SXSW 2015: Oy Vey! Jewish Rapper Kosha Dillz Talks Israeli Politics, Getting Hacked by ISIS
Jewish indie-rapper Kosha Dillz's slogan is "Kosha Dillz Is Everywhere," and attendees of South By Southwest will soon see that it's true when stickers pop up in airports, bathrooms, and venues all over town.
It's Kosha's eighth visit to the Austin conference and it comes with an important milestone: his annual curated Oy Vey showcase, being held March 18 at the Javelina Bar, is an official festival event, as opposed to an unofficial day party. Dillz is also one of a few rappers on this year's Warped Tour and recently dropped a video for a Haim-approved remix of his song "Been Down." Indeed, it looks like 2015 is lining up to be a big year for Dillz (ne: Rami Evan-Esh). He shares his plans, talks about his longtime hustle and even a little politics.
This is your eighth time at SXSW. Why do you go back year after year?
SXSW helped create my career. I went one year and met somebody from Holland. Then the guy saw me [perform] and the next year, I come back to SXSW and he books me to go on tour with Snoop Dogg. SXSW allows you to really connect. I got on [the video game] NBA2K because I met a guy at South By, and last year, I played with Macaulay Culkin. This year, I put together the Oy Vey event and I also booked a show opening for Nas in Austin.
You have a reputation for being the king of the hustle.
I kind of use my old drug dealing mentality of getting seen and just trying to pop up everywhere and have a presence. Ideally, people will listen to the music -- that's what I'm trying to convert them to.
You really see it as analogous to selling drugs?
Yeah. When I was younger I got incarcerated a few times for selling drugs and had a pretty rough history with addiction. I turned 21 in jail, when most kids were turning 21 in college. I also turned 18 in jail. I had two monumental birthdays there. So I never did music when I was under the influence. I stopped drinking and doing drugs over 10 years ago and then, basically, I replaced it with music. I've never had a real job, so once I was just kind of grinding and selling CDs and going on tour, that was it. I literally stacked it in the truck and how I used to go into situations with always having drugs on me, now, anytime I walk in anywhere to like a Walgreens, to a store, I always have CDs.
What's the Oy Vey showcase about and how do you break through the noise at SXSW?
It's my brain child [and comes from] me rapping at synagogues and all the weird Jewish events -- and then in the hood and touring with well-known artists and bridging these two worlds together. So I started it in 2012 and this year, it became official. I got Murs, and then a ton of crazy people and bands from all over the place. This is one of the best ones I put together.
Earlier this year, your website was hacked by ISIS.
It was crazy. It became a small media frenzy and everyone wanted to talk about it. My website was just messed up for three weeks and it prevented me from getting orders and stuff for my merch stock, but, my father was like, "This [publicity for you] is so great." I think it was some kids from some Internet ISIS branch of Algeria ... and I was one of like 200 other sites that got hacked. I was the only Jewish rapper.
Do you get involved with Israeli politics? Netanyahu is a hot topic these days...
Yeah. I'm an Israeli citizen. We have a house in Israel and my family is there. I think it's really hard for people to understand what it's like to be threatened, to have someone say they want you wiped off the mat. If you guys understood what it's like to get pictures from your grandparents and [have it be of them putting] the gas mask on because they're shooting missiles -- that's a real threat.
[It's similar to asking] what was it like to be hacked by ISIS? I mean, I don't know. What is it like to have Netanyahu come in and disrespect Obama, or Obama disrespect Congress? It just kind of feeds into more of what the news wants to cover and I think it's unfortunately a lot of bull. But it's a very real threat that people threaten to blow up the entire country, and kill everyone and that's something Israel deals with. I don't know if anyone in America can actually grasp that.