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Cookie Rabinowitz: Success In The Making.

December 12, 2013

Cookie RabinowitzText by Christopher Malo. Image by G.W. Miller III.

The studio inside of Cookie Rabinowitz’s home is filled. Filled with studio equipment, filled with music, filled with crap. A blanket hanging from the ceiling cuts the room in two. One side has freshly-painted orange walls, sound-dampening foam nailed to the ceiling, a workstation with a computer and a huge monitor attached to the wall. Who knows what lays on the other side of the curtain?

Cookie puffs on an e-cig obsessively and a non-stop plume of smoke wafts from his mouth, past his oversized glasses and over his head.

“I tell rappers that come in here you can smoke your weed,” he says, laying out the parameters for imbibing. “If you have to do a bump, that’s cool. No needles. That’s my only ground rule.”

He continues, recalling the time he let a rapper do some mixes here while he wasn’t in the studio, only to come back to find a crack bag on the floor. He did what anyone under 40 would do in 2013. He promptly posted a pic of it to Instagram.

Cookie’s music is self-described as “indie alternative rock” despite the fact some of his biggest breaks have not come from that genre.

Sure, he licensed some of his music to be used on ABC’s “Men in Trees” and CBS’s “Ghost Whisperer,” although he wasn’t mentioned in the credits. There was a cartoon pilot he did with Orlando Jones that they pitched to the Cartoon Network (which was rejected), which led to Jones covering Cookie’s music in his “Tainted Love” series on Machinima, the video game resource.

Connecting with Philadelphia rap legend Schoolly D has given Cookie opportunities he would not have been able to manufacture on his own. For one, he was afforded a chance to play on and record the theme song for Adult Swim’s “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” with Schoolly in his studio. While his name does not appear in the closing credits for this either, Schoolly provided the bridge leading to Cookie playing bass guitar on the HipHopGods tour with Schoolly, Public Enemy and X-Clan.

“They let me shine – I played my guitar and they let me sing a tune on their tour,” Cookie says about being allowed to play his own music at their shows. “My shows, there are about 12 people. At their shows, there are 3,000 people. And when I was put in that environment, the crowd was really responsive to it.”

While appreciative and honored by the opportunity, it has left him confused.

“My music is not hip-hop and it’s not R&B at all,” Cookie explains. “But for some reason, in the indie alternative rock where I have been putting myself, it doesn’t seem like it’s what people are into. But when I’m put in situations in front of a primarily black audience, they love it. It’s an observation. I don’t understand it.”

Still, Cookie continues to find himself working with those in the rap game. He has produced and recorded tracks with Freeway, Sandman and Peedi. There is an upcoming European tour with Doodlebug from Digable Planets in September, and an EP from the duo that will be released in October. The collaboration with Doodlebug will be the first time he has released a professionally mastered body of his work.

Like many other artists today, he is looking for the secret formula to get his name, or more precisely his music, out there and heard.

“No matter how good your music is, I think today you need that magic behind what you are putting out,” he says with both resignation and understanding.

“I’ve been making music all my life but I’m just starting now to think I’m really onto something,” he explains enthusiastically. “My rent’s paid. If I really want to go crazy and get a cheeseburger, I can buy a cheeseburger for no reason. Or really go crazy and pay my moms taxes on her condo.”

But on a bad day?

“For all intents and purposes, I’m a middle-aged man,” Cookie says. “I don’t have a license, I don’t have a car. I think I’m here, I’m making these tunes and nobody really gives a fuck. Am I being self-centered? If I’m here and making all this music and it’s not doing good in the world, should I do something else?”

There is a strong desire to have a positive impact on the planet, giving whatever he can, and there is a certainty the will do it through music. Like most people, he has his an inner conflict regarding direction and purpose.

“On a good day, I feel like I’m killing it,” he muses. “On a bad day I feel self-centered, so engulfed in this music stuff and theres not a whole ton of people saying this is effecting me in a positive way. So at that point you’re just Bon Jovi.”

However, the path from idealistic theories to practice is not always clear.

“If someone wants to buy my shit, if they feel that way about me, if they want to come to my show, then I want them to spend their money,” Cookie explains. “But I don’t ever want anyone to support me. I don’t like that, ‘Support your local artist.’ I want to feel like I’m supporting you. I want to support your day, making you feel a little better. That’s what I want to do. I want to give, not expect and take shit.”

Working with big names or getting his music on television is far from his ultimate goal. Instead, his one aspiration is to make music with a positive message that resonates, without being preachy.

“I want to write songs that talk about things but not tell people what to do,” Cookie says, looking forward and backwards at the same time.

“A lot of that positive influence in music comes from Curtis Mayfield, from Sly of course, Marvin Gaye, that genre of music,” Cookie offers. “I listen to [Stevie Wonder’s] Songs in the Key of Life every day. If I had a dream about a career in music …”

Cookie trails off, his face nearly completely shrouded in nicotine vapor after taking a monster drag off the electronic device.

“I heard Sly is living in a van in San Diego or San Francisco, one of the two, where he’s got a mobile studio and is making music,” Cookie says. “I don’t know if it is true or not but I’d like to cut a track with him in his van.

“I think that would be badass.”

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