Khatib captures the issues we as a nation have been facing and continue to face in the current administration. These songs tackle issues of identity, race, class, as well as the hopelessness and frustration many people feel in the face of a corrupt political system and social climate that favors no one but the wealthy and white. Musically the album is just as powerful—El Khatib has a masterful ability to blend and twist genre to his desires. Elements of hip-hop, blues, rock, punk, soul, jazz, disco, and dance flow together into a sound entirely his own. He moves from a soulful and heartbreaking track to dance-y disco and then a hard-hitting-blues and rock anthem, but it never feels out of place. “Born Brown” and “Mangos and Rice” speak to the hardships of growing up in America to immigrant parents while also still retaining the pride of the culture he came from. Many of these songs call out the rampant xenophobia and racism people of color face in America with a furious roar and resilience that says, “We will not put up with this anymore.” “No Way” criticizes the gentrification of lower income neighborhoods and the resulting displacement. Previously, I noted a necessity for songs like these; now that people are beginning to wake up in the light of things like the Muslim ban, border wall, and gentrification of every last cultural enclave, perhaps this album can work as a sort of call to arms.

— Zachary Jensen