Smooth Operator

Singer-songwriter Kevin Cossom tries to stay composed as he juggles demands to pen lyrics for others and himself.


Kevin Cossom

It’s Friday night in Orlando and Kevin Cossom is spending hours of his brief visit home working, squeezed in a booth with
a sound engineer and his manager, laying down tracks for a future live show.

The 24-year-old rhythm-and-blues artist says he feeds off work, a plus because Cossom has plenty of it to do. He released a single, Relax, in August and plans to follow it with an as yet-unnamed studio CD early next year. He’s also working on music for his tour, though dates and locations are still up in the air.

Up to now, Cossom has been best known as a songwriter for A-list rap and R&B artists. Now he’s balancing the needs of his own music—his smooth vocals are reminiscent of R&B sensation Usher—with the demands of writing for others.

“It’s moving so much I haven’t really sat down to take it all in,” Cossom says. “I don’t really want to. The key is to just do it and forget that you did it. I don’t want to get complacent. The demand is so high and the pressure to stay on top of the game is so intense.”

Cossom should know—he’s flitted around the edges of the music scene since he was a kid singing in World Covenant church in Orlando. His mother, Denise Cossom, says her son’s love of music showed early and strong. She tells stories of Cossom singing “Happy Birthday’’ to himself in a pew when he was 1, touring with a gospel group when he was 6 and composing music on the keyboard she bought him when he was 16.

At 17, Cossom met Rashad Tyler of Orlando-based Frontline Promotions. Tyler was immediately impressed by the teen’s presence, drive and dedication to music.

“He was just a little different from any of the aspiring artists I’d met at the time,” says Tyler, who now manages Cossom. “He wasn’t going to get caught up in girls or the wrong activities.”

Within a year of that meeting, Cossom was getting a taste of the big time when he helped write Karma for rapper Lloyd Banks. Soon he was living in Los Angeles, writing hooks for rappers Rick Ross and Kanye West, and R&B singer Akon. In March, he became the first signee to New Age Rock Stars, Grammy-winning producer Nate “Danja” Hills’ label with Jive Records.

That was the moment when Cossom, whose boyish looks and quirky sense of humor belie his deep ambition, began to feel his time spent writing and singing for others’ records was paying off. His first album is a step toward becoming an established artist.

So what can we expect from Cossom’s album? He describes his music as eclectic and says he strives to give his songs meaning, saying they may not always be über-deep, but that he “doesn’t write gibberish.” His music, melody-focused and listenable, has something for everyone—even those who don’t generally seek out R&B.

No matter what happens, Cossom says he’s the same person who got his start in Orlando singing for his family, studying at Edgewater High and The Crenshaw School, a private school in Winter Garden, and recording music for fun.

“I come from humble beginnings,” he says. “We recorded at home in the closet and got the job done. I just want to be an artist and a musician.”