Orlando native Kevin Cossom didn’t always plan to become a songwriter. As far back as 14 years old, the hit maker beefed up his resume by singing with various groups, branching off as a solo artist but unable to nab a deal as a vocalist. Songwriting, on the other hand, took precedence after he inked a publishing deal, earning him credits on songs including Young Jeezy’s “Go Getta” and Lloyd Banks’ “Karma.”
But singing remained his primary passion. After scoring a solo deal with Jive Records, Kevin set to work on his debut LOVE (Levels of Various Emotions), led by the poppin’ single “Baby I Like It” featuring Diddy and Fabolous. With his anticipated LP set for release in 2011, the 26-year-old spoke with YRB about why it’s taken so long to put the album together, what he’s learned from super producer Danja, working with Joe Jonas and what else you can expect from him in the near future.
YRB: You got your kicks in the game as a songwriter. Was singing and performing as a solo artist something you always knew you wanted to pursue?
Kevin: Yeah, it was actually what I was pursuing first. I've always been singing as a kid, but around the age of 14 was when I knew I wanted to do it professionally. Pursued it for a while in a few different groups, and then they had bad management and all that crazy stuff. But by the time I was 17, I got with my current manager and we started to shop deals to different labels and I was writing all my music at the time, so it was something I was already doing, writing. Labels would be like, “Yes! But we don't like this.” But they all recognized that I was a talented songwriter as well. Some people thought I sing better than I dance or dance better than I sing. Whatever it is. But the songwriting, I got a publishing deal, the songwriting thing kind of popped off a little early.
YRB: You were detoured?
Kevin: Yeah. It was always something we were pursuing but as far as being artist… What happened actually was one of the labels that I had shopped a deal at, one of the assistants to the CEO got a job at a publishing company and at the time, we was cool. We made a relationship with him and he was cool, you know what I mean? He liked the music, he liked everything. He got a job at the publishing company and around the same time, I did a joint called “Go Getta” for Young Jeezy. It kind of made sense. He was able to get us our publishing deal right there and it was just something to also pay the bills. As you know, it's hard to dedicate 24 hours to music and pursuing it and trying to get a deal or whatever it is and not be able to pay the bills or not have another job to keep the lights on. So it just provided a way to keep the lights on and for us to pay bills and to give us the opportunity to really pursue this artist thing and pay for a flight to go somewhere to meet people. Just different things like that. It definitely really opened the doors and not just financially, but just respect. People kind of start to see, “OK, this guy is a really talented songwriter. Let's listen to him.” You know what I'm saying?
YRB: What difficulties have you had in writing for yourself over other artists?
Kevin: I wouldn't say difficulties. It's a little different because you've got to consider what the artist wants to talk about, what the album is based on or if they're in a different place from whatever it is that they're going through. So you just gotta keep in mind what they want to do, especially if they've got an album pretty much complete, just fitting in doing you but at the same time fitting in with what they have going on. That's the difference between working for somebody else and writing for someone else. But for me, it's like whatever I feel like doing, I'm doing. It's less of a thought process because it's just me.
YRB: You worked heavily with Danja. What sort of stuff has he taught you?
Kevin: Extreme work ethic. I feel like I've always had a pretty good work ethic, but he has a great work ethic. And just learning how to stay focused. Also, we just push each other musically and creatively all the time. He's a really talented musician on the keys and drums. We often go back and forth with songs and just have a friendly competition type thing. So it's an overall creative atmosphere, and just learning from him as far as, like I said, work ethic and musically. We both kind of push each other. It's a cool situation. To be in the studio with him is a real cool thing. I worked with a lot of different producers, but to see him create and the way he does his thing is dope, it's real dope.
YRB: You were originally supposed to drop your debut earlier this year. What's taking so long?
Kevin: How the game is sometimes, you know, scheduling and making sure that everything is in order. You can't just put a song out. It goes with having everything in order, giving it to the right people, making sure that the DJs have it and we service it to the right blog sites and the websites. Also, getting the clearance for a Diddy or Fabolous. Having those two on the record and making sure all the business is taken care of, that's another side that not too many people know or care about. But it's definitely a part of the game. Not just music. There's definitely business to handle. Make sure that you handle it before you get to a space where it's too late.
YRB: Have you made any changes to the album since then?
Kevin: It's definitely changed. Me as a songwriter and me signed to a producer, we're always recording and always doing new music. So we're always recording. I actually don't expect to be done with the actual album until the end of January. We got a lot of records right now. It's just about putting them together and making that complete body of work and that it's not all over the place. Because I was at a point where I was just recording records, and now, we're at a place where we've got a lot of records that we can put together. But there are a few things that I want to do just to make everything kind of connect. As a songwriter, you write and write and write, but you never really put an album together. As a songwriter, you write for different artists, so sometimes you might sound like this, sometimes you might sound like this. But now, as an artist, I have to really be conscious of just putting something together that makes sense and completing the album. This is my first album, so it's a process. It's learning how to put it together with interludes and transitions and all of those things. Even to the name, like, naming it was tough for me at first. Because you dream of the opportunity to put your album out and some people will say, “I've always known what my album title would be.” But I really didn't know, and I definitely didn't want it to be a self-titled, boring thing. I wanted it to have a theme and a meaning, so just putting it all together is a new learning process for me but I'm having fun with it. I feel good about the album, actually. I feel great about it.
YRB: What kind of arc does the album follow? I assume since it's called LOVE that it's a very relationship-heavy album.
Kevin: Yeah man, it's really like a boy meets girl kind of thing. It's situations that a young 20-something gets into, trying to find love and also trying to find themselves. This time, I'm changing my career and meeting different women, and some inspired me to want to be a better man and settle down or some inspire me to do the opposite. Just different situations, real realistic and relatable situations. The album is a rollercoaster. It takes you on a journey up and down. Concept-wise and sonically with the tracks. Just making sure that we're covering all angles, you know what I'm saying? But “Levels of Various Emotions” is what LOVE is. It's just an acronym for love. That will be the title of it. It's basically the different emotions we go through. I'm in the club having fun, I see something I like. Do I want to marry her? Or do I want to just have fun? Just real things. Make up and break up, and break up and make up. Just concepts and things that people really go through, relationships that seem like it's over, it's on its last leg but we want to hold onto it and make sure it works, and sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. So it's just a lot of different concepts in there that are inspired by love and relationships and the interaction between men and women.
YRB: Obviously, there's Diddy and Fab on the album. Is there anyone else on it?
Kevin: I haven't really reached out yet, but me and my team, we're definitely putting our heads together as far as figuring out who else we want to target to be a part of this project. Definitely want to get Rick Ross on the project, we fans of J. Cole, so I was thinking of doing something with him as well. Maybe Pusha T from the Clipse. I'm a fan of Wayne, Drake, 'Ye – all of those guys. But it's just about making the right play with the right song.
YRB: With the album on the way, I assume you're still writing for others. Who have you worked with recently?
Kevin: Still writing for others. Recently was in the studio with Keri Hilson. I did another joint for her, I think it's going to be pretty big. Justin Bieber, doing some stuff for him. Mary J. Blige… Me and Danja, we were actually just working with Joe Jonas. He's going solo.
YRB: What sort of stuff are you bringing to his project?
Kevin: We're just trying to give him a little edge. He's getting a little older now and I'm just giving him a little edge, but giving him a lane. The stuff is coming out really good. As you know, Danja, he's so versatile as far as being a producer. He's worked with everybody from T.I. all the way to Britney Spears and Duran Duran and Simple Plan and P!nk. He's very versatile, so the sound is a mixture of a lot of different things, but it's definitely something that's coming together. He's definitely going solo, getting older. [Laughs] That's all cool.
YRB: When the album drops, what else is in store? Is there another area you're looking to break into?
Kevin: I'm pretty open to a lot of different things. I definitely don't have for sure ideas as far as outside of the music industry. I just want to see what I could get myself into. Maybe invest in different things or just do different things. But as far as music goes, I'm a lover of music and all genres of music, and I have a few ideas to do different types of music. Not just R&B. I also had an idea to do some stuff and white label it, not even put a face to it and just put it out. Just mixtape type things or just give them to the DJs, try to get a spin in the club. Dance music. But that's later on down the road. I don't know yet. I definitely don't want to be put in a box. I feel like music is a way to express yourself and I feel like you shouldn't have any limitations on how you want to express yourself.