Soul Khan

Who is Soul Khan? A Los Angeles-born master of words and a widely successful and seasoned rap battler. A white rapper with Jewish heritage with a soulful and booming voice. An underground rhymer who continues to put out incredible music and not get enough love. The man started rapping as a high schooler, but only began to take his rap career seriously when, in 2008, he got a job at the iconic record label and brand Fat Beats. By honing his skills in Brooklyn he plunged headfirst into the rap battle scene. Over the next two years, Soul Khan gained a huge following as he rapped from battle to battle, absolutely murdering almost every MC that crossed his path. The videos of his battles on YouTube have accumulated over 6 million views to date. In a battle rap setting, he is a fearless MC; shamelessly incorporating humor, brash insults, and below-the-belt bars, into a flow to throw viciously back at his competitor. An example of Soul Khan’s style in a battle against Florida rapper Madness (a man of large stature, to put it lightly):

You’ve been posing out in Oakland but the closest to a Raider you’ve ever been/ is empty in your own refrigerator/ Soul’s an innovator, you just copying his lessons/ It’s like your dinner is played by Nicholas Cage/ It’s gone in 60 seconds.

Another from a battle against Stockton rapper QP:

Fuck it, if I getcha, I’ll dissect you/ Yo body sliced to slivers/ I’ll take your vital organs/ Sell ‘em to the highest bidder/ From your eyes and liver/ Every part’ll get pitched/ Too bad no one’s in the market/ For the heart of a bitch.

He spits every bar with a calculated, powerful rhythm, a style that comes across even beyond his rap battles. Towards the end of 2010, Soul Khan retired from rap battling to be able to focus on his musical projects, beginning with a free album. To date, Soul Khan has put out a free album, Soul Like Khan, and five EPs and mixtapes, Pursuance, Acknowledgement, Resolution, Wellstone, & Psalm. His lyrics manage to be clever, frank, and sometimes even beautiful, introspective. Khan relies on smooth, jazzy and old school samples for the beats and hooks of his songs; they lend themselves incredibly well to the deep tone of his voice. In ‘Place That Birthed Me’, a song off Khan’s album Soul Like Khan, he raps about his hometown of Los Angeles, “You gotta leave home to see home for what it isn’t/ So some day, I’ll return like the sun arisen/ And on my mama’s mama, I hope that nothing’s different.”

Every EP of Soul Khan’s has at least a fire song or two, and his latest release is no exception. Off of Psalm, ‘The Machine’ is a song about Khan’s road to success in the midst of a disconnected, overly distracted modern world. He spits, “Well, this for the girl that’s really got a hold on me/ The younger me that thought there’d never be an older me/ The folks that were old enough to grow up with a rotary.” ‘Not Like That’ (embed video) tackles sexism in hip hop and beyond, a song long overdue in rap music. Finally, Soul Khan gives us a rap song that advocates respect for women, noting and criticizing the pattern of misogyny in hip hop. Brooklyn vocalist Akie Bermiss (a frequent collaborator with Khan) takes the hook, “Oh god, it’s such an honor just to be with you/ I even picked a real fucking raw beat for you/ If I made a club banger, it would make me stacks/ But I know you got a brain to match, not brain like that.”

All in all, Soul Khan and his thoughtful brand of hip hop are not to be ignored. Much of his music is free, so listen to it and download it on his Soundcloud, and follow him on Twitter.

-Julia Hannafin