Artist/rapper, 69, protests gun violence through his artwork
William Kosman, 69, switched off the radio wafting softly played violins throughout his Spring Garden art studio. "That's not the right music for this," he said, chuckling.
William Kosman, 69, switched off the radio wafting softly played violins throughout his Spring Garden art studio.
"That's not the right music for this," he said, chuckling.
Taking a few beats to ready himself, Kosman angled his brown-rimmed glasses toward a piece of paper and began to rap.
"These walls they don't talk to me anymore/Nowadays I'm only daring to get out when the sun comes up," he rapped to a rhythm in his head.
Perched on an easel behind him was a painting of the character he rapped about - an older man scared to leave his house because of the dangerous streets in his neighborhood.
"Give me my street back/Let me stand up tall/Let me walk in the sun/Let me fear no gun," Kosman continued, lowering his tone. "Take me shoot me/I don't care/I want my street back/I want my life back."
New to the art form, "My Street Back" is Kosman's second rap about gun violence.
"This is going to sound cheesy, but every human life is a miracle," Kosman said. "I have grandchildren, and it's unbelievable to see how a human being has this innate desire to learn, to do more things, to grow. Just imagine parents who nurture a child from infancy to adulthood. All the work they put in, all the love. With firearms, that can be destroyed in seconds."
Kosman creates oil paintings to convey the emotions of each of his song's lyrics. His first rap, "Head Held High," was produced as a music video by Philadelphia artist Jurgita Cenkute and can be viewed on YouTube. The video features Kosman's paintings of quiet neighborhoods vulnerable to destruction with the pull of a trigger.
"Some people might say, 'Why in the world would this guy who's no spring chicken write a rap and then make a video and do all this?' " Kosman said. "I wanted to use my art to impact people's thinking. All these guns out there are causing harm, and there needs to be an application of the laws so that irresponsible, unbalanced people cannot use guns."
But the idea of composing raps grew from a conversation about rap music he had with his son Benjamin, who works in the music industry and gave his father a list of artists to listen to. But when it came to actually composing the rap, Kosman needed little guidance.
"Benji suggested people for me to look at like Eminem. Several people told me that when I rap, I sound like Eminem.
"But when this one rap came to me, I didn't try to have any particular style. Some of the rhymes just happened naturally."
For now, Kosman plans to hone his rap abilities and continue advocating for an end to violence. He's lucky to have the support of his family.
"Rap is not [my wife's] style, but she thinks it's very good," he said. "I've learned in life that if you're going to succeed in anything, you have to focus on it like it's a laser."
Watch William Kosman rap at www.philly.com/see