One stormy night last month, Rami Even-Esh was spitting bars outside a Knicks game — umbrella in one hand and microphone in the other — when Fat Joe walked by and grabbed the mike. A video of the duo rapping a verse from Big L’s “The Enemy” went viral on TikTok, and a few days later, Fat Joe invited Even-Esh (better known as his rap alias Kosha Dillz) on stage to freestyle in front of a sold-out crowd in Denver.
Despite containing all the signs of manufactured virality, Even-Esh’s Denver appearance was completely unplanned… well, as far as Fat Joe knew. When he heard that the “What’s Luv?” rapper was playing a show just days after their New York City encounter, Even-Esh bought a ticket, flew to Colorado and crossed his fingers that Fat Joe would spot him.
“In the back of my mind I’m hoping, ‘What if Fat Joe shuts the whole concert down and invites me on stage?’” Even-Esh says.
It’s not the first time he’s willed something into existence. Even-Esh lives by the catchphrase “We outside ‘til we inside,” a mission statement for knocking on doors until somebody opens them.
“I’m rapping outside Madison Square Garden during halftime, and my goal is to play halftime,” he says. “I rapped outside Coachella, and then I was a guest at Coachella in 2019. I rapped outside Bottlerock Festival, then I got booked for a side stage inside Bottlerock this year.”
Kosha Dillz is much more than just a viral video — and his hustle extends far beyond “rainstorm rapper,” as the Fat Joe video has christened him on popular hip-hop sites like The Shade Room. He’s been rapping for 20 years, hardened by the same freestyle battle rap scene that birthed Mos Def, Immortal Technique and C-Rayz Walz. Starting off in the early 2000s as Kosher Dill, Even-Esh soon adopted the name KD Flow, burying his Jewish roots in an attempt to fit in.
“I’ve been booed and humiliated many times,” he readily admits.
Interrupted by two stints behind bars for drug distribution, Even-Esh’s career has not always been a smooth journey. After serving time in jail and getting sober, he reconnected with his spirituality and became Kosha Dillz. He released his debut album “Beverly Dillz” in 2009, and a year later, he became a playable character in the basketball video game NBA 2K11 alongside Snoop Dogg and Drake.
In 2012, Even-Esh’s song “Cellular Phone” was featured in a Bud Light Super Bowl commercial, and his 2016 album “What I Do All Day and Pickle” charted on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop, Heatseekers and Independent Albums charts. Throughout his career, he’s played shows with J. Cole, Macklemore and Matisyahu, and he’s appeared on festival bills alongside Kendrick Lamar and Mac Miller. But despite spikes of commercial appeal and media attention, Even-Esh says he’s had more success in the last 13 weeks than he has in the past 13 years.
“I’ve always kept my integrity and never tried to be bigger than I am,” says Even-Esh. “My biggest accomplishment in my career so far is that I didn’t give up.”
Releasing new music, organizing a festival for bald people in New York City and writing a documentary about his life, Even-Esh demonstrates a seemingly limitless hunger to create. Comparing his journey to the miracle of Hanukkah, Even-Esh is like the light that won’t burn out, and in celebration of the Jewish holiday, he will embark on a winter tour with Jerusalem rapper Nissim Black. Just in time for this year’s lighting of the menorah, the pair teamed up for a brand new spin on Adam Sandler’s famous Hanukkah song.
So how does Kosha Dillz celebrate eight crazy nights? “Buy presents for people and eat jelly donuts,” he advises. “Be the light into the darkness.”