Sacramento rapper Mozzy is all smiles. It’s odd, considering this is the guy who has written the lines, “Lost a couple niggas, shit happens / livin’ life on the borderline of suicide.” This past year, Mozzy was thrust into the national spotlight with a handful of viral videos and some glowing national press, and he couldn’t be happier about it. He’s no newbie either. At 28, the rapper (real name Tim Patterson) has been making music for over a decade, but it’s only in the last year that his name has made it outside of the city. It’s no surprise either. He’s charismatic and direct, he reps his Oak Park neighborhood unapologetically, and he has an almost unfathomable work ethic.
We meet at Soundcap Audio, where he’s fashionably late. He’s dressed down (T-shirt, beanie, sweats) and quiet, almost shy. He’s also ready to work right away. The studio, run by engineer Pete Spacer, is where Mozzy and many of the characters in Sacramento’s diverse and vibrant rap scene have recorded themselves. The city, largely known for rappers with vividly violent lyrics (Brotha Lynch Hung, X-Raided, T-Nutty), has produced some of the best voices in alternative rap (Blackalicious, Death Grips, DLRN). Before the interview begins, Mozzy lays down vocals on a track the producer labeled “Villan”; a grimy laid-back beat. He breezes through with unwavering focus, barely taking a breath between takes. His baritone voice is direct, simple and punchy. In under 30 minutes, they have a completed song.
Like most of his tunes, it’s a hard-hitting, lo-fi gangsta rap banger, held together with Mozzy’s creatively dark lyrics, conversational flow and distinct slang. (In the interview he refers to money as “Chicken McNuggets” and petty crimes as “dork shit.”) He spits powerful verses and doesn’t bother with a hook, not that one is needed. It’s shaping up to be a solid track, but Mozzy isn’t sure he’s going to keep it.
“There’s a lot of songs that I don’t personally like,” he tells me. “You might love them. If I don’t like them, if I don’t approve of them, Ima put them in the wastebasket.”
Mozzy doesn’t think twice about scrapping a song that doesn’t meet his standards. So it’s surprising just how much music he released last year. He can’t even recall the exact number off hand. Officially in 2015, he released four solo albums. One of them, Bladadah, was ranked as the twenty-second best rap album of the year by Rolling Stone. Another, Yellow Tape Activities, scored a 7.5 on Pitchfork. He tells me about three collaborative records that were released and another three that have yet to be released. That’s 10 albums, but then again, there might be more. He can’t remember.
It might seem counterintuitive, but his extreme pace is part of what put him on the national radar in 2015. There’s no focus on hit singles. He just cranks out tunes, and his output is surprisingly consistent.
“People tell me to slow down. I don’t give a fuck if I flood the market. I will keep dropping music. I will do this shit for free,” Mozzy says. “Before anyone recognized me, I was doing this. Once I learned how to do iTunes, I was flooding that motherfucker. I didn’t care if nobody ever bought my shit. I will buy my own shit just to make sure my account works.”
Sales haven’t been an issue this past year, even with so much product on the market, most of which was self-released. (Some was put out by Black Market Records.) And the success he’s had in 2015 is pushing him to put out even more music in 2016—and to do it his own way. He recalls being 16 and naive, trying to go the traditional route, recording demos and sending them off to major labels and getting no reply. This was back when he was known as Lil Tim. In the years to follow, he burned CDs and sold them to folks on the street for whatever amount they were willing to part with. Anything to keep making music, and to scrape by.
That sense of survival and desperation is all over Mozzy’s music. Whereas most West Coast gangsta rappers have a laid back, weed-glazed sound, with an almost numb attitude towards violence and street life, Mozzy appears nervous and jittery in his videos, with a subtly manic energy to his music. His lyrics are dark, graphic, paranoid and surprisingly emotional. It’s real life for him, and it’s nothing pretty. He’s been in and out of jail and had public beefs with rival Sacramento gangs.
Things started to take off for him in late 2014 when he collaborated with Bay Area rapper Philthy Rich on “I’m Just Being Honest.” It was around this time that Mozzy landed in Notorious Bay Area prison San Quentin, booked with, as he says, “gun and gang charges,” that he noticed things were changing. For all his time rapping and building a following in Sacramento, the Bay Area had all but ignored him. But because of “I’m Just Being Honest” inmates from the Bay were treating him like a celebrity. The video was going viral while he was locked up.
While in jail he wrote the song “Bladadah,” which he recorded the day he got out, in early 2015. The song and subsequent album wouldn’t get released for another couple of months, but when it did, in July 2015, the YouTube video would quickly pass a million views. The video’s raw, honest life-on-the- street quality, combined with Mozzy’s expressive eyes struck a chord with people. More viral videos would follow.
The song clearly illustrates Mozzy’s complicated relationship with violence and street life. His delivery, casual as it might seem, is loaded with matter-of-fact depictions of his life that can deliver a shocking punch.
You don’t want to live like this, my life is difficult it is what it is, I’m all in and I ain’t trippin’ though if niggas know me, they know I ain’t with the fuckery crazy how the mainey shit I done keep on haunting me
“I got a shoebox full of obituaries,” he says, as our interview nears its end. “It’s youth, not old people. It’s normal for a nigga to get shipped off, not to the army, but to prison. That’s why we talk about it. I’m telling you what I see, the good and the bad. People might not think there’s substance in it. Some might say I promote violence and shit, but if you was to live in this community, you know there’s a lot of substance in it. Somebody that’s in it—it’s therapeutic for them. It’s healthy.”
He continues: “If you would have come and done the interview with me two, three years ago, before I was poppin’, we’d be talking about something totally different. My mentality was different. I was on drugs, I didn’t give a fuck, and I was ready to get killed. Now, I’m appreciating this shit. We gonna be here till 43-44, we’ll have longevity. After that it’s straight-up reggae music. I’m going to go ahead with the reggae, and we gonna smoke this good dope.”
He laughs. A minute later he hops back into the booth to work on the next song. The plan is to bang out three tonight. He’s already got a list of albums he’d like to release in the next couple of months. Time is ticking.