Mozzy, a native of Sacramento and a denizen of the West Coast hip-hop scene, is a name I’ve only recently become familiar with, even though he’s been a relatively prolific artist — he’s dropped about 10 solo albums in just the past three years. The first time I had heard of him was on the song “Seasons” off of the Black Panther album that acclaimed label TDE had curated earlier this year. Mozzy’s verse was an emotional reflection about dealing with grief, recognition of his mother’s efforts to provide, and confrontation of institutional disenfranchisement.
His music is surprisingly multi-dimensional and profound. The songs of his most recent album Gangland Landlord, which drip in the classic bounce and vibe of West Coast gangsta rap, never overpower the words that he’s saying. While nodding along to the beat, the listener is forced to digest the emotional content of Mozzy’s unique poetry — which typically constitutes a grim, poignant depiction of neighborhood gang life.
After giving this riveting album a few spins, I decided to pick out some of the album’s most significant verses.
“We get it brackin’ in my geographics
I need a million, real niggas wanna see it happen
They was with me in the struggle, I ain’t always have it
My city was overlooked until I gave us action”
Mozzy, born Timothy Patterson, is a proud Sacramentan who reps his town to the fullest. Despite the difficult life circumstances he alludes to all across his lyrics, he’s a survivor of the struggle. On “Famous,” he raps “Sacramento nigga, been standin’ up for the city.” Sacramento probably isn’t a hip-hop scene that the casual rap listener is acquainted with, nor is it one of the “flagship” cities of the state of California (hence Mozzy calling Sacramento an “overlooked” city). But his life in the capital of the Golden State have shaped his character, his career, and his outlook on life; it’s only right that he rides for his city and the people in it.
“I wanna see my daughters blossom, only time will tell
Where I’m from you die young or spend your life in jail
Life is in them cells, slicin’ shit up in them cells
From a cloth where you supposed to ice him if he tell”
Mozzy’s hopes are irrational in the context of his environment. Too many people, including him, have fallen victim to the vicious cycle of the system — a system that chews men like him up and spits them back out into the confines of either a prison cell or a coffin. It reminds me of a couple of lines he spat on “Seasons”: “Trapped in the system, traffickin’ drugs / Modern-day slavery, African thugs.” Yet Mozzy manages to maintain hope: the hope that he will live long enough to see his daughters grow and succeed apart from the conditions that he himself had to grow up in.
“They’d rather break us than build us up in this broken system
We ain’t no different if we ridin’ ’round smokin’ niggas
I’m just thirsty for revenge, it’ll soothe the pain
And the prescriptions I be poppin’ don’t reduce the pain”
And despite his indulgence in the violent aspects of gang life, Mozzy is well aware that his actions are both a product of, and a contribution to, this broken system. He’s aware that corruption depends on humans indulging in some of their worst instincts — “revenge,” as he uses in this example. In his mind, avenging the death of his loved ones will help alleviate the pain of losing someone in ways that drug usage can’t.
“I done put my life on the line for this here
I done lost a hundred my niggas just this year
Popped a hundred pills, the pain is still there
Shed a hundred tears, the pain is still there”
But as he often alludes to in his lyrics, the harsh reality of death is a ubiquitous truth that, up till now, even he hasn’t become desensitized to. He is still very in touch with his emotions and with the constancy of sorrow. Avenging the death of the people he’s lost hasn’t taken away the lingering pain. Popping pills hasn’t take away the lingering pain. Crying hasn’t take away the lingering pain. It’s one of many emotionally heart-wrenching moments across the album.
“Buyin’ bubbles, sellin’ stones was the easy route
Mama stressin’, it’s a blessing just to see her smile
Preachin’ prison prevention but couldn’t keep me out
Came to visit, this ain’t how I want you see your child”
Mozzy is no stranger to incarceration, as he alluded to a few times earlier in the tracklist. He’s been arrested multiple times and was convicted in 2014 on charges of gun possession and possession of controlled substances. Despite the warnings of his mother and grandmother, Mozzy became entrapped by the fate that befell some of his family and friends. On Gangland Landlord‘s intro track, Mozzy says “Granny woke up, went to work every day / Just to bail her son out, seen her hurt every day.” In these moments, he expresses a little shame that he couldn’t heed the words of his loved ones, and that now they have to see him in the confines of a prison cell.
One of the things I love about a lot of West Coast hip-hop, and about Gangland Landlord, is how sobering the music can be even in the midst of the glitz and the funk. Mozzy expounds in a really gripping way that lends to the captivating nature of this recent album, making it one of 2018’s most compelling releases.