Around 9 p.m. on Sunday night, in the middle of MTV’s Music Video Awards, the Biden-Harris campaign debuted a new advertisement. The spot was accompanied by a jaunty, percussive soundtrack, all whistles, parade drumming, and sloganeering: “If you want to see some change, say the action starts with me.”
That’s the work of Kosine, a former hit-maker who is quietly working his way back into the spotlight. “The part that tickled me the most about the ad is not the track and not my raps,” he says. “It’s Joe Biden coming on at the end and saying, ‘I approve this message.’ When I saw that, I was like, ‘did Joe just co-sign Kosine?’ That’s what took me out.”
Kosine was an in-demand producer for the first half of the 2010s as a member of the duo Da Internz, who wrote for Justin Bieber and helped Nas. He picked up plaques for a series of chattering, clap-happy club singles that wasted no time on melody: Mims’ “Move (If You Wanna)” (gold), Rihanna’s “Birthday Cake” (double platinum), and Big Sean’s “Dance (A$$)” (quadruple platinum).
“When ‘Birthday Cake’ came out, and I went to the clubs, there was always a 15-minute pocket that I owned,” Kosine remembers. “There was a hot 15 minutes where the DJs always played ‘ass ass ass’” — the hook of Big Sean’s single — “into ‘cake cake cake.’”
Da Internz took a similarly percussive, minimal approach to another co-production, Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” which became their highest-charting hit, peaking at Number Two. The song also set a YouTube record for views in a day, and Kosine was riding high. “By 2015, I was going by the name Enrique Dragon, just so you know how out of my mind I was,” the producer says. “It was tough to talk to me during that time. I couldn’t hear shit.”
His self-centered worldview started to grate on his friends and collaborators, and around the same time as “Anaconda” earned a nomination for Best Rap Song at the Grammys, Kosine’s life began to unravel. “2015 ended up being the year that I hit rock bottom,” he says. “Nobody liked the asshole that success had pulled out of me. I lost a lot of friends. My finances were trash. I slipped into a depression. I moved back to Chicago and in with my aunt.”
Kosine spent a year nursing his wounds — or, as he puts it, “rinsing that Hollywood sauce off me.” When he returned to L.A., doors that had previously been open to him were now locked shut. “I thought I burned every relationship in the business,” he says. “I made it my business to diversify.”
While sitting in traffic in L.A., Kosine would cold-call old industry acquaintances, trying to reestablish a rapport. And he resolved to take any opportunity that came his way, even if it was one he wasn’t necessarily prepared for. That’s how he ended up as a host for Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio and later secured a role on the BET show Mancave. “I went from my aunt’s couch to America’s couch,” Kosine quips. He produced the show’s theme song as well.
Kosine continued to parlay one opportunity into the next, securing a meeting with Lee Daniels, who ended up picking one of his productions — “He’s like, ‘what’s the ratchet-est song you got on your laptop?’” — for the show Star. Kosine later acted on Star, while also finding time to work on music for Insecure and Black-Ish, putting out his own songs as a solo artist (“Kings,” a collaboration with Idris Elba, hit Number One on Spotify’s Viral chart), and landing a show on the new channel Fox Soul, Kingz With Kosine.
Black-Ish was actually the original intended home for an initial version of “Everybody Vote.” “One thing I learned from working in TV and film is you always do more than what you ask for,” Kosine says. “If you do just one and they don’t like it, you’re screwed. So do a couple and let them choose.” Black-Ish took one of Kosine’s submissions. The other was in limbo — until Biden’s campaign reached out to the producer’s manager, hunting for music.
Kosine quickly turned his demo into “Everybody Vote” along with Lamhar “Sir Rahmal” Harris and Warren “Leauxfi” McQueen. The full version of the song also decries “crooked police” while invoking Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.
“The drum lines feel patriotic,” Kosine says. “But that ain’t no regular campaign song — that’s a bop.”
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