El Khatib’s fifth studio album Flight began as spontaneous experimentation. Over the last several years, El Khatib had become close friends with Leon Michels, best known as the mastermind of the soul controllers, the El Michels Affair, but who has also quietly racked up producer credits for the likes of pop juggernauts like Lana Del Rey, Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky, and Eminem -- as well as frequently working in sessions with Grammy-winning super-producer Mark Ronson.
At first, their jams were intended as riffs and breaks for other producers to sample, but quickly, El Khatib decided to say fuck the middleman. Why create samples, when they could create the entire beat themselves? The process unfolded casually and organically. El Khatib took a few trips to Michels’ studio in upstate New York, and when Michels would come to LA to produce the new Chicano Batman record or to work with Ronson, he’d steal away an afternoon to help create Flight.
The finished result is a rollicking sampledelic opus that recalls the beautiful chaos that the Dust Brothers created on Paul’s Boutique and Odelay. Or maybe the euphoric bricolage of the Avalanches’ Since I Left You crossed with the aggrieved darkness of the early Prodigy. Of course, it’s all filtered through the singular style that El Khatib has developed over the previous ten years. Take a song like “Room,” the first finished song on the album. Built off a scuzzy drum break and hypnotic pianos, the pair of El Khatib and Michels recorded it live to tape, then sampled it through outboard gear into the computer a la Portishead. Then they put it in Ableton, chopped the hell out of it, re-edited it and stitched back together into a collage. It’s the type of thing that Dilla and Madlib would’ve created if they had come up on The Cramps