When someone decides to dive into hip-hop, they soon realize just how deep the rabbit hole goes. One also comes to see hip-hop's labyrinth of different and intersecting sub-genres. Just like rock 'n' roll, there's always new and boundary-pushing music being created that adds to the lexicon of American music.
So, in walks Kosha Dillz.
The underground journeyman has found himself working with some of the biggest names in hip-hop over the last decade — artists like RZA of Wu Tang Clan, Kool G Rap (the godfather of New York crime raps), and Homeboy Sandman, and he's toured extensively with Matisyahu.
Kosha credits Matisyahu for helping him out early on. After all, touring with a high energy act like Matisyahu, who has a massive throng of devoted fans, Kosha was able to expand his own fan base and put his name and music on the minds of millions of people as a result. The two artists have also collaborated on several tracks over the years, notably "Dodging Bullets."
With a very loyal fan base, called Dillzionaires, that stretches across the globe, he has built himself a truly DIY network that allows him to remain a solo entity business-wise. There isn’t a massive apparatus around Kosha Dillz. "I have an agent," he says, "but I do a lot of connecting through my own network." He’s the everyman rapper that made it on his own, and you can tell why from watching him perform.
After playing the Grit Daily Live! Miami Art Summit after-party on December 7 for Art Basel, Kosha held a house-party show in Fort Lauderdale at the roaming secret event called Mitzvah Mansion. South Florida hosts the first couple of stops on a week-long tour before Kosha Dillz flies back to his new home, Israel.
As a rapper of Jewish descent, Kosha Dillz — born Rami Even-Esh — has become part of a long line of Jewish artists that have made their mark in hip-hop since its inception in the early '70s. Groups like the Beastie Boys, MC Serch from 3rd Bass, the lyrical monster Mac Miller (RIP), and Def Jam co-founder and iconic producer Rick Rubin to name a few. Let’s also not forget Drake and his music video for "HYFR (Hell Yeah Fuck Right)," where his Judaism was on full display, even incorporating clips of him at his bar mitzvah.
A few months ago, Kosha moved to Tel Aviv, Israel's coastal city of roughly half a million people, after growing up in New Jersey and living for a time in Los Angeles. Kosha says people in Israel are excited about the music. "The hip-hop scene is cracking out there," he says. "It’s like, wow, people are feeling hip-hop here and they are loving it."
By contrast, in the U.S. nowadays, Dillz says, "you need to like literally beat someone with a bat to get them to come to a show."
The lack of excitement seen by touring artists is especially common for independent rappers. It's also pretty understandable — hip-hop has been part of our American soundtrack for so long now, it takes a lot to excite us. There was a time when people were just happy to be out and hearing someone be creative on stage. Now when an artist takes the stage, crowds tend to have a more judgmental feel. Not so in places like Israel or Berlin, where there is an excitement when you go to shows because the hip-hop scene is still in its early stages of development.
During his set at Mitzvah Mansion, Dillz worked like a labor organizer to keep the crowd engaged. At one point during his track "Zionist Yoga," he started doing one-handed push-ups for the crowd as he rapped. Kosha’s crowd work as an artist is second to none. He kept attendees, many who aren't part of the hip-hop scene, engaged for his entire set by keeping them on their toes during every song. There was a ton of call and response from the audience during songs, and it was as if the party was getting a chance to see first-hand what it means to be a professional rapper in 2019.
Most artists tour with a hype man to bolster the power of their vocals, but no hype was needed with Kosha Dillz. Under that South Florida evening sky, Kosha ran through new songs like "Nobody Cares Except You" and "Exercise," while the crowd formed a semi-circle around him, dancing and chanting the chorus. At one point, the buff rapper, who trains with mixed martial artists, had them doing squats to "Exercise."
The video for the single, which is currently Dillz's favorite song to perform, takes clips from old workout videos from the '70s, '80s, and '90s, with Kosha rapping and exercising in front of a green screen that superimposes him into the clips. At one point, the retro aesthetic drops away and there's Dave Batista working out as well. It seemed odd, but Dillz says he knows the actor and former MMA star through RZA.
"He came to one of my Hanukkah shows," Dillz explains, "He lit the menorah and we put him in a bar mitzvah chair and shit."
Imagine Bautista at the center of the traditional horah dance.
"He was really supportive of me," Dillz says.”
As for RZA, considered one of the music industry's most respected producers, Kosha has had the opportunity to work with him on several tracks, one of them, "Operator," was released a few years back and featured Kool G Rap.
“I met RZA at a BET Awards [show]," Dillz says. "I gave him a CD — it was back when I first started.” Later, in a second meeting with RZA, “I rapped for him, his DJ, and Young Dirty Bastard — and then it was on.”
That about explains Kosha Dillz — all on.
It will be interesting to see how living in Israel will affect his songwriting. If the singles he dropped throughout 2019 are any indication, we should expect a new project in the near future. And from the sound of those records in comparison to his already impressive catalog, fans of Kosha Dillz have a lot to look forward to.
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