Mozzy shares the new video for "Word Up" and talks about getting the Bay buzzing with his uncompromising, matter-of-fact music.
Photos by @tstrongvfx, courtesy of Mozzy
Basically everything you need to know about the way Sacramento rapper Mozzy presents himself can be gleaned in the first 90 seconds of his hit song “Bladadah.” He starts out with a refrain about how his music relates to his actual life: “If niggas know me then niggas know.” He explains his method of achieving depth from candor: “It’s deeper than a punchline and trying to sound lyrical / you don’t want to live like this my life difficult.” And then he demonstrates what he’s talking about with undeniable rapping, his crisp, descriptive bars falling into place like an intricate domino design: “Pour baking soda in the pot and let it marinate / Snitching is the style now, niggas want to narrate / Dope spot barricaded / Task force Tuesday / Macintosh hanging from an Air Force shoelace.” Once again, all this happens in 90 seconds. In the past nine months, Mozzy has released four albums worth of similar music.
Riding on that consistency, Mozzy has been having quite a year—perhaps even “the best run of 2015,” as Complex recently claimed. “It's like anywhere I go in the Bay Area, any mall they scream my name, everywhere I go they take pictures, they want autographs, any new merchandise I get they eat it up it sells out within a week,” Mozzy told me over the phone when I called him up to find out a little bit more about his “Word Up” video, off his album Yellow Tape Activities, which we’re premiering below. Perhaps I should have assumed that Mozzy—whose songs are delivered in a clear, unrelenting clip with minutes of rapping on end with minimal hooks—would have plenty to say about his life, but I was nonetheless quickly given far more than a short synopsis of his recent work. In the same matter-of-fact way that his lyrics lay out street truisms and offer blunt statements about hyperlocal crew politics, he unspooled his biography and thoughts on music in considerable detail, with little prompting.
The 28 year old, whose real name is Timothy Patterson, has a complex perspective on life—one that, once again, is abundantly clear in his music, where a song like "Love Slidn" might take a smooth, almost spiritual, sax-driven beat and turn it into an anthem equally about ordering shots and watching friends "die to gunfire." It doesn't all go down particularly easily, but hearing Mozzy talk about it, on a track or over the phone, is mesmerizing.
Noisey: When do you feel like music really took off for you? You put out four albums last year. Was that really what made it happen, or was it building before that?
Mozzy: Nah, it's been building. I've been rapping since a child. When I say child I’m talking nine, ten, 11, years old. I’ve been for real about it. I had dreams of being a Bow Wow, Lil Romeo. I turned 16, 17 realized I’d never be that, it was too late, I’m finna be in my 20s. So as I said, I changed my dreams, kind of lowered them, and said I want to be like the Jacka. Rest in peace Jack. And it feels like I’m there right now. It feels like I’m living that dream, like with just all the Bay Area love. I just wanted street love. I didn’t even care about the rest of the world. I just wanted love from the streets, and I got it. And it’s like the rest of the world just is making bigger.
But it really took off for me—I did a collaboration feature with Philthy Rich, and it’s called “Just Being Honest.” The Bay started recognizing me when I did “The Truth.” After I did “The Truth” the other person in the video—it was just me and another person—he actually got killed. So it was a lot of commotion behind that. Like the news started picking up on it, and a lot of people in the streets, they started gravitating to it. Then they came back with a response video, and we did the “Just Being Honest.” And when I did “Just Being Honest” it went crazy. Sacramento, that video followed probably 22, 25 shootings in Sacramento. And that’s when it got big. I went to court, and I went to jail for gang enhancement, and it just really got big from there. Like when I was in jail the fan mail was crazy, the guards in the jail were playing my music. The enemies were playing my music, at the same time saying fuck me. But they was still memorizing the lines and laughing about the shit.
When I got out, I got out to probably $7,000 in iTunes, and I just invested it all in the music. I never had like real hard copy CDs and shit, so I just put it all into the music, videos, and the fans was already on it from “Just Being Honest.” And I was dropping music while I was still in jail, like Next Body on You, Next Body on You Part 2. My team E Mozzy and CellyRu, they kept it popping, and it was just like the momentum they was waiting on me to get out of jail. So when I get out of jail, when I drop an album within a month of my release, they just ate it up. And when I saw they ate it up, I was so hungry and broke I was like ‘fuck it, I’m gonna just flood it because I need the money.’ And from there it just picked up, and right now it’s like anything I do they just bite it, they eat it up.
What was it like before all that happened? Are you from Sacramento, born and raised? What was it like growing up there?
Yeah, I’m from Sacramento. Oak Park to be exact. I grew up here all my life. My father spent 15 years in the penitentiary, mother smoked dope majority of my life, full blown crack baby, was in an incubator, all this shit. My grandmother rescued me. My grandmother got custody of me and has been having me ever since I was about two years old. She’s got a bunch of property in Sacramento, Oak Park in particular, and I was raised in them. She’s got about five houses, and I was raised in each one of them houses. I was just from house to house. I stayed in the same schools, went to all Oak Park schools. I had a pleasant life. It was beautiful up until I got to my teens.
I was running into it on my way to school. I was seeing other people not going to school, breaking into houses. I’m seeing other people have got new shoes, people only 14, 15 years old got cars and shit, I’m trying to get like them. So I start participating in that type of activity as far as breaking into houses, punching other people and taking their money to the point where we started selling weed, then we started selling dope. We was just ‘fuck school,’ there wasn’t even no going to school. Then I ended up enrolling in a continuation school because they were calling my home, and they were threatening to take my grandmother to jail because I ain’t going to school. So I started going to continuation school, only going an hour a day, so that’s giving me all the time in the day to like sell dope, sell weed. Then the new fashion came into play where people started pimping, like Craigslist and Backpage.
I just got involved in everything I saw my peers getting involved in, but I always rapped. I used to stay at home from school and write raps, stay home from school go to the studio. Sell dope, go to the studio. I was a kid doing this shit. Sixteen, 17 we start shooting, doing drive-bys and shit, stealing our grandmothers’ guns, stealing guns from breaking in houses and shit, but at the time I was writing and I was rapping about this shit. A lot of the people that was rapping with me that was doing the same shit, they done went to jail, they caught murder beats, or a lot of people got killed, so it was just—I just endured a lot of shit from my teammates here up until now. It’s been a career for me. In and out of jail ever since I was 18. It’s been like, I’m a failure to my family, but I feel like every struggle that I’ve been through and all that bullshit, that shit didn’t do nothing but give me the creativity and give me the ammunition to write this dope ass shit and to really make the people feel where I’m coming from because I dealt with it hands on.
You were saying that in Sacramento, there were a ton of shootings. What was that all about? Why is there so much tension in Sacramento? What’s going on in Sacramento right now?
People have got to understand, Sacramento is the heart of the West Coast. The West Coast is known for gangsterism, period. The East Coast and a lot of other places are known for hip-hop and a lot of other shit, but we’re known for gangster shit. Every nigga that came in the game rapping from the West Coast is on some gangster shit.
The people who migrated to Sacramento and was gang related, they brought that gang mentality out here. We was already on some gangster shit, but niggas from LA migrated down here and brought that Crip and Blood shit out here. And we ate that shit up. That shit became a part of us. Now, the Bay Area, they move totally different. It’s Crips and Bloods in San Jose, South Bay, but they really don’t push that Blood/Crip. They push their family. It’s the same mentality. They’re just not banging red and blue. We took on the red and blue swag, but the Bay, it’s the same thing. Niggas’ll lose their noodles in the Bay Area, nigga’ll come to Sacramento thinking it’s sweet, nigga you’ll lose your noodles in Sacramento.
Now the hectic thing with shots where hella niggas was falling, that was just—as far as the news was concerned and how they painted it, it was gang-related. It was back and forth. If you was in it, you followed it, you knew exactly what happened. It was like one video led onto our video. Our video led onto one of my homies getting beat up in the mall. It was a chain reaction. It was back and forth and back and forth, and that’s just the gang culture. But I’m just a rapper. I wasn’t involved in none of that shit.
But that’s what I’m rapping about. I’m rapping about this life. And I’m not giving you just the glamorous side. I’m letting you know it gets ugly. My niggas, they’ve been in that cold-ass holding tank, curled up, with a murder rap on your paper. I’m telling you. These niggas think it’s play; you’ll get accessory to murder just for driving or for being there or knowing about it. Niggas is really getting killed, like niggas will pull up on the side of you and fill your automobile up with shots while your daughter’s in the vehicle, you feel me? This shit is for real. People die behind this shit, and niggas is willing to kill behind this shit. That’s all I’m putting in my music, and I’m letting you know, like, everything ain’t glamorous. I’m not rich.
Sacramento, niggas don’t know. It’s activities in Sacramento, and it’s been activities. This shit ain’t started with me, I’m just the first person that know how to put this shit in wordplay and deliver it where you can just like digest it, where you ain’t got to dissect it and hella shit. And that’s why people are starting to respect it. Bottom line at the end of the day everybody’s trying to make a way. Don’t nobody want to get stuck in this shit where a nigga gotta raise his daughter behind this thick-ass glass or a nigga’s daughter’s gotta say Rest in Peace Mozzy. This shit ain’t dope.
Has there ever been much of a rap or music scene documenting that locally, who you looked up to, or was that always more in the Bay?
I’m not the first one from there, I just put it on the thickest. There’s other niggas that’s did it, like C-Bo, Brotha Lynch, X-Raided, but them is Crips. They’re all from the blue side of the flag. I’m the only nigga from the red side of the flag who’s really got like the people’s attention. I really liked the Jacka, that’s really like the story of my life. That nigga was telling my life. So that’s what I’d really be on.
What was it about the Jacka that was so appealing to you?
He never talked about fancy shit. He didn’t give a fuck about no dope-ass car or no jewelry or no Murcielagos or nothing. He didn’t care about none of that shit. He was real. He would pull up in your neighborhood and pounce out without security. Nigga was just real. You could just hear it in a nigga’s music. He’s talking about shit that I go through. Like I ain’t ever met this nigga, I ain’t ever seen him for a day in my life, I ain’t never slid through his residential, this nigga be identifying with what I’ve got going on. So that was just it to me. And there’s yet to be another nigga who can say that. Rest in peace, Pac, but that nigga Jacka, he’s black history.
Is there a sound that you want in your music?
I’m looking for something that’s gonna touch a nigga’s soul. If it don’t touch my soul and I still jump on it, it’s like I’m on some bullshit, I’m just fucking around. Either I’m knocking out a verse for somebody or saying some corny ass shit or, you know, I’m just high as fuck and I’m just fucking off. That’s how a lot of beats are, I’m just fucking off. When I’m looking for my sound, it’s gotta touch me. It’s got to identify with what I’m going through. Whatever you turn on, if that motherfucker tickle my soul, I need that. Let me get on that. It could be a saxophone, it could sound like church music. If it tickles my soul, I want it, straight up.
And when you’re writing, it sounds like that’s the mood you want to write to, is something that’s going to be real and emotionally powerful.
That was the best description you could say: emotionally powerful. Straight up.
Are there any songs in particular that really hit that note or that were hard to make for that reason?
Every song, man. Every song touched me. When I did that “Just Being Honest,” that was an emotional, powerful song. I was just pouring out my soul. Just letting niggas know what’s popping, like nigga this shit is going on, and this shit is real. And I’ma make you feel me. But damn near all of my songs, man, anything with like a little Jacka-type feel to it, like a little sad bass line or any time a song’s crying, I’m pouring out my soul. All my shit be emotionally powerful. That’s why they fuck with me.
What do you want to do next? What do you see in the year ahead?
I’m finna format a new blueprint. It’s not necessarily new, these niggas just ain’t been using it. Let’s keep dropping music, let’s keep applying the pressure, let’s keep force-feeding them, just keep this shit reality.
And I’m blowing past a lot of niggas based on my shit is reality. The people hear passion, the people hear sincerity, it’s heart-feeling and it’s heart-breaking. These niggas are vibing with me. The people hear the creativity. It’s creativity in my shit. I’m not saying regular words. I’m not utilizing what everybody else is utilizing. I’ll make up some shit. Bladadah. Who the fuck makes up Bladadah? Niggas ain’t got no creativity, so I’m gonna keep outshining these niggas.
What I see is somebody’s gonna have to cut the check. I’m not in need of money, I’m not broke. Financially, I’m gucci, but I need them to cut the check because that’s what it’s worth. It’s worth a check right now. But I’ll do this shit independently. We’ve been shaking shit up so far independently. Why do I need anybody? I already made it this far, so every little inch they give me I’m succeeding because I didn’t plan to make it this far. I didn’t know this music was going to make a way.
Kyle Kramer is an editor at Noisey. Follow him on Twitter.