Battle of the Soul is the new EP release from MC/producer Alonzo “Khalfani” Hill, also known as Pvt. Militant, coming straight out of Flint, Michigan.
HypeStyle talks to Khalfani in an exclusive interview on his new music, Hip-Hop, politics, and more.
HYPE: In full disclosure, Khalfani, you and I go back a minute. But for our According2HipHop readers, how did you come up with the name, “Khalfani”? What’s the story behind that, and your first MC name, Pvt. Militant?
Khalfani: No doubt, we go back a decade and some change brother! I’ll be as curt as possible and answer this question in reverse. The name Pvt. Militant derived while I was in the US Army. I never made it past the rank of private and I was known for taking a stance, so people started calling me militant. I put the two names together and became known as Pvt. Militant. The name Khalfani came about because people that heard me rhyme with the Impossebulls and my solo work would often hear a lighter side of my lyric writing in songs like “Come on baby”, but would often comment and say that they prefer my more political street rhymes and my rhymes displaying my softer side sully my CD. I then began to look for a name that could do both without the stigma, and I finally found the name Khalfani which is Egyptian and it means destined to rule.
HYPE: Give us a brief overview of your career and your educational background.
Khalfani: I’m a solo artist and I used to be Chuck D’s project band the Impossebulls from 1999-2004. I have a Masters in Library and Information Science, the President of the African American Male Librarians Association and I currently work as a Team Librarian and an Independent Musician.
HYPE: How have you evolved as an artist since the release of your first LP, One Man Against Many?
Khalfani: I believe I have evolved a great deal as an artist. I take my time writing rhymes and I edit them, so every word is heard. Also, I think evolving is a vital part of the process while we exist on this planet, nothing remains stagnant.
HYPE: Who are some performers you’ve shared the stage with?
Khalfani: The Impossebulls, Public Enemy, Blackalicious, Dilated Peoples, and Illus.
HYPE: Why call this Battle of the Soul?
Khalfani: I think we all battle moment to moment with good versus evil, so it’s an ongoing battle of the soul as we struggle to exist in (the world) Satan’s playhouse.
HYPE: On “Khalfani is King”, you criticize a couple of performers- Lil’ Wayne, T-Pain, and Kanye West. What do you feel is lacking in them as individuals, or in general?
Khalfani: I think a lot of artists, them included have taken the low road and promote materialism knowing at the end of the day their listeners want what they are rapping about, but do not have the means to get it, so their fans use whatever measures they have at their disposal to obtain what artists like them speak about. Unfortunately, the residue left from their rhymes jail, death and disruption within families continues to occur, while they reside in gated communities living the good life, but they need to be held accountable. As Jay Z stated in his song Dig a Hole “You left your finger print, you ain’t gotta be there.”
HYPE: Later in the song you also give your disapproval of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. What’s your take on them as social activists?
Khalfani: I look at both of them as opportunists. When something terrible happens that involves race, both of them are right on the scene taking in camera time, yet black people have been killing each other at an inordinate rate all across America for decades and they seem to be at a loss of words, to try to quell the violence.
Christopher ‘Hype’ Currie
Khalfani’s music can be purchased at www.mrkhalfani.com, on Amazon.com and Itunes. Stay tuned to HypeStyle for part two of the interview!
Here is part two of HypeStyle’s exclusive interview with Hip-Hop performer/producer Khalfani, as he talks about his creative aesthetic, the Flint, Michigan Hip-Hop scene, and future career plans:
HYPE: You reinterpret Run-DMC’s “King of Rock” for a hook. How much do you think today’s Hip-Hop stars appreciate what Run-DMC brought to the game?
Khalfani: Most of today’s Hip-Hop stars don’t appreciate what Run-DMC, nor what any of the other groundbreaking artists brought to the game because they don’t study the histories of Hip-Hop. I am a historical fan of the music first and then an artist.
HYPE: In the 1990s, the Dayton Family and the late MC Breed put Michigan on the national Hip-Hop map, even before Eminem. How would you describe the current Hip-Hop scene in your homebase?
Khalfani: The Hip-Hop scene is pretty much identical to what you see and hear on television, or hear on the radio. At this point the industry abides by a cookie cutter process, where artists are scared to be themselves, so they mimic so-called popular artists. No one is special anymore!
HYPE: What’s your take on being an indie-culture musician vs. dealing with major labels?
Khalfani: Being an independent allows freedom of expression, but a lack of promotional/money making opportunities. Whereas, majors lack freedom of expression, but they offer tons of promotional/money making opportunities.
HYPE: What’s your take on the ‘backpacker’, ‘conscious’ labels?
Khalfani: The backpacker/conscious labels are multidimensional and allow artists the ability to be more creative and be who they are instead of using the cookie cutter process that most labels use with their roster by mimicking what they think is hot.
HYPE: What current trends in Hip-Hop are you a fan of and why?
Khalfani: I’m not into trends! I like doing and listening to timeless music, no matter what the genre is.
HYPE: What current trends in Hip-Hop are you not a fan of and why?
Khalfani: I don’t care for the materialism, gunplay and the feminization of Hip-Hop. The reason I do not care for the aforementioned is because we (fans) have to live amongst and within the residue that this verbal sewage causes within our communities.
HYPE: What was your first Hip-Hop show you attended as a fan?
Khalfani: The Fresh Fest concert was the first Hip Hop show that I attended in 1987, which had Run DMC headlining, UTFO, Kurtis Blow and Whodini performed too. Henceforth, I’ve been hooked on the Hip Hop culture.
HYPE: How much does your educational experience inform your approach to creating records?
Khalfani: It plays a great deal in my approach. I use what I have learned formally and informally to create songs that enrich my listeners lives. Also, I own everything, so I don’t have to answer to anyone, nor wait for a label to put one of my songs/record out. I can do whatever I want to do with my music. If it sells cool; if it doesn’t sell cool. I just put it out there hoping to touch whoever God grants me the ability to touch. No more, no less…
HYPE: A premium is placed on “street knowledge” in urban/Hip-Hop culture. Do you think this tends to give college aspirations a bad rap, no pun intended?
Khalfani: That’s a stigma placed on the Hip-Hop culture by record labels, which could care less about the blood that spills in the streets. They are only concerned about the almighty dollar. Lastly, yes it gives college a bad rap. Who wants to go in debt obtaining a degree when they can make millions selling crime rhymes? I should say think they are going to make millions. A college degree is much more tangible and the youth should invest in an education instead of the dream of being rich. They could do both, but the key is to get your priorities in order first.
HYPE: You are a founding member of the Hip-Hop collective the Impossebulls. Together you released an album, Slave Education, back in 2004 on Chuck D’s Slam Jamz label. What is the current status of the group?
Khalfani: I don’t know what the status of the Impossebulls is in 2012. I am no longer a member of the group and if I’m not mistaken, C-Doc restructured the group in 2004/2005.
HYPE: Beyond Battle of the Soul, what music or other projects are you working on for the future?
Khalfani: I’m working on a full album and just trying to let my creative juices flow. I’m not looking for a recording contract, I’m just trying to level the playing field and inspire the listeners who purchase or listen to my music.
HYPE: Where can people purchase Battle of the Soul and your other music?
Khalfani: My CD’s can be purchased at www.mrkhalfani.com or if you dig digital downloads they can be purchased at iTunes and a ton of other digital distribution companies.
Christopher ‘Hype’ Currie