Kosha Dillz is in a fighting mood.
The provocative rapper, who moved to Israel from Los Angeles in September, is out with a new music video that brings to mind a street crew protecting its turf. Dressed in black from head to toe, in the garb of chasidic Jews, the New Jersey native (whose real name is Rami Even-Esh) says he wanted to evoke a sense of Jewish pride in “Schmoozin,’” which features a posse of Orthodox toughs strutting menacingly through the streets of Tel Aviv.
“The idea was to be mugging for the camera as a Jewish gang that could beat up someone,” he said in a phone interview from Tel Aviv. (The video also pokes fun at Jewish food and an overbearing bubbe.) “There are a lot of anti-Semitic tropes of Jews as skinny guys with money. There needs to be more representation in the media that Jews aren’t weak.”
The music video dropped in mid-December, just before shocking scenes of the anti-Semitic attack against chasidim in Monsey, N.Y., popped up on the news during Chanukah.
“It was really sad and surprising to see that,” he said. “I got some anti-Semitic comments on Facebook and I responded. I’m not afraid. People are used to picking fights with people who won’t fight back. You have to engage them and put them on notice. I’m very proud to be a Jew.”
Kosha Dillz, who is not religious, said he’s bothered by perceptions of chasidim as corrupt landlords as well as by those who would cast aspersions on members of the African-American community because of the actions of a few.
“There’s good and bad in every religion, race and ethnicity, and a couple of bad apples shouldn’t spoil the bunch,” he said.
He added that he’d like to bring black rappers who are not Jewish to perform and tour in Israel, possibly calling it “Black Birthright.”
He performs next in New York City on Monday at The Bowery Electric. There he will showcase some of the new tunes from his upcoming album which will be released next month.
Like the title of the new video, he has practiced the art of schmoozing for many years. Once, when he met the actor Jeff Goldblum, one of his idols, he asked Goldblum to rap for him. Instead the rapper ended up freestyle rapping for the “Jurassic Park” actor.
“It’s important to be willing to approach people and be authentic,” he said of the interaction. “If you show who you are, people will respect you.”
The album’s title song is the looking-out-for-yourself “Nobody Cares Except You” which includes the cautionary line, “Let me explain, you should probably have thicker skin.”
Which is probably apt for a guy who beat a drug addiction and whose brother teaches krav maga in New York City. “You have to speak up for yourself and not back down,” he said about the message of the new album.
“I come from a generation of getting into a lot of fistfights,” he said. “There are people who have never been in a fight. Never been punched. Not that it’s a good thing or a bad thing. But it might cause you to live in fear.”
“Silence is the move of a coward,” he added.