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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Matisyahu’

Jewish Rapper Kosha Dillz: from Super Bowl to Super Star

Monday, February 11th, 2013

A Jewish rapper?  This one is not just Jewish, he calls himself “Kosha Dillz” and mixes Hebrew and Israeli imagery with his rapping.

Dillz, born Rami Matan Even-Esh,  grew up in New Jersey, the child of Israeli immigrants.

When Dillz spoke with The Jewish Press he immediately laid it out clearly that he is very proud of his Judaism and his connection to Israel, and that although he plays with the images and the ideas, it is something he takes seriously.

When asked whether it was difficult to be a focused Jew and a west coast rapper, Dillz confessed that the hardest part for him is dating.  He’s 31 years old and a cohen, which places a delicate limitation on the population from which he can choose.

Dillz began rapping at age 17, constantly traveling into New York City from his home in New Jersey during high school, and later from Rutgers University, where he was on the wrestling team and studied creative writing.

During the years of commuting into New York City, Dillz became heavily involved with the freestyle battle rap scene -  a form of urban combat in which challengers compete based on the quality of their impromptu rapping, most famously portrayed in the film biography of Eminem, 8 Mile – and with the New York Hispanic world of the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe in the late 1990s.

After Dillz finished college, he became caught up with drugs and alcohol and even spent some time in jail.  But eventually, Dillz cleaned himself up and put his life back on track.

Part of the clean-up was re-embracing his Jewishness and his connection to Israel, where he spent summers throughout his childhood. Dillz wears a large gold Magen David around his neck and incorporates images of Israel and Hebrew words into his songs.

By constantly pushing himself forward – leaping onstage the moment the opportunity is offered, showing up at parties and events to which he may not have been invited – this Israeli-American rapper from New Jersey seems poised on the brink of super stardom.

He has already appeared with Jewish superstars like Matisyahu, as well as with such high profile rappers as Snoop Dogg, Drake and underground freestyle legend C-Rayz Walz. There is a character in the NBA football game NBA 2K11 named after Dillz, and he’s worked with RZA of Wu Tang Clan fame.

If there is a Jewish current pop culture trivia game, Dillz should definitely be in it.  He told The Jewish Press how he has that claim.  “I was working with RZA at Rock the Bells (the largest U.S. annual Hip Hop event), when RZA told me to join him at the BET Hip Hop Awards.”  BET is the Black Entertainment Television channel, and the Hip Hop Awards are watched by millions.

He was in the right place at the right time: Dillz became the first Hip Hop artist to walk the red carpet at the BET Hip Hop Awards wearing a kippah.  And Dillz was even featured in a Cyphers segment (where there’s an eclectic mixing of new artists doing freestyle rapping) of the Awards program. He scored another first: first BET Cypher star whose rap included Hebrew.

Dillz explained how important it is to him to act as a bridge between Blacks and Jews, as both are central in his life. When asked what is the biggest misconception Jews have about the world of Black hip-hop and rappers, and the biggest misconception in the current Black music world about Jews, Dillz said,

There is a fear of interaction between both due to misunderstanding and miscommunication. I would love to see both groups come together for a concert and dance with each other. We both come from very similar struggles like slavery and persecution, and we both pride ourselves in independence and hard work.

As he humbly points out, Dillz has combined the best and the worst of both worlds: he’s been a Jewish criminal drug addict, and now he’s becoming a star in the Black music world of rap and hip-hop who is an observant, proud Jew.

A trilingual rapper and rhymer – he is also fluent in Spanish, Dillz incorporates humor and hustle into his creative work.  He has packed more angst, personal growth and physical traveling into his 31 years than many aged professionals, but it is his ability to “hustle” that propels Dillz forward.

Matisyahu’s Interview with CNN

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Formerly Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu participated in a candid interview with CNN, discussing his departure from observant Jewish life and his connection to his religion.

Just following the release of his album “Spark Seeker”, and a year after he shaved off his beard and publicized it in a controversial Twitter post, Matisyahu said that even though he no longer lives according to Torah laws, he is still as Jewish as ever.

“Judaism is just such a huge part of who I am.  I don’t think I could separate that at this point,” Matisyahu told CNN.  “I spent 10 years sort of really immersed heavily in the practice and in the study of Judaism. ..it’s still such a part of me that it’s inescapable.”

Regarding his departure from Chassidism which began with his abandonment of the Chabad movement, Matisyahu said “I started out in the Chabad movement, and I started pretty closed up, with the idea of there being that “this is it.” I bought into that fully. I really explored in depth the Chabad ideology. Then I started to open up. … I started to explore other types of Hasidism. … Eventually I began to regain trust into my own intuition and my own sense of right and wrong. I began to realize that there were a lot of things within that lifestyle that were actually holding me back…. and keeping me from tasting a certain freedom of expression.”

When pressed, he said that he ultimately walked away from Orthodox Judaism because “When I’m talking about all the heaviness, I’m really talking about the rules. So at a certain point … I basically said, “I don’t need to do all these things. It’s my life, I can choose how I want to worship God, what words I want to say. I can say less words.” And once I let go of that, just sort of like a freedom that opened up that I began to taste, this freedom in my life that I had been missing.”

Matisyhau said that the professional implications of shaving his beard – a decision he came to over the course of years – did not concern him, as he believed in the power of his music, and said he did not believe he had garnered fans because of the beard.  He did, however, say the beard helped “put me on the map and get me attention”.

Matisyahu said he tells his three children that “nobody knows the way” when it comes to religion, and that while teachers and others may represent Judaism as encompassing Torah laws, “you have to decide in your life what’s real for you”.  While he infuses their lives with elements of Judaism which are “enriching and meaningful”, he does not remind the children to do things like wear a kippah or say blessings on food.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/matisyahus-interview-with-cnn/2012/12/30/

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