Photo by Dan King
A Philly native by way of California, Khari Mateen is an über talented singer, songwriter, producer and cellist. Mateen emerged on the music scene in the under the tutelage of then Roots engineer/producer Kilo Saunders and made his breakout appearance on the legendary Hip-Hop group’s 2006 Grammy nominated album “Game Theory”, producing 3 tracks on the project, including one of my favorite songs by the group “Clock With No Hands”.
Mateen has worked with other artists such as Jill Scott, Dice Raw, Skillz and more while fully establishing his own solo career as an artist in 2011 with his project “KHARI”. Whether he’s showcasing his talents and masterful versatility on songs ranging from the infectious, dance inducing “Move”, the piano driven “Day By Day” or his bluesy, post traumatic stress disorder awareness single “Where Did They Go”, Mateen can effortlessly cater to fans of literally any musical genre from Soul, Rock, Classical to Hip-Hop. Mateen has more recently supplied his talents into works with producer RJD2 and talented artists S.T.S. and singer Tess Henley, along with scoring the critically acclaimed TV series “Brick City”, “Prayer For The Perfect City” and other visual projects.
It was my desire to have Khari Mateen as my first new interview of 2014. Not only was his “WXPN Key Studio Sessions” recordings some of my favorite sounds of 2013, I feel that his music, talent, and all around great energy is what the true embodiment of an artist should be. In addition I personally believe this year will truly be a great one for him, the one where he should continue to cement himself as a familiar name as a solo artist, and also should be extremely sought after to provide music for other artists and film projects.
I was honored to speak to Mateen about working with The Roots, his mission to spread awareness of better treatment for soldiers post-war, his recently released project “Qualia: Fall” and more. The audio is supplied below as well as the transcript of the interview. Get familiar with one of music’s emerging voices.
The Gifted: Interview with Khari Mateen
As a man with a lot of talents, describe your experiences growing up that led to you being a musician.
I think, really some of the most important experiences that I had was just around my family. They were all musicians pretty much. It was always about playing music in the house, everybody singing. I think that was a big part of my development and my love of music for sure.
Describe the feeling of being one of The Roots go to guys for production after the Grammy nominated album “Game Theory”.
I mean, (chuckles) what else can you say? These are legends of Hip-Hop, and it’s a blessing really to be in the history of artists like that. That’s super important to me and I’m honored really, yeah.
In addition to The Roots you’ve also worked with Jill Scott before.
Some people wanted me to ask you this… On a scale from 1 – 10, how would you rate Jill Scott’s hugs?
Hugs? (Laughs) I mean, uh… I’ve gotten hugs… I’ve never rated a hug from Jill… they’re good (loud laughter)
People always say she looks like she gives great hugs so they wanted to know for sure.
Nah, she’s like a super, super genuine person. Like when she walks in a room, you know it’s one of those things where you’re like “Damn!”, if you didn’t know who Jill Scott was you would be like “man, whoever that woman is she’s awesome”. Great energy and she’s always been a supporter of me and things I’ve done, so I got nothing but love.
In addition to producing music for artists you’ve also scored films like “Brick City”, and I think I seen that you’re working on some other stuff to?
Yeah, I can’t tell the title for the work I’m doing right now but I can tell you that it’s about Chicago pretty much. That’s pretty much all I can say.
Who are some of your favorite composers as far as film?
As far as film, honestly I can’t name a whole bunch of composers but I do have films I really, really enjoy listening to, films like “Inception”. I love film I love listening to the scores, and being a part of knowing a whole orchestra was involved. I have yet to work with a 50 piece orchestra before but that’s definitely my goal (laughs). Definitely.
Now on your latest album “Qualia” your first single “Where Did They Go” tackled the topic of PTSD.
Was there anything in particular that sparked that?
Well yeah, I had two conversations with two gentlemen where I live and it was just really crazy to know that they’ve been to war and the process of coming out of the war and how they were adjusting to that. The conversations I had were just really shocking. One guy telling me he would go to bars and just drink himself to the point to where if anybody got in his face, he didn’t know what he was going to do, whether he’d be friendly to them or he just punch them in the face, he just goes off, he’d never know. Then one guy was an older, older gentleman that was in the Vietnam War and he was talking about how people just totally threw what they did to the side and just kind of left them out to dry and really had them in a condition where they could be in a place where they could just snap and not have any type of treatment. Obviously we’re going to have wars, you know, but it’s the way that we operate when these people get back is something that I wanted to just bring to light. I don’t know if the song will stop the war, that wasn’t goal. The goal of the song was to just bring to light what a lot of people are going through right now, and myself, having family members that had been to war and it’s important to me as well.
Your theme “Qualia” that you had on your album, will that be an ongoing thing?
Yeah it will be. For the next year (2014) I’ll have a record coming out in the winter, a record coming out in the spring and a record coming out in the summer. Or project, whatever you want to call it. I know some people say “these are EPs”, or “is this a whole album?” No, it’s a project, the whole experience is called “Qualia”, its living, creating music in the moment and appreciating every second.
You and STS have put together some good music.
Any chance you guys would work together on a whole project?
On a full project… I don’t know. STS you know, I’m working with him on Sunday. (Laughs) We just take it day by day. That “Qualia” theme runs through with how I operate with other artists as well. If there was an opportunity to where we could stop what we’re doing and to make a record all the way through I would be down with that.
This is about the time of year people put together their best of lists. What were some of the things that were your favorites?
This band, I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it right, Tame Impala.
They are a rock band, I think they’re from Australia. That was a really good record that they had. What I l listen to are a lot of wide ranging stuff. I’ve listened to some Brazilian music that has been really awesome. Obviously, there’s a lot of songs on the radio I’m jamming to (laughs), or if I go to a club or whatever. There’s been a lot of music made, and honestly it really interesting, all of it. Tame Impala is probably the only thing that I can tell you that I heard and was like “ah man that’s dope”. That’s what I wanted to hear and that’s what I’ve been listening to throughout the process of making my records. There was a certain type of freedom and creativity in it that was really awesome.
In addition to everything else, any projects or events you want people to know about?
I just want to tell people to look out for the next “Qualia” record that’s coming out around the winter time, around March. Right around February, March time.
Khari, it’s truly a pleasure to talk to you today man. It was good to finally meet up with you and get this done. Continued success to you and thanks again for your time.
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