SXSW 2019: Kosha Dillz Promotes Diversity at SXSW 2019 with Oy Vey! Showcase
SXSW veteran Kosha Dillz is fighting anti-Semitism through music. Credit: Tonyia Cone.
By Tonyia Cone
Jewish rapper Kosha Dillz’s name was all over SXSW 2019, from his neon Oy Vey! and CMMNTY Showcase posters to Variety’s list of “The Best Music We Saw at SXSW 2019.” He was a panelist at the “How to Make $50,000 or More in Music This Year” session; with Adam Swig, he hosted Shabbat Empire, a Shabbat dinner and party featuring Aaron Mendelson, who performed as DJ Amuse, and Israeli folk duo JonZ; all while rapping as part of these and other shows throughout the week.
Raised in New Jersey by his Israeli immigrant parents, Rami Even-Esh started rapping through friends when he was a teenager. When he went to a New York City competition with a friend about 20 years ago, he was able to take a space in the event when another person dropped out.
“I went on stage and started battling and have been chasing that experience ever since,” he said.
Since then, Kosha Dillz has gone through several iterations of his stage name, went to jail, struggled with substance abuse, sobered up, and had several huge career highlights. His song, “Here We Go,” was featured in a 2012 Bud Light Super Bowl commercial and he collaborated on the 2008 album “Freestyle vs. Written” with C-Rayz Walz.
“Collaboration between a Black and a Jewish artist really was the first of its kind,” said Kosha Dillz, adding that C-Rayz Walz was criticized for working with him.
“The idea of a credible black guy in rap working with an upcoming Jewish artist, showing diversity, culture, and really being eye opening to other people,” said Kosha Dillz, “He saw what I was trying to do.”
Kosha Dillz first attended SXSW in 2008 and created the Oy Vey! Showcase in order to bring together people with all kinds of backgrounds. Now in its fifth year, the 2019 showcase featured a wide range of acts, including headliner Gangsta Boo, emo puppet band Fragile Rock, and Israeli bands JonZ, There and Bones Garage.
He created the showcase, this year sponsored by JSwipe and held at the Parish, because he saw that clubs were hesitant to book bands from Israel, and he also knew that many Jewish people otherwise might not see talented rap artists like Gangsta Boo, who he described as the “queen of Southern rap.” So he figured he would bring everyone together with a cool show.
“When you brand yourself as Jewish and anti-Semitism is what it is, it’s a silent weapon. So how do you beat that? You double down, you triple down, you go harder with it,” he said.
He explained that just because people may disagree about politics or governments, musicians should not be denied exposure and opportunities.
“Every musician should play music,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate because only anyone who is Jewish and Israeli or Palestinian really gets judged on their political governments through their music.”
Kosha Dillz promoted Jewish culture at the showcase by offering free pickles and seltzer all night long, but explained that the goal is to bring in non-Jewish people.
“I want people to be like, ‘I’m going to the Jewish thing.’ It’s usually only people like me and you going to the Jewish thing in Austin. But now it’s going to be a lot of people saying, ‘Oy vey’ in the street,” he said. “And a little bit of Yiddish never hurt anybody.” ■