Dillon Cooper is living during an exciting time for young MC’s. Aligning himself alongside Joey Bada$$ and Chance, the Rapper, Dillon Cooper is on the crest of bold, young rappers that are slightly nostalgic and slightly progressive but one thing is certain: they all know how to rap really, really well. And just like any other young rapper, Cooper looks back to the 90’s greats: Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.
“I started getting into hip-hop at a very young age,” said Cooper. “I was kind of raised into it; my aunt was really into hip-hop, and I remember driving in the car with her and listening to Biggie all the time.”
Cooper will undeniably draw comparisons to Joey Bada$$ as he could easily be pigeonholed in a throwback state of nostalgia; aesthetically sounding like boom bap B-sides with jazz-rap swirls. While it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s also slightly inaccurate.
His debut mixtape Cozmik cushions itself between channeling old-school 90’s era hip-hop while making strides to incorporate electronic-influenced production. Taking a certain aplomb to sample golden era classics, Cooper seems to do it effortlessly, rapping over Outkast on “Ms. Jackson” and Mobb Deep on “Survival Of The Fittest.” But in tracks like “Warning Shots,” and “Put It To Rest,” the young rapper shows that he can handle the commercial-end of the hip-hop spectrum, proving that he is trying to avoid pastiche labels.
But what makes Cozmik so great and memorable is that you can see the story behind a young kid. It my not be the best eloquently rapped over and may have small moments of laughable swagger, borderline braggadocio, but it’s all sort of charming. Throughout the mixtape, references to South Park, Martin, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson never fall short. He sounds like a kid who grew up in the streets of New York, watching South Park late at night, while learning how to play the beginning licks to “Voodoo Child,” or “Purple Haze;” which is about right.
“Cozmik is just a lot about me reminiscing on my childhood and growing up. When I was young- and even now- I look up to musicians like Jimi Hendrix, SRV, and Michael Jackson; their creativity is always something I strive for,” said Cooper. “ But I’m still young and have more stories to tell, but the mixtape touches upon a lot of my experiences, some good, some bad.”
Unfortunately, during that time he lost his dear friend Brian Scott: the inspiration behind Cozmik. “Brian Scott was one of my best friends growing up, but he died in ’09,” lamented Cooper. “It was really hard on me. He was one of the best freestylists, and he influenced me a lot on my state of mind in not taking anything for granted and pushing myself as hard as I can. I even pay tribute to him in the music video, ‘Shadows.’ He was shot at the store where I dropped the roller blades off.”
Soon after graduating from high school, he packed his bags to set out to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music: the alma mater of John Mayer and other notable musicians. “I went there for guitar and it was undoubtedly one of the best experiences of my life,” said Cooper. “It was cool being drenched in this sort of cultural pot, meeting extremely talented people from everywhere and learning about new cultures. It sort of gets ingrained in you while you’re surrounded by that stuff everyday.”
But before ending the interview, he told me of one of his most inspirational moments as a kid. Cooper begins to talk about meeting Swizz Beatz, and he sounds like a teenager fawning over his idol: “I was in such a daze when I first met Swizz, it’s sort of like one of the speechless moments where you want to say something but you can’t,” reminisced Cooper. “I was just there in the studio and it was so cool seeing Swizz make a little beat and turning it into something big, really fast. It’s kind of a testament to how even the smallest of ideas can become something really great.”
Check out his music video to “Warning Shots,” below.