Khaled M is a hip-hop artist. Khaled TheComic is (not surprisingly) a comedian. Together, the two Khaleds are the unstoppable duo behind HaHa-HipHop, a frenetic variety show complete with a twist of social commentary.
This weekend, the Chicago-based entertainers will descend on Michigan, performing HaHa-HipHop at a Friday show in Ann Arbor and twice on Saturday evening at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn.
"With comedy and hip hop it really just feels like a natural fit," Khaled TheComic told HuffPost. "There's a pretty easy crossover between the materials."
Khaled and Khaled have always been immersed in their respective crafts, but it wasn't until the last few years that each decided to take it professional.
Khaled TheComic started performing stand-up about five years ago as a stress-reliever. At some point, he realized people were actually listening to -- and laughing at -- the things he had to say.
"Two years ago I came out of the comedy closet," he said. Since then, he's been traveling across the country performing for fans and strangers. "This is not a fame and fortune pursuit for me," he added. "This is a passion pursuit."
Khaled's comedy is observational, drawing on both personal experiences and social issues, with a particular focus on LGBT issues. He tries to examine stereotypes, sometimes nearing the line of offensiveness in order to get his point across.
"It's commentary put in the wrapper of humor," he said. "I'm trying to weave together my life experiences and the audience's life experiences in a way that gives us the opportunity to create dialogue."
Khaled M draws much of his inspiration for his music from his father, a Libyan poet. Although he started rap-battling in his school lunchroom and ghostwrote for other rappers for years, he, too, only started performing under his own name in the last two years.
He calls his songs "reality music," rather than other terms he's heard, like "conscious" or "political."
"To call it political is really underestimating people," he explained. "It's the same stuff people talk about every day. Realistically people don't talk about popping bottles on a daily basis. My music is a reflection of me, and I try to touch on real life."
Both Khaleds would describe themselves as social activists as well as artists, and they draw a diverse crowd.
"People aren't used to seeing a 50-year-old white lady at hip-hop shows," Khaled M noted.
But his music speaks to a wide range of people.
"It's about uniting people and really empowering people and offering a message of brotherhood."
Khaled TheComic first realized the power of comedy while growing up in Texas in a town with very few other Arab Americans. When the Gulf War started, he said he became a target of harassment at his junior high. A classmate even threatened him with an after-school fight. While sitting in class dreading the confrontation, he made a joke that cracked everyone up. Afterwards, the bully approached him to make a truce.
"An hour ago this guy wanted to beat me up, and now that I made him laugh, he sees that I'm a person and that these perceived differences really don't matter," Khaled TheComic said. "Laughter gives someone the ability and permission to see someone for what they really are."
"We want to touch people's hearts, we want to light a spark inside of them," Khaled M said. "The easiest way to do that is with entertainment, not only [leaving people] feeling entertained but feeling inspired."
But does that mean this weekend's shows will be heavy on message and light on fun? Not at all. The Khaleds promise nothing less than a spectacle.
"I go into every show assuming no one is a hip-hop fan, so I have to win them over," Khaled M said. "I approach every show like it's a Las Vegas event."
LISTEN: "Follow My Lead" by Khaled M
WATCH: Khaled TheComic performs his stand-up act about holidays
HaHa-HipHop will show in the Great Lakes Room of University of Michigan's Palmer Commons Building, 100 Washtenaw, Ann Arbor on Friday, Jan. 27 at 7:30 p.m. and at the Arab American National Museum, 13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn on Saturday, Jan. 28 at both 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
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