Torii MacAdams has five on the twenty sack
Los Angeles is slow. Our lifestyle’s predicated on afternoon naps, the economy is dependent on medical marijuana, and for much of the day the freeways are gridlocked parking lots. The city’s inherent violence, and struggles of class and race, are hidden behind heavy lids and Wayfarers. Rap moves slowly here, too. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg (Long Beach, I know.), Ice Cube, and DJ Quik remain prominent even as they largely transition into cuddly, corporate senescence*. The most influential Los Angeles rap album from this decade had a guest verse from a 45-year old MC Eiht. Enter Cozz, a 20-year old rapper from South Central, his baggy khakis and Nike Cortez timeless, his angry Schoolboy Q flow contemporary. Cozz N Effect, his debut album, will get heads nodding and gold chains swinging between sips from the O.E.
For young L.A. rappers, Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q are standard-bearers, their early, uncompromising successes leaving an indelible mark on the cityª. Kendrick is the anointed quasi-narcissist savior of The West (or rap as a whole, depending on hyperbole), a proponent of unimpeached navel gazing. Q is the hedonist, a hooting and hollering Dionysius with a double cup in one hand and caramel complected adipose tissue in another. Cozz splits the difference between the TDE team captains; between testaments to the earthly pleasures of weed and pussy, Cozz shows his Kendrickian reflective side. Perhaps Lamar’s greatest strength as a rapper is his difficult-to-match penchant for making himself a conduit for society writ small, a cypher for whom the political becomes very personal. Cozz attempts some of this in vogue mimicry to mixed results. “Western Ave. Slaves” and “LSN” (an acronym for “Light Skinned Nigga”) are overly earnest, the type of Serious Rap that isn’t bad so much as forgettable. “Western Ave. Slaves,” inspired by the prostitutes of the nearby main drag, has all the tropes of critically laudable rap music, but it comes off as a heavy-handed, on the nose downshift from the fiery salvos that open Cozz N Effect. Overt social consciousness and hyper self-awareness are delicate tools; it’s extremely difficult to make high-minded concerns worthy of repeat listens, or, more importantly, fun.
Aside from the small, aforementioned missteps, Cozz N Effect is, at its heart, a fun record made intelligently. Cozz has more than one flow (a mark of artistic maturity often critically overlooked), but, at his most exciting, he inhabits the same nearly unhinged, bobbing cadence as South Central’s premiere bucket hat aficionado. On “Dreams,” Cozz is a full glass, tipping to the precipice of spillage, the plodding beat and gunshots hallmarks of “This shit hard!” Cozz might as well be doing the Sam Cassell Big Balls dance^ when he rhymes “I heard these niggas talking, they never talk around me/ You listen to Casey Veggies, you ain’t about beef.” Cozz’s interests don’t extend far beyond where you’d want, or expect, from him. He needs pussy, liquor, and good weed (“I Need That”), which cynics could write off as stereotypical rapper desires were they not also the desires of pretty much every heterosexual male between the ages of 15 and 70, particularly rap journalists.
The straightforwardness of Cozz N Effect is reassuring. According to an interview with Complex, the album was finished before Cozz signed with Dreamville, and the rampant doe-eyed pandering of J. Cole is absent. The album’s a lean twelve songs of Man on the Street dispatches; Cozz doesn’t make G-funk, but he’s an easily traceable antecedent to the West Coast’s belle epoque of the early 90’s. Cozz raps with the urgency of a man playing dice in the crossfire of a shootout, his petty indiscretions backgrounded by the menace of South Central. He’s not gang flagging, but he is cap backwards in the wide, sun-drenched boulevards of the city, a conscious observer to the bullshit. Four bars of “Cody Macc” summarizes Cozz’s worldview: “Crimes I at least repent, no snitchin’/ Pigs make people squeal, keep it real/ Niggas makin’ it with connects and just decent skill/ So with this type of hunger y’all ain’t shit but some easy meals.”
*Less so Quik, who has yet to be in a movie for children.
ªTheir failures might, too. “I” and Oxymoron don’t portend well for the TDE team captains.
^ Sure, it’s technically the “Pedro Cerrano from Major League 2 Dance,” but fuck that.