Dillon Cooper Talks Cozmik and the Art of Acquiring Internet Beats
Dillon Cooper has been through some really R.A.D. things. He says it's made him Ridiculous and Driven.
Photos by Steve Irby Words by Brian Padilla
Young Brooklyn emcee Dillon Cooper is a better rapper than you. Well, I’m not sure if you rap, but if you do, I guarantee his bars are iller. After arriving on the scene with his tune and video to “State of Elevation” Cooper put out his debut tape titled Cozmik which is a mixture of classic hip hop beats and original production with raw flows. We were recently able to link with young Cooper at the Rocksmith flagship store in the LES to talk about his early relationship with music, behavioral issues, and Cozmik.
Mass Appeal: For most people it seems like you came out of nowhere. When did Dillon Cooper the artist come about?
Dillon Cooper: The Dillon Cooper wave started about 2 years ago when I put out “Shadows.” I started recording my first semester of college back in 2010. I was at Berkley [School of Music] for guitar and everybody over there was mad into guitar and not into anything else. It was straight jazz and rock. I knew I had other parts of me I wanted to explore and I thought let me take this rap shit more seriously.
So you were a musician before you even started rapping?
Yeah, I started playing piano when I was three or four then I switched to guitar when I was about seven. I stopped for awhile because I got into skating and every other thing kids get into when they’re growing up. I got an electric guitar for my 20th birthday and I started playing a lot more after that.
Did you play in any bands when you were younger?
Nah, I wasn’t in any rock or punk bands or nothing like that I just played in the high school band. I went to Irving, one of the most ghetto schools in the city, so we had somewhat of a jazz band. But really, me and my friends used to just jam out after school or whatever. It’s funny because I started rapping in high school because everybody rapped at Irving.
Lunch table type shit?
Yeah, every lunch at the back table, niggaz started the beat and we would just start freestyling. About senior or junior year I was seeing that I’m actually good at this shit. I was that nigga in high school who was always rapping and would always be high.
What was Irving like for you?
Irving was a complete change for me. Growing up I went to Professional Performing Art School first. I was there for middle school and I was always getting in trouble for shit so they didn’t let me back in for high school. Before PPAS I was in this private school down in the Village called Little Red and I was getting into mad trouble there too so I felt like I wasn’t fitting in anywhere.
Seems like you were a bad little kid.
Nah, I was just real outspoken. I said what was on my mind a lot, ya’ know? Coming from Brooklyn and going to this little independent school, people are just different. It’s a real different view and spectrum on life. I remember going in there and I had on some FUBU track pants and this one girl was like, “What’s FUBU?” Who hasn’t heard of FUBU you know what I’m sayin’? It was a complete different culture. But you learn to adjust and that experience helped me interact with people that aren’t the same as me.
In your music you talk about rollerblading. Did people crack on you for being an “inline skater”?
Yeah man, it comes with the territory. I’m nice at skateboarding too though. The reason I got so attached to blading is because it’s underground. Not that many people do it. It’s so tight knit, you know what I mean? I started blading heavy in fouth grade. I used to go to the old Chelsea Pier Park every single weekend with my boy Brian and tear it up. When I was in middle school I got so into it that I would cut class to go blade. One summer I had done [so] bad in school during the year that my mom didn’t let me skate. I remember being tight. Then at the end of the summer Chelsea Piers the skate park closed down. Yo son that’s when I got into the angry state like, “Fuck everybody!” type shit.
What’s the meaning behind the name of your tape Cozmik?
Cozmik was the name of my boy Brian “Cozmik” Scott, he was like my best friend. Brian was murdered back in 2009. There was a shooting at a chicken spot over on Parkside and he caught three bullets. Brian wasn’t even the intended target, he just went outside to get something to eat and a gunman came through looking for someone in the store. The dude just sprayed the entire shit and Brian was the only fatality. To this day they never caught dude. I remember on the news they said something like although he most likely wasn’t the intended target he had gotten in trouble for hopping turnstiles. Homie just died and they’re talking about hopping turnstiles? It’s fucked how the media does that type of shit.
Damn that’s terrible. What was recording Cozmik like? I’m sure it was very emotional for you.
When I put out “Shadows” I was talking about everything that was going on in my life at that time from school because I had just lost my financial aid,and the shit with Brian — I needed to vent. From there the buzz started building up and I knew I needed more music out and I had it in me. It was a long process getting everything together. I was recording a whole bunch of songs and trying to piece everything together and I had never done anything like this before.
Were people helping you along the way?
Well, when I started this whole shit it was just me, my friend Jay and my boy Mike, just recording in the bedroom. As blogs started posting and everything mad different people would just hit me up like, “Yo, I want to manage you.” or whatever. So I went through the ringer of bad managers. Kids who were 20-something years old and promising me all this shit but couldn’t do anything for me. I was basically doing everything myself. Staying up late, sending out e-mails and going on Twitter searching [for] new music in the discovery bar to see who was looking for new music. I would stay up all night tweeting every single person. I still do that now
Have you found someone that can help you now in terms of management?
I have a real good manager, his name’s David MIller. David came in and basically said we have this time frame to finish this and put it out. I actually got some structure instead of just recording a song here and recording a song there and not knowing whether or not it’s going to be on the tape. He gave me a time frame, studio time and everything like that. Once I had that structure behind me it was just like, “boom, boom, boom!” I was writing every other day.
How did you pick the beats for this tape?
It’s actually the funniest thing. This guy named Phenom, the one who produced “Kung Fu” and “Yes Suh,” was actually my videographer’s roommate out in Boston. I ‘ve known him for about two years and did not know he was making beats. We would chill, smoke and everything and he would be playing his shit. Then I walked in one day and said, “Hold up, bro is this you?” He was like yeah I’ve been wanting to send some shit for a minute. I’m like son are you serious? We need to get to working. Some of the other ones I’ll grab from producers on Twitter or YouTube or whatever.
The song “Everyday Life” I got off YouTube. My boy James is one of those dudes who’s always on the Internet. Whether it’s looking up something new or looking for beats or whatever. James will send stuff my way sometimes. He sent me “Everyday Life” which he got from a guy named Espy who is part of a production collective called Genova 7. Espy made the beat like two or three years ago and it only had about 300 views. He didn’t have a Twitter and his YouTube account said he hadn’t been on in a year and a half, but I needed that beat. I hit up James who hit up Genova 7 and eventually I got Espy’s number. It was funny when I called him I was like, “Yo it’s Dillon Cooper.” He said, “I heard of you, why you calling me? How’d you hear my shit? Wait, hold up, how’d you get my number?” I’m like yo dog, it’s all good, I just like one of your beats.
“State of Elevaton” was like the third song that I recorded after “Shadows.” I had it sitting for mad long and then I realized that the song was dope and it’s just sitting here. This guy named Pat White produced that one.
Considering how long ago you wrote that song, you must be sick of it.
Oh yeah. It can definitely get annoying. I mean I wrote that shit so long ago and just now it’s starting to pop. But yo, it comes with the territory. Think about Black Eyed Peas and shit. They’re going to have to perform “My Humps” for the rest of their lives. David tells me all the time you gotta do that one. You gotta go out there and perform the shit out of it like you just made it and it’s the most exciting shit in your life. People really enjoy it so I can’t not perform it, but yeah to a certain extent I’m ready to move forward.
I see you have this saying R.A.D., what does it mean?
It’s a motto that I go by. It stands for Ridiculous and Driven. I came up with that one day when I was burnin’ at the crib. I was just thinking about all the ridiculous shit that was going on in my life and I realized — shit’s ridiculous man. My boy just died, I’m not in school anymore, I’m pursuing this rap shit and it’s working. I’m just happy that I didn’t let anything stop me. I’ve been through mad shit man. My pops passed when I was mad little and just seeing all this shit growing up has just been ridiculous. But I’m driven to the point that I’m not going to let anything or anyone step in the way of what I’m doing. I’m going to keep this tunnel vision and just keep this shit in drive. R.A.D is how I see myself and how I define my life.
Be sure to check out Dillon Cooper in person tomorrow night, October 15th, over at S.O.B.’s for an exclusive CMJ performance. And download his mixtape Cozmik here.