THIS SOUTH CENTRAL ROOKIE IS ONLY TWO TRACKS IN TO HIS CAREER AND ALREADY MAKING NOISE
Words by Lily Mercer
LA’s current scene is buzzing, from popular kids like Black Hippy to loveable rogues in Odd Future. There’s a strength in the scene that hasn’t been seen since the G-Funk era. But it sounds nothing like the G-Funk era. And that’s a good thing. YG has brought the West Coast sound back in a modern day way, while Nipsey Hussle and Dom Kennedy have built solid roots in their city. But the new kid making a name for his hometown is Cozz.
Hailing from Inglewood, South Central this 20 year old MC appeared out of the clear blue sky with ‘Dreams’. The song is an aspirational anthem detailing the life he aims to avoid as he describes the reality of his father’s blue collar life. The video drifts between gritty footage of his friends shooting dice and HQ snapshots of Cozz floating down the street.
His debut release was followed by ‘I Need That’, an upbeat criticism of everyone from Instagram hoes to his friends that think he’s “getting white” like his high school peers. It’s hard to get a clear idea of an artist from two songs but his clear, confident delivery leave you craving more.
The pitch of his voice is similar to Eazy E and he bears a flow that hark back to LA’s golden era, but his music possesses an unmistakable fresh quality. Cozz lies somewhere between Kendrick Lamar’s conscious wisdom and ScHoolboy Q’s reportage of gang warfare. With lyrics publicising, not glorifying life in his hometown; “Still leave the crib and make sure I don’t forget the knife. The knife got me feeling like I’m Superman but praying I don’t run into a Crip tonight.” It’s time you learn about Cozz.
Where did you come from? You literally released ‘Dreams’ and everyone was like, “Who’s Cozz?”
I started rapping at 16 and I’m 20 now, In between 16 and now, I’ve kinda been doing little petty recordings, I never did no shows, never released no music, anything. In December we actually really got serious, me and my little team, The Committee. I recorded my demo, took it up to Interscope. My homeboy had an internship and so he showed some dude named Tunji up there and he really rocked with the music so then we just got started and we shot the video, put it out and bam. It’s been happening really fast, it was brand new for me. Everything that’s been happening is brand new.
That’s the old school way, going to a label with a demo, I like that.
Yeah, I’m tryna do it old school, I’m a nineties baby [laughs].
You’ve garnered a lot of attention with only a couple of songs out, how long have you been making music for?
It’s been like four years, at 16 I wasn’t even recording, I was writing, I was trying it out. I probably started recording at 17 with some dude in my house, he used to bring his equipment and I was recording in there. It was really just a hobby. I started to get serious, serious, last year. So like three years.
Which producers do you work with?
I started working with my homeboy Meez, he’s the dude that produced ‘Dreams’. He’s the first producer I ever really worked with, like going to his house and vibing out. Before that I was looking for beats on YouTube and the website where you can buy beats, I was tryna buy beats and stuff like that. But I got a producer I worked with Meez like I said, and other producer named Dom, they’re the only two I been working with. Meez produced pretty much my whole mixtape and then Dom got a few on there, like two songs.
When are you looking to release the project?
Early June, it might get pushed back a little bit but we’re pushing for June.
The ‘Dreams’ video is equal parts gritty and poetic. How did the idea for you to float down the street come about? That was the director’s idea, John [Merizalde], he’s a real smart dude, he really was into it and he loved the song so he gave his all to it. I told him I didn’t want it to be like no regular video, I’m an artistic dude myself, I didn’t want it to be a regular unoriginal video in the hood. So I told him, “Any ideas you got, I’m down, I’m listening.” We all plotted on it, me and my team and him, we came up with the ides and it worked out, it came out perfect.
It’s got the qualities of an anthem, was that the intention when you were
Not even, when I heard the beat I was in Meez house and we were making a beat and the first thing that came to mind was “Always had dreams of being rich huh?” So I was like, I’m gonna run with that, and I wrote it in two days. I was just in my zone, I was really in my feelings and I was just writing. I recorded in one take and it was magic, it’s crazy how it came out.
‘I Need That’ came shortly after, which sounds very different, were you eager to display your range?
When you hear the tape, there’s a lot of diverse shit in there. ‘I Need That’ was perfect because we felt like it shows a different side of me. It’s not all gon’ be strict hip hop, I’m really trying to show my diverse side. The next thing’s gon’ be real hard too. The whole tape, I ain’t tryna brag but I feel like it’s gon’ be the best tape this year.
Your city has a rich rap scene from the 90s, who’s your favourite MC from that era?
Cube, Ice Cube. He was one of my favourites growing up, the whole N.W.A., the whole movement was dope from Eazy E to Dr Dre. Snoop Dogg too, one of my favourites from LA of all time.
LA’s current scene is back in the spotlight. What do you think you can bring to the scene?
I think I bring a breath of fresh air, I’m brand new and I feel like my style is brand new – I don’t know what to call it to be honest, it’s my own style. Somebody gon’ have to make up a name for me. Y’all gon’ see. It’s gon be something different, but it’s still gon’ be LA at the same time. I don’t know what to call it though, you gon’ have to do that, it’s your job.
Your view of LA life is probably very different to theirs being only 20, you’re not a Section 80 kid.
Right, I’m fresh out of high school. Our situations are definitely different from Kendrick and ScHoolboy’s. How old are they, like 27, 26? They got six years on me, so it’s kinda the same but not really. I’m gonna bring a different view on things. And like I said, I grew up in South Central but I went to a predominantly white school so I’ve definitely got two sides of the fence that I can talk about, which is dope. Like if you heard on ‘I Need That’, “Went to Mira Costa, so the homies think I’m getting white.”
What’s your drink of choice?
Hennessy but right now I’m on the broke side. Hennessy is my preference but right now we drinking E&J, that’s like the cheap Hennessy. It still works though, fuck it! The Erk and Jerk, it’ll get you to’ up.
This is the Sex Issue of Viper by the way.
The Sex issue? Why am I in that? I’m sexy? [Laughs] I fuck with that, put me in the sex issue, I love it!
You don’t have to get naked, it’s fine. But has rap music affected your view of women? Hip hop ain’t really done nothing for me with women, I don’t listen to the songs and like take heed, I got my own perspective. My mom taught me, I got the upmost respect for women but I feel like there’s women and then there’s bitches and then there’s hoes. They all got their categories, so in songs when they say bitches, they mean bitches and that’s what I mean. I’ll call a woman a woman if she a woman. But there’s bitches out there and hoes too, you gotta keep it real.
I feel that though hip hop is misogynistic, women usually spend more money on releases and tickets to see their favourite rappers. Do you have a strong female following?
I get a lot of support from my female fans, they support the music, they love hip hop. And I’ve noticed the females listen to better music, they bump J.Cole and Kendrick and they really listen. I love the women, they’re a big part of the music industry.
Who’s your favourite female MC?
It’s either between Lil Kim or Lady of Rage. But there’s someone I’m not thinking of. Nicki’s probably the biggest female artist but she’s not my favourite. It would be between Lil Kim and Missy Elliott.
Missy and Lauryn Hill are the greatest female artists in my eyes.
Oh shit, Lauryn Hill! I’m glad you said that, Lauryn Hill’s my number one. I listen to her like on a daily, she dope as fuck.
Do you have plans to release any other project later this year?
Right now we’re calling it a tape but it’s probably gon’ end up an album, it’s album material. I won’t give too much away because we got a situation but I really can’t talk about it. You gon’ hear about it but it’s probably gon’ be an album, fuck a mixtape.
Are you still recording more material?
Oh yeah, I’m recording right now, the album’s done, we just gotta tweak up little shit. I’m still recording, just stacking up my tracks, trying to go to another levels with my music as a lyricist. You gotta stay working, it’s easy to get in but staying consistent is when you really keep it. I’m just tryna stay consistent and make the best music I can, be the best Cozz I can be. I’ma have a lot of material, I’m not sure what I’ll do after the album yet, it’s great enough for me to chill on for a minute.
Any plans to take a break soon?
We finna take over, I’m tryna get to the top off top, so right now we’re just in that process of making that happen.
I saw a tweet about a song called ‘Cody Macc’, is it coming out soon?
Yeah that’s the next visual and everything, that’s my favourite song, I listen to it like it ain’t me. It’s not my favourite, but one of my favourites. We bump that shit like we ain’t make the damn song.
Originally published in Viper Magazine’s Summer 2014 issue.