More than a Gimmick: The Rise of BLP Kosher

By: Simon Leff

For aspiring Gen Z rappers, success in the Internet mainstream is dependent on the character they create for themselves. Lil Pump was the lean sippin’ ‘Harverd Dropout’; Drain Gang fashioned in Eurotrash; Ice Spice shot to fame for her cute-core nonchalance; and Pooh Shiesty had most boys in my high school running around in Balaclavas–which are now slangily referred to as ‘Shiesty’s’ in his honor. Yet, among the generation’s many talents, few have a style as pronounced as BLP Kosher’s. 

Hailing from the exotic land of South Florida, Kosher’s recent success has made him the freshest face of Judaism in rap since Mike D and the Beastie Boys. His quick-witted bars offer a blend between the punchline crowning flow of ‘Rio Da Yung OG’ and the twangy grit that is familiar to the region. The fusion does not end there, as his outward appearance interplays a Broward County upbringing with his devotion to the Jewish faith. Most prominently, two payot, or wicks as he calls them, bend tautly from his temples, framing a profile whose almost satirical disposition is aided further by the grills that stretch his teeth.

When my friend introduced me to Kosher’s music, I refused to believe he was actually Jewish. I figured it was either an antic orchestrated by someone who ran in the same circles as other brash trap stars like Bonk or the Joker–a ‘rapper’ from the region whose face tattoos resemble the famous villains’–or a vaudeville take on Hasidism. The character felt too precise to have any personal quality beyond the gimmick. 

It wasn’t until March of this year, when Kosher collaborated with another Gen Z Internet sensation, Babytron, that I started to reconsider. On their track ‘Mazel Tron,’ the two ‘play tennis’ over a synthy bass backing, volleying each other set-ups so the other can smash down a bar about sports, scams, or stacks. Kosher’s verse marks a tempo shift as he quickly navigates through a story of tongue-twisting contradictions: promoting abstinence from conflict, calling beef ‘beyond meat…impossible,’ while also flaunting pulling out the ‘stick’ to make an ‘opp kebab.’ Apart from his unique flow and albeit funny lyrics, what surprised me most was that he didn’t dote too much on being ‘Kosher.’ Whereas other Internet acts, like the Island Boys, rely on their marketable identity as a crutch, Kosher was willing to sacrifice a self-referential remark for the sake of cohesion in the song. He signaled to me that his flashy personality was fueled by the music; it was not the other way around.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, the artist discussed that his entrance into the rap game was like most others. He used writing lyrics as an outlet to escape a troubled reality, often incorporating nods to Old Testament parables that he grew up hearing. Through the South Florida skate community, Kosher, who was then just referred to by his initials, BLP, met Michael Cook. Cook, an up-and-comer in the local scene known by his stage name, Jew Shiesty, convinced BLP to join him in the studio. The two worked together to produce the songs ‘Burnt Nazis’ and ‘Driedel Twinz’ which gained popularity on SoundCloud for their zinging Biblical references and Hebrew phrases that call out the haters. 

 It was around this time that his signature look emerged as well. Although he grew up wearing traditional payot, the dreadlocked wicks were influenced by another Jewish Florida rapper named Charmane. After the death of Charmane’s girlfriend, Kosher felt a spiritual calling to recite a prayer and perform an action in solace with his friend’s grief. The two who had been skating that day went back to Kosher’s house and virtually crocheted his hair into the outward stretching weave. Only a few months later, Charmane was fatally shot in a violent altercation with police, and Kosher resolved never to cut the wicks. 

Both Charmane and Jew Shiesty’s names crop up frequently on Kosher’s tracks. On his first hit that broke the SoundCloud bubble, the NAC Two, he commemorates them with an abstracted adlib, before laying down a verse that undulates with entendre. For an artist who dropped out of high school at 14, the ‘bag’ of material that he pulls from is quite substantial. The NAC Two exemplifies this as he turns an account of a violent dispute into a demonstration of basic mechanics, indicating that both Dalton and Newton’s laws rationalized the culminating ‘pressure.’ Similarly, his most popular song on Spotify, ‘Special K,’ alludes to the Robert Frost poem ‘Fire and Ice,’ contemplatively lambasting  ‘them hearts cold’ with too much hate. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Kosher track with a one-off in Hebrew–’ no sheket bevakasha’–or refrain about Matthew Levi. 

Since his quick rise to fame, Kosher has toured the US, worked with Lyrical Lemonade, and even released a single with Yung Lean. However, despite the newfound success, he has found himself more devoted to Judaism. While in previous years, he would only recognize the Sabbath, now he is going to temple and trying to implement the doctrine into his daily activities. When talking to Rolling Stone, he said that he often ‘incorporates prayers’ as he is walking around to connect his world with God’s. 

If anything, this attitude is representative of the journey that is just beginning for the rapper. Even though his style is a little too vulgar to attract attention from non-zoomers, he is working hard to unite the medium and identity; faith and fame. Once, they existed separately for Benjamin Landy Pavlon, but now as he has become ‘Kosher’ they can’t help but mould into one. This is where he differentiates himself from his other Tik-Tok/Soundcloud peers, as he is willing to be honest about who he is with himself and the world. Unlike Lil Pump, whose boisterousness was augmented by every Interview, he becomes kinder and more meditative. So, like his lyrics, anytime you go back for more ‘Kosher,’ another layer appears, making it all the more keen and enjoyable.