Name: Rami Even-Esh
Best-known for: His alter-ego, Jewish rapper Kosha Dillz
Little-known fact: “The first time I was in the newspaper was for a wrestling tournament when I was eight. I was a little obsessed with getting in the paper.”
Rami Even-Esh, better known by his stage moniker, “Kosha Dillz” is the son of Israeli immigrant parents and now a Koreatown resident by way of Perth Amboy, N.J. A professional hustler from childhood, Even-Esh has sold everything from t-shirts to CDs to vintage embroidered hats.
After a stint in prison, Even-Esh, 36, found success in the music industry. This year, he reached his sobriety bar mitzvah (13 years clean) and can now count multiple tours with Vans Warped Tour and collaborations with artists like Matisyahu, among his successes. He also recently recorded and released his newest album, “What I Do All Day and Pickle.”
Jewish Journal: Such an odd stage name. What’s up with your fascination with pickles?
Kosha Dillz: There’s not really a fascination. They’ve become popular, so I guess I was ahead of my time with the name. Pickles are right behind cats and pizza.
JJ: You moved to Los Angeles in 2011, so what brought you here?
KD: Music. I was already a professional musician when I came out to L.A. I just thought there was more of an opportunity and already had some friends out here, as well. I also really liked the recovery community in L.A., because there are a lot of people in the entertainment industry in the recovery community. Where I was from, it was surreal. No one was in the recovery community. I was like a unicorn.
JJ: How do your life experiences color your music?
KD: My music is just me being me. It’s what I’ve been doing since day one — rapping about selling drugs, doing drugs, not doing drugs, Jewish stuff, Israel stuff, and that’s it. People will always ask, “Why are you so pro-Israel?” Well, it’s because I’m pro-myself. I’m an Israeli citizen. I didn’t choose that, it’s just who I am. And I think everyone should rep who they are.
JJ: What do you hope listeners get from your music?
KD: I want them to feel connected to my struggles.
JJ: Is your Jewish identity ever at odds with your rapping identity?
KD: Not at all. I’ve been rapping about Jewish stuff since day one. When I was 19, my identity was more about being a white rapper, but now it’s more about being a Jewish rapper. I’ll rap in Hebrew and make it overtly known that I’m Jewish. My stage name is “Kosha Dillz.” It’s basically “I’m a Jew” in rapper-ease.
JJ: Before you were rapping, you were a wrestler. What happened?
KD: I was wrestling from the time I was 8 until I was 20. I stopped because of drugs — solely and only that. Otherwise, I would have kept wrestling. The real core of who I am is tied up with all the drugs and drug dealing. And then I got arrested multiple times. Then I got clean. And somewhere along the way, my music took center stage.
JJ: What marked the beginning of your career as a musician?
KD: I started rapping, and recorded my first song when I was 17. It was awesome. And then I recorded another and another, and slowly but surely, by the time I was 21, I had started burning CDs on my computer, and then tried to sell them at shows — demos, not even finished versions. I was honestly just really into selling things because I loved the hustle, and that started my rap career.
JJ: What’s the best part about being on tour?
KD: It’s very freeing. I look at touring like you’re mentally going into the wilderness. When you’re not on a tour bus, you’re driving through Kansas or Colorado and you see these amazing mountains, and you pull the car over, get out and scream at the top of your lungs because you know no one can hear you, and then you laugh to yourself because you’re crazy, and drive another seven hours through the middle of nowhere to a tiny show somewhere. It’s great. And I truly believe that touring is an experience and a way to reach out to fans.
JJ: How do you connect with fans?
KD: It’s interesting. When you’re touring these days, you’re not just selling the music, but you’re selling yourself — like a brand. With the internet and social media, the connection is way more instant. They might look at me and think, “Oh, he’s Jewish, let me go see him,” or “He’s in recovery — that’s interesting” or “Oh, he’s been to all 50 states, and I’m from Rhode Island and he’s been there, too.” You never know exactly what part of your identity will connect with someone.
JJ: Do you prefer performing or studio work?
KD: I love performing in front of people, but if you want to grow as an artist, you need to do studio work. You need to be creating new stuff that’s captivating, that will grow you a bigger audience. What you create in the studio is a tangible thing that people can share while you’re sleeping.
JJ: Do you enjoy the studio process?
KD: I do enjoy it, but it’s very terrifying, because I don’t want to go in, and I don’t want to do the work. I’m inherently lazy and very resistant, but then, when I’m in there, I’m suddenly like, “I need an album for the tour! Well, I guess I better come up with some rap songs, like, right now.” I give myself a deadline by paying for the studio time for two weeks. Essentially, I better come up with something, or I’ve wasted all my money. Honestly, most of my career has been showing up. I’m only in competition with myself. If I don’t reach out, or get to the studio, I’m the only one that hurts.
JJ: Switching gears. What are some of your favorite places in LA?
KD: One place I really, really love to go is Bibi’s Bakery. I always take people there. I also love this hike that I do every week called Cobra Fitness Club. It was my first commitment to regular social exercise. We get coffee and weird shakes.
JJ: One final question. Do you have a pre-show ritual?
KD: Oh man. I run around frantically! First I’ll run to the bar and get some water, and then I’m like “Guys! I’m going on now! Make sure you watch!” And then I worry that someone’s in the bathroom or outside having a cigarette and will forget I’m performing. It’s a pre-show ritual I’d rather not have. It would be nice to just chill. But until I’m massively famous, and the entire world is waiting for me to perform, I’ll feel like that. I guess that’s the Jewish end to this story: I’m worried!
Find out where Kosha Dillz is performing at koshadillzworld.com.