This interview with Khaled M. is from May of 2011. You can find the original article here. I got the interview with Khaled M. through Skinnie Entertainment Magazine just as Libya started getting it's revolution on, and it was surreal to interview a person whose father had been a victim of Gaddafi's regime.
I liked interviewing Khaled M. because he was such a genuine person to talk to. Some hip-hop artists really keep their act on, which is why they tend to be so successful doing films. Khaled M. was humble, yet professional, focused but open-minded. Despite his growing fame the guy really was a grounded individual.
His horrific descriptions of the terrorist act his government perpetuated upon his family in Libya, especially his father, made me thankful that NATO got involved to decrease the civilian death toll. I was also glad that Reagan bombed Gaddafi back in the 80's.
Khaled M. (Khaled Muammer) is an American-Libyan hip-hop MC creating revolutionary music at a time when his homeland is in the midst of one.
He fine-tuned his skills in Chicago, working as a ghostwriter for other hip-hop and R&B musicians while he perfected his freestyle-driven signature sound.
Now Khaled M. is an MC on the rise, touring around the world with industry heavyweights such as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Tech N9ne and Insane Clown Posse.
Recent political protests in Libya over Gaddafi’s totalitarian regime have placed a different kind of spotlight on Khaled M., who had grown up in a family that had fled Libya for their lives to live in a community with strong ties to the National Front for the Salvation of Libya.
His song, “Can’t Take Our Freedom,” has become a rallying cry not only for protestors in Libya, but for anyone facing political oppression around the world.
What did your early years as a ghostwriter teach you about hip-hop and the music industry?
Coming up when I just finished high school I wanted to be an MC myself, but I wasn’t ready to launch my solo career. Those early years taught me about how to write a song and to understand the flow, delivery, the chords and the hook…it really helped me to develop that. It also taught me not to burn bridges. Before, if I didn’t like a song by another musician I’d say something about it. Now, I know when to keep my opinion to myself.
You were born into a family that had witnessed your father being jailed and tortured by the Libyan government on a routine basis. After they fled their home to eventually live in America, you were raised in a community with strong ties to Libya. How do all of these experiences affect your art?
I think more than anything that my experiences growing up taught me about what is important in life. We grew up poor but I had a very happy childhood. My family instilled me in certain values…that it was important to fight for justice, for freedom and to see what was more important in life.
From what I understand, your father was a poet as well.
My father never sat me down and taught me writing. I’d always hear him freestyling these little songs. He’d make little rhymes about how I didn’t like a certain food or things that would happen during the day. He was very clever and always had something witty to say. I was too young then to understand the magnitude of how good his writing was.
Do you look forward to visiting Libya once a new government comes into power?
It’s surreal. We always felt that any moment we could go back to Libya. That’s why a lot of Libyans grew up poor, they didn’t invest or save anything over here because they always thought they were going back. As a child I always thought we’d go back.
When I became a teenager I realized that this was America, this was my home. Recently, our group became more about making people more aware about what Gaddafi had done. Every male family member on my father’s side has been tortured and imprisoned by Gaddafi.
It’s going to be very emotional when we go back. It’s going to be an exciting time and a sad time. There’s a lot of family there I haven’t seen before, although I met a lot of them in when I was in Tunisia in 2004. To see a lot of my friends and family back in Libya again will be very moving.
Right now you are a young Moslem male growing up in a politically charged time in America. How do you feel about the country?
At the end of the day, regardless of what actions the American government or certain people might make, there are truly good people here. I think a lot of times a smaller group of negative people with loud voices can make life hard. I grew up as an outsider. All the King hearings, the fuss about building a Mosque in NYC, that can hurt.
There’s a lot of mixed messages. I have a lot of personal beliefs about what the government has disclosed and not disclosed. I think anyone who watches the media has to understand that they need to do a lot of research.
I don’t watch Fox news or anything like that. For instance, If you watch the news, you’d think that all Arab men are Moslem. But it’s only 18%. I feel sometimes I’m part of a culture that can be under attack. I get randomly checked, every flight. But I understand, we have to stop terrorism.
What’s it like for you in the world of hip-hop?
In the hip-hop world there is no anti-Moslem attitude. There’s big ethnic backgrounds, there’s Latinos, Chinese, Black people…it’s a big family and it’s a beautiful thing. Many hip-hop artists are Moslem, too. Because of this there’s a lot of cultural understanding. People don’t act weird when I have stop and pray.
The Libyan protest website you were a part of, Feb17.info, was influential in helping the people who were under Gaddafi’s regime get their message out, despite the government’s attempts to block communications to the outside world. What was it like being part of the technical and social side of a revolution?
Feb17.info was part of a lot of other things, a lot of different people from many areas working together to help. We called people in Libya, got a hold of them, and we offered tutorials to teach people there how to get Internet connections, using proxies and other technologies, like Google Voice, to get the word out.
People involved in the political demonstrations in Washington, D.C. during the protests in Libya wanted to be there so much to help. They wanted to be in Libya, helping them, fighting, giving medical aid…but people over there told us they needed the help we were giving them. They were the ones who told us that what we were doing was very important.
With all of that going on you still have had time to create a highly anticipated new project. Let’s talk about it.
I’m releasing it in early spring, late summer. It’s called Free P. This is my debut project. It’s a compilation of original material with original beats and music that I’ve been working on. I’m offering it to the fans for free because I don’t’ want anyone to miss it.
It’s not an album. An album is based on a theme. This is a compilation of songs that I have made over the course of my career. It’s more of a collection of unreleased songs.
My manager and I often say that we are free spirits with how we set up my tours. That’s the way I make my music. I don’t write anything down, I revise until I have something I like. That’s how I create my songs. I have a very diverse set of songs because of the spontaneity in my music. That’s what Free P is going to show to everyone.