HOST: On the phone with me right now, I have a super talented brother: producer, artist, just all around hip-hop dude, making major moves in the industry all around the world – Kovas.
KOVAS: What’s going on, man? It’s a pleasure to be here, pleasure to be here. How are you?
HOST: I’m doing well, man. Thank you for agreeing to come on the show. Definitely honored to have you on here. Our producer saw something online about you, and he brought it to me and said, “You need to check this dude out.” As I saw the body of work, I was definitely impressed, man. How long you been in the game? It seems like you’ve got this huge body of work.
KOVAS: Yeah, yeah. I’ve been very fortunate, very blessed. I actually got signed in the industry when I was 16, so I’ve been definitely doing it over 10 years now. It’s like you build it brick by brick.
It started off with getting a record deal, and I recorded a full album – I was working with De La Soul at the time; this was like 2001, 2002. I think the record was a bit ahead of its time for that moment and era, and then it was one of those things where the label ended up going bankrupt, so the album never came out.
But the management team that I had at the time was like “You wrote all those songs, and they’re progressive and a little bit of rock, some of it’s hip-hop, some of it’s R&B. So until you figure out your situation as an artist, why don’t you write and produce for an R&B group on Monday, you’ll work with a pop artist on Wednesday, and a rock band on Friday?” So I just started to go across the map.
For me, it was one of those things like one of my big inspirations as a producer is Quincy Jones and Rick Rubin. Of course, those cats have transcended genre, transcended media – Quincy just starting by being a producer on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and doing movie scores. So I was like, there’s no limit. There’s no ceilings.
HOST: And your body of work includes working with some major artists and producing music for sitcoms and television shows and producing music for video games. Did I read that right? That’s amazing.
KOVAS: Yeah, I ended up having some songs in EA Sports’ Madden video game. The funny thing is I actually just did a campaign with Odell Beckham Jr. for the New York Giants for Dunkin Donuts.
HOST: Word. Is that what that was? “A Cold Brew”?
KOVAS: Yeah, yeah.
HOST: Okay, I peeped it. Nice.
KOVAS: Yeah, that’s been kind of a crazy thing because it dropped a week and a half ago. Two weeks ago, I think, now. It went a million views in 1 week, and we got all these different reviews and press and everything, and it was awesome.
I mean, I’m from Brooklyn, I’m from New York; it’s one of those things that being able to work with such a talented wide receiver – and then also like, “Okay, now we’re going to make a song and do all these different things” – it was awesome to do that. And we had mad similarities, like he was on the cover of Madden NFL, and I had music in Madden NFL. [laughs]
KOVAS: That was a pretty cool common bond right then and there.
HOST: That’s dope. That’s the way the world comes together sometimes, man. That’s hot. So you’ve worked with artists like Taylor Swift, done remixes for Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, Nick Cannon – the body of work is crazy.
KOVAS: Yeah. I also have several EPs. I actually just dropped a new album. It came out Friday. It’s called “And the Love Disrupt.” This project I’m really proud of because what I wanted to do was create music that was a little bit more motivational and inspirational. Put a little more self-empowerment. You got that job interview, you got that big day at work or whatever, you feel amped, of you Odell before you go out on the field, something to get you charged up.
It’s something like that that gets you really juiced up to go out in the world and accomplish goals and dreams and everything. So it has a really positive message, but not feeling overtly positive. A lot of people, when they hear it they’re like “Oh wow, I thought you were talking about a girl.” I’m like, “Nah, that’s just talking about your dreams.”
HOST: Nice. How many instruments do you actually play?
HOST: You play five instruments?
KOVAS: Yeah. Drums, bass, guitar, keyboard, and a little bit of saxophone.
HOST: So you took music lessons growing up, or you just developed the talent?
KOVAS: You know what’s crazy? My grandfather was a beast. He played like seven instruments. So I figure it’s in my bloodline. I took piano lessons for 2-3 years, but I think for me, once I understood the concept, for me it’s just getting that music that’s in my head out with that instrument.
It’s funny; I had a song, I produced this artist in Paris named Billy Crawford, and I did this whole song called “Steamy Nights.” You can check it out. It was a big record for him. And I played the whole thing on the guitar, but I didn’t know what I was playing. [laughs]
HOST: You mean you didn’t even know the notes? You were just going off the tempo and the melody? Nice.
KOVAS: Yeah. So we go on tour, I’m showing the music director, he’s like, “Oh, I love this song. What is that G that you play?” And it’s funny because I knew chord progressions on the keyboard, but at that time I didn’t really know how to play tabs and everything on the guitar. But it’s that whole thing of just that expression of yourself and putting that intention and that energy into the music and the ideas.
There’s reports that Jimi Hendrix played the guitar upside down – he was left-handed, and that technically was wrong, the way a guitar teacher would tell you how to play. But it was the emotion that came out. Emotion always trumps technique.
HOST: Wow, I did not know that. You’re dropping gems on us. Let me ask you this: Kovas, is that your birth name, your given name, or does it have a special meaning?
KOVAS: It’s a shortened version of my full name, which is Kovasciar. Kovasciar is my French-Moroccan family background. It’s one of those things like I just remember people like “Yo, Kovas! Kovas, yo, Kovas!” I didn’t really have to invent a rap name. [laughs]
HOST: It was so unique, yeah.
KOVAS: Yeah, so it was like “I’ll just do that.” But when you’re coming up in the game, you’re trying to figure it out, like “K-Boogie.”
HOST: K-Ski, K-Jump,. [laughs] Kovas, that’s your real name. That’s dope. Also read that you went on tour recently? Or you’ve been on tour with a bunch of major artists. Can you talk to us about that?
KOVAS: Yeah, it’s funny. I’ve done a bunch of shows with different artists. When I came up in the game, I came up Mos Def & Talib Kweli, like it’s not even legal to be in the club. But recently I ended up doing a couple dates with Lupe Fiasco doing Tour DJ stuff. So I DJ as well.
HOST: And you DJ? [laughs] It’s a one-man show, man. You’ll put us all out of business.
KOVAS: Nah, nah. [laughs]
HOST: I ain’t mad at you, though. I love the hustle.
KOVAS: I think when you’re a fan of hip-hop – like, I had uncles that came up and stuff like that, that weren’t really in the game but were ahead, so you know the four pillars of hip-hop and stuff like that. I would watch Wild Style.
It’s funny, one of the new tracks on the album is called “The Wall,” and it’s actually inspired by the movie Style Wars, which was a graffiti movie from the early ’80s.
HOST: I remember it.
KOVAS: Basically the concept of the song talks about how we’re chasing significance. That’s just a human trait no matter who you are – white, black, brown, whatever. To be a graffiti artist at that time, your whole goal was to get something on a piece that went all-city, that went from all the boroughs.
HOST: You put it on a train and it went from borough to borough, down that line. And then you catch the next one and you put it on there, and that one went from Brooklyn to Fort Rock or whatever.
KOVAS: Exactly. So your name would ring out in all these boroughs. But then you had the mayor, you had all the police commissioners and chiefs trying to stop these people so they could put a name for themselves by saying “I stopped this,” in their eyes. So they’re all just trying to get a name for themselves – one by doing it, one by stopping it.
So “The Wall” is about that whole idea of no matter what, we’re all trying to feel important and have a place in this world. You think about hip-hop, hip-hop started from the underprivileged and the deprived, to have a voice for the voiceless. When people hear it, I think it’ll really resonate with a lot of people, if you’re going through a tough time. It’s just feel-good music at the same time, and you can take from it whatever it means to you.