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Mozzy Gangland
Mozzy Gangland
Source: Artist

Mozzy Talks Fame, Gangsta Music, & Kendrick Lamar Showing Him Love at the Grammys [Interview]

Mozzy Gangland Source: Artist

Mozzy spoke with Okayplayer about Gangsta music, fam, and what it's like getting shouted out by Kendrick Lamar.

On "Not Impressive," the third track off of Mozzy's new album, the Sacramento rapper starts off by saying: "They said they want that throwback Mozzy." The rapper then proceeds to spit for two minutes straight. The song is littered with lines about murder and distributing drugs. (The track ends with the chilling line "ever caught a body for Mozzy, forever locked in.")

Mozzy is a gangsta rapper; he's always been one. Which makes the "throwback Mozzy" line curious. For the last five years, Mozzy has been about the same: the most relentless rapper — in content and in output — working in contemporary hip-hop. And even though he's just released his most accessible album yet, Gangland Landlord, Mozzy's content is still bleak and aggressive.

READ:The Profundity Of Sheck Wes' "Bitch" Ad-Lib On Mudboy

Mozzy first made a national splash in 2015 with the release of "Bladadah," a meat-and-potatoes style murder rap song. There are a lot of murder rap songs out there. But Mozzy's instantly stood out, because of the matter-of-fact way he talked about street violence. At one point he raps "You don't wanna live like this, my life difficult. It is what it is, I'm all in and I ain't trippin' though." At another point he spits: "If a sucker catch me leakin' that just means I asked for it."

That sort of brashness, mixed with his attention to detail, and unique hyper-specific North California slang — "Bladadah" means to shoot someone — made him an instant street star. He was also prolific, at almost a Gucci Mane-level. Mozzy has released over 20 albums, mixtapes, EPs since 2015. In almost every song violence — or "activities" as he calls it —is referenced.

READ:Soren Baker, the Author of The History of Gangster Rap, Talks NWA, Kendrick Lamar & the Status of Gangster Rap in 2018 [Interview]

Last year Mozzy released 1 Up Top Ahk, an album he had been teasing since the release of Bladadah. It's hard to classify what counts as an official album — compared to a mixtape or side project — but this was clearly the rapper's biggest project to date. He was doing press runs, there was glossy videos, and write-ups in major publications. The album was also exceptional, a piece of work where he really wrestled with the emotional and physiological effects of street violence. He also showed some cracks in the armor: On "Take It Up With God" he's talking to a mother who lost her son to gun violence; on "Sleep Walkin" he empathizes with sex workers, calling them "soulmates;" on songs like "Stay Over There" and "M.I.P Jacka" he wrestles with going to church.

Despite releasing the best album of his career, Mozzy's biggest career moment didn't come in song; it came at the 2018 Grammys. Kendrick Lamar shouted out Mozzy when he won the Best Rap Album Grammy for DAMN.: "Like my guy Mozzy say, 'God up top all the time.'" At that point, they had met, but they weren't close friends. It was a relationship based off of respect. In an interview with BillboardMozzy said when he first met Kendrick he started rapping along to "Can't Take It (Ima Gangsta)."

A month later Mozzy's voice was heard in the biggest movie of the year: director Ryan Coogler placed "Sleep Walkin" at the end of the movie. All of this accumulated with the release of Gangland Landlord, an album that Mozzy says is a return to form. But really it's an attempt at getting a bigger audience. Yes, there are icy tracks like "Not Impressive" and "Who Want Problems," but the album features Mozzy taking big commercial swings: "Thugz Mansion," a remake of the last great Tupac single, features YG and TY Dolla $ign. The album's next single, the club-ready "Excuse Me," features Too $hort and Yhung T.OThere are also features from A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, ScHoolboy Q, Dej Loaf, and Yo Gotti(It should be noted that while the features are bigger, Mozzy has still stuck with the same producers, mostly working with June, Dave-O, and Jay P Bangs.)

We recently kicked it with Mozzy over the phone. Where the rapper talked about his new album, where he fits in gangster rap history, and his big Black Panther moment.

Check out the interview below.

How would you compare this album to 1 Up Top Ahk?

No comparison. I think this album is blowing 1 Up Top out the water. Every time I make new music I feel like it's always better than what I've created prior. This album blowing 1 Up Top out the water just 'cause the features alone: big, crazy, industry-ready features. I got about four radio cuts ready for this, so you know we're going to push radio heavy on this project.

I felt like [the Spiritual Conversations EP] was a little softer. I was catering to the people. I feel like the music was a lot more slow. It was more spiritual. Like it was more with a sensitive vibe.

I'm going back to the Mozzy before the notoriety. I'm going back to that old-school, that Gold Body, Yelllow Tape Activity, Dope Fiend Tryna Get His Corsica Back Mozzy. I'm going back to that grit, that foundation that got me here.

When you're out and about, what do you hear most from people in the streets?

Every time I run into somebody, it's like I'm speaking for the streets. I'm telling their story. I remind them of Pac, ain't nobody fucking with me. It's all positive vibes. But it's like, I want to say, it's animated positive vibes.

Is there a part of you that's, like, scared of fame?

Well, you know, off the dribble, I fully embraced it just based on...I'm living my dream. It's what I dreamed to do; it's what I dreamed to be. It's how I see my family. I'm in love with my fans, so you know, its got its pros and its cons.

Also, I got daughters. I be irritated when I'm slithering through a mall, or I'm just trying to have a day with my daughters, whether it's Chuck E. Cheese, and people swarm me, and they so excited that they really don't even acknowledge the fact that I have my kids with me right now, and this is what I'm doing.

So other than that though, I'm in love with this fame; I'm in love with this notoriety. I just wish you could turn it off when you was with family. I wish you could just turn it off sometimes. But being that you can't, I just stay under the radar and live a peaceful life.

Fans don't understand boundaries.

Yeah, that's it. I'm just learning how to deal with it. Basically, just let the fans know like, and telling me this ain't it. Not right now, but I swear I wholeheartedly embrace it. I'm in love with it. Every moment, sometimes I walk through the mall, I specifically go to the mall, not for no shoes, not for the clothes, I go looking for love.

What's been the most difficult transition in the last few years?

Dealing with family and friends. Now that you've got a bag everybody got their hands out, people don't understand. People just look at you like you've got a million dollars.

It's just crazy just the way people treat you once you get on. I'm talking about family and friends. Anybody outside that, it doesn't affect me. But the way family view you, the way you get phone calls from people, and it's just specifically about money or just specifically what you can do for them, that transition, that's been difficult for me.

Yeah. It's like, everyone needs something

And as soon as you tell them "No," you're the worst person in the world.

When Kendrick Lamar shouted you out at the Grammys was there a noticeable shift in your day-to-day life?

Hell yeah. I've seen people come up to me all the time, and they just let me know... [song on the] Black Panther soundtrack, dopest ever. Song playing in the movie, dopest ever. Kendrick Lamar shout-out... this crazy. It changed my attitude, my outlook, my perspective. I got to prove to him that he wasn't just saying a name in vain, just shouting somebody out. Or he wasn't throwing an alley-oop, and I ain't follow through, you hear me? So I gotta follow through with the windmill.

Hearing "Sleep Walkin'" in Black Panther was crazy.

That was crazy. It threw me off. I couldn't believe it. It's crazy. Shout-out to TDE and the whole family over there. Loved ones.

Tell me a time where you were surprised someone knew your music well?

Outside Kendrick Lamar? I heard Nas was tapped in. Somebody told me Lil Wayne was slapping my beat, and that was just mind-boggling. Somebody told me he was slapping my beat like he slapped mine. So, you know that's crazy.

Takeoff in the Migos. He was tapped in. I'm talking about that nigga was rapping word for word.

How does collaborating work for you?

Yeah, usually I work off a vibe, I meet somebody and then the first thing we say, "I function with your shit, you function with my shit." It's a mandatory click-up. It either go off a relationship, or just I be in somebody's city, they're tapped in, somebody in my city, I tap in. But we try to let it happen naturally. We try not to force it, you understand me. We ain't calling people and asking niggas what they budget is or nothing like that. We let it be natural.

So how does a Mozzy link with a Too $hort?

Too $hort familiar. He hear it. It's undeniable. He in the trenches with it. Anybody keep referring it to him. Mozzy, off the dribble, Too $hort fan, fucking with $hort since day one, so it's an honor, it's an honor that $hort even just familiar with the music, let alone ready to cook-up. Let's go! Cancel Christmas, whatever we got going on, man, we pulling up.

Do you ever think about your place in gangsta rap history?

Yeah, I feel like I gotta get a radio song before I can really give you a placement. I gotta get a radio cut. I got more work to do before I could really give you a placement. I ain't focused on a placement or position right now. I just got my head down, and I'm working. I don't see nothing else going on. I don't see status. I don't see standards. I don't see nothing. All I see is work, work, work. So I probably have to answer that question in the next five years.

I ain't going to lie, I feel like I'm the dopest gangsta rapper right now in this present moment. I don't feel there's one gangsta rapper out there that could fuck with me, as far as wordplay. I'm not talking about album sales. I'm talking about craft. I'm talking about cook-up.

Is there a part of you that still feels like you're still underrated as a pure lyricist or rapper?

Hell yeah. I don't dwell on that part, 'cause I'm so appreciative of my position, and I'm so appreciative of the blessings. I count the blessings, you feel me? I know can't nobody fuck with me, but I been knowing it since I was 15. I been knowing it since 15 years ago.

I know you started off to top of the year by quitting lean and "kicking the kup." I just wanted an update on that; how's that been going.

That shit platinum.

Does anyone in your circle fuck with lean?

I mean, you know, for the most case, my circle is full of gangstas. My immediate circle, nah. But, you know, I'm a hood nigga. You know, I go to the slums, nigga. It's different strokes for different folks. Certain people prefer to fight with certain demons. Everybody ain't in my position. Everybody ain't as blessed as I am. Everybody couldn't beat the addiction, you feel me? So, and I don't knock nobody, that couldn't or still doing what they do, I ain't tripping. But as far as my immediate circle, everybody platinum.

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Source: Artist