Jewish Rapper Takes Wiley at His Word: ‘Search for Comparisons and You’ll Find Similarity’ (Guest Column)

Kosha Dillz addresses the U.K. rapper's anti-Semitic comments

Kosha Dillz Wiley
Shmully Wolfson; PA Wire/PA Images

Dear Wiley,

How are you? I ask that sincerely, as I’m sure the past week has been challenging for you, as it has been for many of us. Your words have hurt. Like a broken record, they’re anti-Semitic tropes we’ve heard for time immemorial. They go back to the very dawn of civilization, and they are wrong.

Who am I? I’m just an unknown rapper who is Jewish. You could even say I wear my Jewishness proudly and openly — after all, my stage name is Kosha Dillz. I’ve done some cool collabs in my time — Gangsta Boo of Three 6 Mafia, Rza, Matisyahu and Kaskade, among them — and opened for some of the biggest names in hip-hop.

Our stories seem to have parallels. We’re both former drug dealers-turned-independent artists who serve a faithful audience (yours far larger than mine). You said so yourself on the “Blood Cart Morning” when you rhymed: “Nobody pushed me, nobody carried me / Search for comparisons you’re only gonna find similarity.” But we differ in one respect:You started Grime and brought the influential hip-hop style to the world, while I merely get to participate in a culture I love dearly.

I took a deep dive into your catalog and watched many interviews and found you to be far less powered by hate than I expected. Your best moments came with a smile, whether that involved influencing those who came after, the likes of Danny Seth and Stormzy, or gaining recognition, as you did at the IVOR Novello Award last year when you picked up the “Inspiration” honor while seated in the company of some of the world’s biggest music stars. You also said it was special because you were following in the footsteps of your father, who was himself a reggae artist. I remember too what it felt like when my dad came to see me perform at Webster Hall in New York City.

You even have a song called “Welcome to Zion” on the 2012 album “Evolve or Be Extinct” which references highly Jewish concepts, yet your issue with the Jewish people seems based on tired stereotypes involving the entertainment industry. Every tribe has its faults, but in my experience traveling and performing around the world, we have made the best of our sh–ty situations and still show up for the gig. We have been through hell and back yet continue to give no matter how much has been taken from us. We have been nearly killed off. Survivors as we say, just like you.

You wondered publicly why the police were called to respond to a Twitter comment — it’s because your tweet was the equivalent of yelling “bomb!” in an airport, not unlike what a white supremacist did killing 11 congregants of Pittsburgh’s “Tree of Life” synagogue in 2018.

In Hebrew, we have a concept called “Tshuvah” — it means to return and is a step in earning forgiveness. Even if you don’t sincerely have any sorrow just yet, you can earn the legacy you deserve just for having started self-reflection. It’s what rabbis of the Simon Wiesenthal Center have been hailing in their talks with Nick Cannon. Ice Cube, too, is meeting with Jewish leaders like Morton Klein from the Zionist Organization of America. You also have an opportunity to gain perspective and regain the trust of fans who’ve been let down and misled. Why not join in on what they already are doing?

When you do start on this path, consider speaking with Nissim Black, a Black orthodox Jewish rapper in Jerusalem, or Naftali Aklum, an Ethiopian-Israeli refugee,  or Autumn Rowe, a noted Black Jewish songwriter. They’re Black, and I’m not, but we’re all Jewish and wish you the best.

Kosha Dillz is an American-Israeli rapper based in New York and Tel Aviv who has collaborated with such artists as Gangsta Boo of Three 6 Mafia, Rza, Matisyahu and KaskadeHe recently curated a Civil Rights-themed Shabbat Dinner called Soul Vey. The recurring virtual event aims to strengthen relations between Black and Jewish communities and their allies.