“I Used to Tweak with the Thesaurus and the Dictionary:” An Interview with Mozzy

TE P. speaks with the Sacremento rap star about his hometown's rap scene, going to therapy, and being raised by his grandmother.
By    December 13, 2019


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Mozzy elected to spell out one of his favorite words growing up—encyclopedia. What resulted as a byproduct of a question regarding his unique handle on language, ended up being just another display of the endless fountain of energy that is the self-proclaimed “Gangland Landlord.” 

So it should come as no surprise that the startlingly powerful 32-year-old rapper from Sacramento just dropped a single yesterday and also has another full length project on the way—all of this coming just a few weeks after releasing yet another collaboration album. This one is dropping with Newark, New Jersey battle rapper turned studio artist, Tsu Surf. If you ask Mozzy, he’ll tell you Surf got him on this one. But he’s already preparing to “flame his ass” on the follow up.

While the project can feel hectic and cluttered at times, it ultimately works because it mirrors the turbulence of the lives that both men have led. He came from a rough upbringing, got involved with the gang lifestyle, spent time behind bars, and has become a voice for the voiceless. As the project is appropriately titled, “Blood Cuzzins” finds the two’s allegiances coming from opposite sides of the gang fenne, and often takes the form of a conversation between two immensely talented artists trading slimy trench raps. And in this window between releases, I got to speak to Mozzy. 

This moment is as joyous as it is filled with adversity. As summer struck, Mozzy dropped “Legal Guardian/Guardian Angel”, an ode to his grandmother who legally adopted him as her son when he was just 2 — following his father’s prison stint and his mother’s own set of struggles. When he speaks of recording the track, Mozzy admits it was therapy for him but it was also his way of remaining positive in the face of an uncertain future for the woman who was there for him when no one else was. 

Fast forward to the release of “Blood Cuzzins”, which was shelved for some time due to legal issues Surf ran into, Mozzy is taking it all in. All the love, all the random pictures with fans, all of the trappings of a grind that knows no limits. As he sits atop a downtown high rise, surrounded by his kids, overlooking a new reality that he willed into becoming so much more than your stereotypical rap dream, there’s a lingering feeling that one piece of the puzzle is missing. 

Death has been an unshakable part of his life since his teenage years. But the loss of his grandmother, his mother, his legal guardian/guardian angel has affected Mozzy in a way no other loss has. Though he cries daily, he’s now also seeing a therapist. She’s not here with him physically but he knows she felt how much he loved her. While her absence is unshakable, the presence of his children only strengthens his appreciation for the time he had with her. The trials and tribulations they went through as mother-son forged a bond that lingers limitlessly in the piercing, soulful gangsta raps that Mozzy has come to be known for. 

Mozzy no longer raps to tell a story that he thought would be forgotten if he died. He now raps to tell a story of what it’s like to live. Unlike so many of the great’s to meet their untimely demise, he’s getting a chance to smell his flowers. All of them. This is his proudest and purest moment. And if she were here, I’m sure it would be his grandmother’s as well. — TE P.

Many people, when they think of California, they think of LA. Northern areas like Sacramento tend to get forgotten. Can you speak to what growing up in Sacramento was like for you?

Mozzy: I thought that was the world. It wasn’t no bigger than that. Nothing was bigger than Sacramento. I mean, it’s the capital of California. I just thought it was so much. For us to be the capital of California. Sacramento was dope for me. The era that I grew up in. I really enjoyed my childhood. I love the city. I never lived outside of the city. Always been a Kings fan. It’s a dope environment. It wasn’t until I started to progress in age that it became a dangerous city. It wasn’t until I got involved into the gangbangin’. Prior to that, it was beautiful. It’s a beautiful city. I’m just in love with it. Have been since a child.

What was your close unit like with family?

Mozzy: Very family orientated on both sides of my family. I feel like one side of my family was richer than the other. And that was my Mom’s side. I just felt like they had more chicken. I’m not sure if it’s true or not. I just felt like they had more chicken. They were more church going. It wasn’t the whole family because it still gets slimy. But for the most part, they’re just dope, decent people. I love them dearly. I know them and function with them heavy.

Then you got Pop’s side of the family. Pop’s side of the family is who raised me—my Grandmother. She took me in when I was two and adopted me. You know, that’s my legal guardian. That side of the family it was a little more rough. I just feel like there were a little more prison bids. A lot more deaths due to violence. I grew up with that side. My Grandmother got 6 kids. I feel like out of 6 of ‘em, 4 of ‘em is notorious gangtas. And she was a gangsta herself. She raised them and she raised me. She’s sturdy.

Just to give you a little insight on her. I think I was around 17 or 18. I was having a problem with somebody in the community. She told me to take care of my business. She saw me looking out of the window. I was tweaking and I was just tripping. She asked me what was going on and I told her, “Somebody said they was going to do something to me.” I was kind of on edge. She asked me if I had a firearm. I said, “Yeah! I got a firearm.” She told me to go get it. And she prayed with me. She held the firearm, she held my hand, and she prayed. She basically gave me the green light to handle my business. The way she said it was like, “No matter the lawyer charges. No matter the bail. I’m going to risk it all. I’m giving you permission. Make sure when you do it, you do it to the necklace and ain’t nobody around.” That whole side of the family is thugy. It’s slimy.

We went from Del Paso Heights to Oak Park. Del Paso Heights is one of the most notorious trenches and Oak Park is one of the most notorious trenches in Sacramento. Once we landed in the “P”, I never left Oak Park. I attended every school in Oak Park. We was all close knit and we embraced the beautiful struggle.

What kind of kid were you around that time? What kind of student were you?

Mozzy: I was trying to fit in. I was trying to be the top dog. I was trying to be the fella of the class. But at that same time I was shy. So, I was kind of quiet. But I was popular. So, I was this quiet, popular nigga. I was really focused on the money. Early on I found out how to sell candy. I found a plug—Smart and Final. I thought I found a plug! You feel me?! I was going to Smart and Final and I was buying boxes of Airheads and I started off with my own boxes. I was moving ‘em so fast that I started buying multiple boxes. They looked like bricks. It was like we was running around school with bricks. I was putting the homies on and checking my chicken at the end of the day. That’s where I was with school.

I wasn’t really tripping off the females. I was on basketball. I didn’t make no basketball teams. My grades wasn’t straight A’s. I wasn’t an average student. I was always flunking. But I would do just enough to pass. That’s pretty much how I was until I started completely ditching. I kept a hustle. That’s what I was focused on. I was just trying to get the new Jordans. I was trying to keep up with the latest fashion. I was competing with my peers. I learned that you can be an aggressor and get respect, or you could have more paper than everybody and get respect. So, I was just trying to have more paper than everybody.

As far as Sacramento goes, there have been some artists that have made some noise on a larger scale. For you, who is the first Sacramento artist that you remember hearing and thinking—“Damn. I’m proud to be from here.”?

Mozzy: Honestly, rappers didn’t make me feel like that. You gotta understand, I’m on the other side of the flag of the people who was poppin’. So, when it comes to my terrain and my trenches it wasn’t nobody from our side that was booming to where we could root for ‘em like, “OOOOOOO. He on! He from the hood! He from the section!” It was more of the basketball players like Kevin Johnson—he’s from Oak Park and he played for the Suns. We was lookin’ at that nigga like he made it. He the big dog. Or, Onterrio Smith’s and niggas that was making it in sports.

We wasn’t really trippin’ off the music because I don’t feel like nobody was really—no disrespect to the people of our city and the people who put on before me—super inspiring to me as far as the music is concerned, outside of the people I knew. Like my Uncle GP The Beast, De De and Squeak, Big Slip Rock, The Capital Boys. You know I’m a Oak Park Blood so the homies wasn’t really listening to Steve-O. We had to sneak and listen to T-Nutty Nut. When I was of age, then I started listening to T-Nutty but I would never pull up slapping it. It’s shit I had to slap on my own. It wasn’t too many. It was more like basketball players.

It’s crazy to think that I was already trained as a child. That we already thought, “They suckas. We don’t listen to they music. We don’t believe ‘em.” It’s like a trained hater. It’s like you trained to be a hater. [laughs]

To pull us to now, as you’re a voice out here that represents Sacramento to the fullest, what has that been like for you? What comes with it?

Mozzy: It feels like I’m on an island alone. It’s dope! It feels like I’m putting on something that was overlooked. You know how they talk about the diamond in the rough? I feel like I just brushed the dirt off the diamond. I polished the diamond. The city in itself knows and is very aware of its potential and what it can do. We have a clear understanding that we are one of the dopest species out. But, you don’t get that recognition until you prove it. And I felt like we finally got the chance to prove it. Now, I hear my lingo in other people’s music. You hear me?! Their beat selection. It sounds like, “Ok! You on that wave.” They tryna jump on that wave and I ain’t mad at it. I’m just saying, it’s like, “A nigga from Sacremento got you on that hype!” It’s this little nigga from Sacremento got you swervin’ in this lane.

You know we get a lot of inspiration from the Bay area—a lot of inspiration. That’s our market. When it comes to the city of Sacramento we don’t have no big labels and shit so, we get a lot of inspiration from the Bay area. We’re accused of stealing a lot from the Bay area and I’m in agreement. I feel the same way. That was one of my things when I came out. I wanted people to see the difference between Oak Park niggas and Sacremento. I want you to be able to feel the difference. I want to taste the difference. Smell the difference.

It feels good to finally have that identity established. Now I hear some of my fellow friends in the Ye’ area utilizing the same lingo. It feels good to return the favor. Now we can bring something to the table. We ain’t just taking, taking, taking. Now we got something to offer. I’m just proud. I’m proud that a lot of people from Sacramento picked up on the energy—they picked up on the wave. They doing they own shit and marching on they own two. It’s a lot of them progressing. It’s changing. I feel like the Mozzy wave alone changed a lot of lives and I’m not looking for a thank you, appreciation, or none of that. I’m just an observer taking myself out of the equation. I’m proud.

Sacramento also has a long rich Black history. From the Civil War to Civil Rights. I read your grandmother/mother was a Black Panther. Can you speak to that and what it was like growing up around someone with that kind of conviction?

Mozzy: It’s powerful. It’s powerful to live under those conditions. It’s powerful because it’s consistently beaten into your head of the world and what’s going on. She’s raising a young African male. A young African male that has no father. My father is in the penitentiary. Her other son is in the penitentiary. Her other son she lost to police brutality. So, early on I recall being around 5 or 6-years-old and her telling me, “You’re a target. You’re a target. You’re a target.” And I didn’t know what she was talking about. I was a kid. And this was as a kid. But there was also all the dope ass pictures of all of the powerful figures from Harriett Tubman’s, to the Rosa Parks, Marcus Garvey, of course the Malcolm X’s, and the Martin Luther King’s. That’s flooded through the house like we related to em—even Tupac Shakur’s.

I remember her having a mini sized hammer. And she used to have toy police truck. She would let all the kids come in the house and beat the police truck with the hammer. It’s crazy because we used to go ham on it. We really do our dougie. I’m tryna bust him open like a pinåta you hear me?! I’m trying to be the one. But she never let us over do it. She always let us hit it two times. It’s crazy. Fast forward to my 16, 17, 18, 19 years. You know, the police started getting involved and they coming to the house and I’m probation. Just the way she handled herself with the police at the door. She was powerful. I’d be in the streets and we wouldn’t even talk to the police in the manner she talked to ‘em. She was dope. She was always sturdy. She was just real. She wouldn’t sugar coat nothing.

What’s the best story she told you?

Mozzy: You know she had so many stories. You know, the marches, her people she collaborated with. There wasn’t any specific stories. She would tell you about the times. She would always run family member stories too about my uncles. I wasn’t really getting the Black Panther stories then though because she knew I wasn’t interested.

It’s interesting how parental figures know how or what can get your attention.

Mozzy: You know it’s crazy. At that time I was rebellious. I lived with my Grandmother because my father was in jail and my mother was out doing whatever she was doing. I felt like that was probable cause to be rebellious. So, all her teachings and all her good game, I was running from it at that time. Now, in this day and age, I crave for it. I miss it. It’s golden. I feel like I abused it because I didn’t get enough of it. I got a lot of it. I was young. I was on drugs. I was moving around in the streets. I thought a life of crime and gangbanging was more important. Like, “Granny, you don’t know what you talkin’ bout.” I’m thuggin’. But she was was dope. She rubbed off on us.

You dropped “Legal Guardian/Guardian Angel.” It felt even more personal than some of your other music. Even down to the artwork that showed a picture your Mom/Grandmom. Can you take me through the process of making that song?

Mozzy: It’s crazy because I recorded that song before she passed. I recorded that song while she was still alive and struggling going through what she was going through. And I never played it for her. I never played it for her just because I wasn’t trying to overdo it. The times were sensitive. It was very sensitive to her. I felt like I got my point across. I’m pretty sure she knows exactly how much I love her. The song ain’t no reassurance. There’s no need for reassurance, you feel me?!  I was looking for a positive outcome. It was therapy for me. It was therapeutic and I made it for me so I could listen to it and vibe on it. It’s crazy. This is the same woman I made songs for when I was 12. When I was 13, 14. That shit was a therapy session.

Before I ask this I want to first give you my condolences, bro. It’s never easy losing anyone that close to you. What was it like for you, losing someone that special, in a period of time where one would say everything was falling in line?

Mozzy: It’s probably the worst thing you could deal with. I deal with this shit everyday. I cry everyday. I jump in my car and cry everyday. There ain’t a day that goes by that I don’t cry about this shit. And I cry about it because I’m hurt. I’m traumatized. This is the only person I talk to. This is the only person I communicate with. If I had an STD right now, this would be the only person I’d talk to about it. I can’t talk to you about it. I can’t talk to my patnas. There’s nobody else. If I need to go knock something down, she’s doing to give me her blessing. This my dawg. This the person—you gotta understand—all the time I fucked up, all the time I went to jail, all the “F’s” I got on them report cards, all the times I was ditching school to go to the studio, all the raps I wrote in that lady house. All the times I done stole and she had to sign for me or come get me. All the bail money, commissary money. All the times the police invaded her privacy by kicking in her door, running through her shit. That was embarrassing. I watched her cry. I watched the pain that I placed upon her. That I distributed.

So, now we at a time where it’s time to rejoice baby! We made it! Momma, we made it! We here now! All the times you was telling me change my music, we here now! All them dreams that we shared together. She was the first person to help me pack a demo tape. I come from the era where you had to send out demos. I was rapping at 12. So, we was wrapping up demos together. She was taking me to 24-hour photo shoots so we could put a profile and a bio together to send. This the lady that was taking me to these talent shows. Before all this gangsta rap, I was leaning towards gospel rap because I was up under her management. It’s just everything. So when I lost that, I lost everything—straight up. It’s hard to deal with that shit. I deal with that shit everyday. It ain’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my dawg. That’s my dawg. I talk to her. I write letters to her. It’s not another human being on this earth that’s equivalent. Period.

I ain’t never had a therapy session in my entire life. I’m going to therapy now. And I’m 32-years-old. I’m really telling them my business. Like I said, I don’t tell nobody my shit. I talked to my Grandmother. If I’m right or wrong, she with me! She was a velvet piece of cloth. That was everything.

In your music you speak of spirituality often. You just mentioned even going the route of being a gospel rapper. Where does spirituality sit with you now?

Mozzy: Grams laced me to have a relationship with God. The Grandmother on my father’s side didn’t go to church but the one on my mother’s side went faithfully. But the Grandmother who raised me taught me early on. She was Muslim and taught me that I’m intitled to believe what I want to believe. The bigger picture is to have a relationship with a higher power. You don’t gotta gotta go nowhere to worship. That’s how I feel today. I have my own personal relationship. And I holla at him on my own time, on my own terms. I know there’s a higher power. I’m on the 50th floor in a high rise downtown LA. My daughters are beautiful. They have 10 toes, 10 fingers and are both smarter than me. I know there’s a higher power. This is crazy. There’s gotta be a higher power!

We spoke earlier in this conversation about your sound and people taking that sound. I’ve always felt like your tracks were crying. Where did that start?

Mozzy: I adopted that style from The Jacka. Rest in Peace Jacka. Ye area—Pittsburg. I adopted that style from the Jack. Every song I throw on of his is a crier. It made me feel some type of way. It made me reflect. It made me thankful for life. After all we’ve been through. That same feeling he gave me I wanted to give to others. It’s a feeling out of this world. It’s dope. Like, when somebody related to you. When somebody is speaking on your life. Or, somebody identifies with exactly what you’ve been through. It’s a feeling out of this world when someone can put it into words. That’s the same thing I wanted to put into others.

You also have something that many other artists don’t have and that’s a feel for language. Where does that come from?

Mozzy: It’s perfecting your craft. Hours, and hours, and hours. Decades, and decades, and decades. It’s about growing and trying to grow. I can’t keep utilizing the same language. I gotta tweak it. I gotta make it more interesting. I’ve always been a fan of words since I was a kid. One of favorite words was encyclopedia, E-N-C-Y-C-L-O-P-E-D-I-A. I used to tweak with the thesaurus and the dictionary. I used to just go and search for new words to use. I like to read. I read a lot. I just got a relationship with words. I function with ‘em heavy.

You just dropped a project with Tsu Surf. Everything goes on it. Can you explain to me what making that was like?

Mozzy: That nigga dangerous. He ain’t a nigga you just get in the ring with if you ain’t prepared. I think he got me on that. I vowed to thunder him track for track. But being the real nigga that I am, he got me! He banged me on that CD. We gonna double back and I’m gonna flame his ass! Bruh just dope. He dope to work with. We done been through the same struggles. When you are placed in an environment with someone whose vibe is on the same frequency it’s easy. It’s a layup. That’s child’s play. It comes natural. We did that like it was nothing. I’m glad the people appreciate it.

But this new album coming, Beyond Bulletproof. It’s slimy! Track for track ain’t nothing you can skip! I ain’t even gonna gas it up, but it really is the dopest project thus far because of the growth and the developement. You hear it. You feel it. It’s more jewels in there. It’s more shit hat a nigga can take and run with for a lifetime. Like quotes that you can run with for a lifetime. It’s gonna tickle a lot of funny bones for sure.

With another project right after the collab project with Tsu Surf, where does this come from? How do you stay this hungry?

Mozzy: Scared of going broke. On my Momma. I’m scared of being this high up and going back down and having to live there.

Longevity. I wanna be here for a minute. And if  I’m not here for a minute I want to give ‘em everything that’s within me. I want the people to feel it. The work ethic started from fear of death. Like, I felt like I was going to die. So, before I die I want a nigga to hear my side of the story. Now, what’s keeping me gassed up is the fear of going broke. I don’t want to go back to them trenches to where I’m forced to go back. I want to go back on my own recognizance. I wanna go back to tap in with my people whenever I feel like it. I want the privilege of going back when I please. I don’t want to go back because it’s ugly. It’s spunky. One thing is, we not really laced on financial education. So, how we map it out is—work, work, work, work, work, work, work. It’s like when you blowing through that check the only way to sustain is—work, work, work, work, work, work. They don’t teach us about taxes. They don’t teach us that when you got a million dollar check, he think he got an M. But you really worth 400, 500 thousand. After you splurged and pai taxes, you look at your account and it got spunky. So, you gotta run it back up. This is how we run it up. It’s like the dope game—trap, trap, trap, trap, trap. And that’s what we doing. That’s it.

You’ve grown. You’ve continued to push. You’ve continued to just keep it moving. In your words, up to this point, what has been your proudest moment?

Mozzy: Right now! Right now I would say is my proudest moment! Being alive in this time. Being able to enjoy this. I’m talking about right now currently. When I go outside my doors, the people treat me like they love me. When they see me, they run up to me. There’s people that cry and shake. They can’t even take a proper picture! I’m talking about right now! I go through the malls right now. They tweaking out. It’s asian kids running up. It’s hispanic kids, it’s russian kids—Mom’s want a picture and they don’t know who I am! These moments I live in right now are my proudest moment.

It’s like when you die and people celebrate your life. I don’t know if you get to see that. I don’t know if they allow you to see that in the after life. The fact that I get to see this everyday. I get to see the love it’s crazy. The same way people rally at a funeral for the dead, that’s how they rally at a show when they come see me. I’m talking this moment right now! I got my kids sitting way in the air. There’s foreign automobiles down there. I’m entitled to do whatever I please with the money that’s in my account. Right now! This moment right now!

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