For Tel Aviv rapper and producer Michael Cohen, being an Israeli musician and using Hebrew is limiting in many ways. But, though he can rap in English, he prefers to create something new.
“I could go to the States and try to be a rapper there, but I like staying here because I can really do this thing that no one knows what’s going to happen,” he said. “When you’re rapping in Hebrew, you’re going through uncharted territory.”
Cohen raps with the trio Cohen@Mushon and produces under the stage name Cohenbeats. He also sees an advantage to Israel’s isolation when producing beats, he said, mining Tel Aviv’s record stores for obscure Israeli records he can use for samples.
“I’m just trying to make cool beats, and use the fact that I have access to a lot of records that people don’t know. Every producer likes that,” he said. “That distance between the American sound and the Israeli sound is where the magic is.”
He recently released his first album, “Daily Affirmations,” with California music label Stones Throw Records, which has been the home of such artists as J Dilla, Madlib, Peanut Butter Wolf and Aloe Blacc. Cohen previously lived in Los Angeles for two years, and was influenced by the city’s music.
Production is his true niche, he said, and beats are not constrained by language.
“I’m definitely trying to bring myself as an artist to the highest point possible,” Cohen said. “I’ll always rep where I’m from of course, but I can’t wait to get to a place where I’m actually part of something that’s global.”