Kevin Cossom’s reputation on the Billboard charts precedes him wherever he goes. The Florida native has been penning hits since 2006 (Young Jeezy’s “Go Getta,” Keri Hilson’s “Knock You Down” and DJ Khaled’s recently released “Take It to the Head”) and is now ready to step into the spotlight as a solo artist. With his new mixtape Hook vs. Bridge II, he hopes to prove his musical talents extend beyond writing as he joins the long line of successful R&B artists who got their starts as songwriters. BET.com spoke to the rising star about why Miami is ground zero for hip hop hit makers, why songwriting gives him an advantage over other singers and how he balances commercial success with his own creative fulfillment.
BET.com: “Take It to the Head” is heating up on the airwaves. DJ Khaled scored the summertime smash last year with “I’m on One.” Do you think you can help him repeat?
Kevin Cossom: Yeah I feel like it’s a hit record. You wish for that same type of success (as “I’m on One,”) I feel like it has the potential to be as big. It impacts pretty well on radio. A few weeks ago we released it and it’s already Top 20 on iTunes. So I think it could be a big record… Me and Khaled and [Rick] Ross, that whole Miami scene, we do a lot of work together. It’s family, so it’s easy. They say they got something for me, I check it out, and knock it out.
Is Miami hip hop’s new ground zero? It seems like hip hop’s biggest hits are coming from South Beach.
Definitely in hip hop. With everybody being down here — We Da Best, YMCMB, everybody. A lot of hip hop people are down in Miami right now, and a lot of people pass through. It’s just a cool spot right now… Miami is where I live. I’m from Florida originally. I grew up in Orlando, then I moved out to L.A. for like a year and a half, then I came here. I’ve been in Miami for about three and a half years. I think it’s important to move around, too man.
Songwriting is how you broke into the game. What was your first credit?
When I first started writing, my first placement was doing “Go Getta” for Young Jeezy. R. Kelly sang the hook… R. Kelly is one of my favorite singer-songwriters of all time. So my first placement, to have him singing it — and even “Knock Me Down.” With all of the people on that record, for me to be able to be a part of that, it’s a big compliment.
How does being a songwriter give you an advantage over other artists who are only performers?
Being creative, you kind of have more control over what to do and what not to do because you’re a part of the process. I just feel like it’s important to be able to do that and not always have to count on someone. I personally admire people who are a part of the creative process. And I think more people who weren’t before are trying to get more involved. Just because there’s a certain level of control you can have.
You’re stepping out on your own, but do you still enjoy writing for others?
The passion is just putting the song together in general. Whether it’s for me or someone else. It’s definitely two different things. When I’m writing for someone else, you gotta take into consideration what they want to say or talk about or what the vibe is. It’s different a little bit, but I think the goal is still just to put a great body of work together and a great song together from start to finish. When you start and you put it together, the artist loves it and then it’s on the radio and people love it, it’s an amazing feeling.
So you plan to continue writing while you pursue your solo career?
I’m going hard on the writing tip. I think it’s important for me to continue to do that and to be relevant and strong in that lane. Just as much as it is to prove myself as an artist, but I think they kind of go hand in hand. The most important thing is to make sure that I stay on the radio. Not just a song or two or one song over here, I gotta have a string on the radio. So, it’s about the frequency. I’m just working harder than ever.
When you’re creating, are you aiming for the charts?
It’s tough man, because me as a songwriter, if you’re not on the radio then you’re not really considered to be winning. Album cuts are cool, but the way the game is now, it’s like you don’t really get much recognition for that. And it’s a personal win when you write for somebody who you admire their work. To be a part of that body of work is cool. Maybe it’s too competitive, but I want to be on the radio, have the best joints on the album, I want to be able to be part of the biggest records on a project. I just think that that’s important.
How do you balance your artistry with your commercial success?
It’s tough because I’m extra creative, I’m not necessarily what they would call corporate, where you’re just always thinking numbers and this has to be Top 40. It’s tough to try to balance both of those. Know when you’re getting too creative and when you’re not. Some songs require you to get extra creative; some songs are just not made for the radio. I don’t think you go into the studio and say, “We gon’ work on another radio hit.”
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(Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images)