The Come Up: Mozzy Goes From Gospel to Gangsta
Mozzy is living up to the title of his 2015 track "Tryna Win." When it comes to putting in work, the Sacramento native doesn't play.
Timothy "Mozzy" Patterson released four solo albums last year -- Gangland Landscape, Bladadah, Yellow Tape Activities and Down to the Wire: 4th Ave Edition -- and struck gold last summer with “Bladadah," the title track off his second album of 2015. It's obvious from this output that the 28-year-old hip-hop storyteller didn't take his second chance for granted once he was released from jail after being incarcerated for the better half of 2014. By the beginning of 2016, he became one of the brightest young rappers to keep an eye on and one of the music industry's hottest commodities with projects like Beautiful Struggle and Mandatory Check.
The road for the rhymer who grew up in Oak Park has certainly been interesting. Mozzy initially started off as a gospel rapper whose grandmother brought him to local talent shows as a kid, but things changed as he got older and he became involved in gang activities. He adopted the name Lil Tim and began making a name for himself as one of the hottest local rappers in Sactown. By 2013, he changed his name to Mozzy -- deriving from the word “mozzarella,” which is slang for “money” -- and released his collaboration with DJ Fresh, The Tonite Show, and Goonbody Embodiment. The more releases he dropped, the more he expanded his brand.
But as his fame grew, so did the target on his back. While dropping new music, Mozzy was still in the streets, which lead to his arrest three times between 2005 and 2008. Charges included evading police and carrying a loaded firearm. He also got into a back and forth gang beef that was sparked after he put out “I’m Just Being Honest” with Bay Area rapper Philthy Rich. The song ignited a feud between the Oak Park and Mack Road area gangs. By 2014, Mozzy was in jail again. While incarcerated, the rapper spent his time writing rhymes and dreaming about everything he wanted to accomplish when he got out. When he did get released from prison, the artist with the gruffy voice hit the ground running and hasn't looked back since.
He moved to L.A., got an apartment and locked himself in the studio. Mozzy wrote new rhymes every day and recorded at least twice a week. Post-jail Mozzy was a man on a mission, creating intricate rhymes with the lyrical aptitude and depth of a New York Times best-selling author.
"I feel ashamed I’ve done nothing for my race/All this Black-on-Black crime taking place/They took my lil’ brother, can’t nobody take his place/I think revenge when I visualize his face," he raps on 2015's “Stranger to the Pain.” It's clear Mozzy isn't afraid to show genuine emotion.
While in New York City, Mozzy stopped by XXL to talk about growing up in Sacramento, the importance of his grandmother, his transition away from Lil Tim, going to jail and his second lease on life.
XXL: How was it like for you growing up?
Mozzy: Sacramento, I can’t even describe it. It’s home. It’s energetic if you’re a person of that community, like you really live there. A lot of activities but it’s just broken dreams, it’s really not a place where dreams are accomplished if you ask me, for the urban community. It ain’t a lot of basketball, shout out to Grant Union High School, a lot of football players come out from there and shit but it ain’t a lot of activity going on. Being that it’s the capital you’d expect that.
How is Sacramento different from like the Bay or the L.A.?
We are the valley. It’s different from a lot of cities. Based on it being the capital, the city is a lot stricter. The rules are stricter. You can damn well go to San Francisco or go right down the street and [police] will pull you over for the same possession of marijuana. [In San Francisco], you’ll go about your business, in Sacramento they are going to take you in jail. When it comes to the probation policies and the gang activities, they’re very strict on it.
They just be geesin’ a lot, they just be trippin’ over the little shit. In other cities and states, shit that they ain’t trippin’ off of, in Sacramento they are going to take you to jail. They are going to make it an issue. if they can’t find nothing on you, they going to take you to your house and all the extracurricular. That’s the only difference there is. I feel like I’m less harassed in other cities.
What were you listening to when you were growing up?
A lot of Bay Area music. To be specific, Messy Marv, The Jacka, Johnny Ca$h. I was up on Livewire Records and them. As far as outside the Bay Area, 2Pac, DMX, Jadakiss, shit like that.
How big were Sacramento artists like C-Bo and Brother Lynch in the city growing up from your point of view?
I was a child. I listen to them a little bit too but they are the opposite from my politics. They were big for a while for underground. I feel like niggas didn’t keep the shit going. There wasn’t a lot of reaching back. And I didn’t get to see them. Not to say that they wasn’t out there or discredit them but for me I didn’t see them. So I didn’t really feel their presence.
You have any relationship with them now?
Naw, we’re doing our own thing. We’re building our own shit.
What was your earliest memory of you rapping? Like the first time you wrote down lyrics or spit a freestyle.
My earliest memory is probably a talent show. I remember I was in Del Paso Heights and I went to a talent show with my grandma. My grandmother took me to a talent show and two young Black niggas were dope, but they were gospel rappers. But they were dope, the effect they had on the crowd, the effect they had on me, they probably were my age. Right then and there I seen the type of power they had and I wanted that.
Immediately I went home and started writing raps. I started as a gospel rapper. I was showing up to talent shows with my grandmother, you feel me? I was a child, 12, 13, 14. But as I progressed in life and just grew with the circumstances, I started coming to these talent shows with gang members, so the music changed. It went from gospel to gangsta.
I can imagine your grandmother saying something about the change in music, yes?
She noticed, she geesed. When I say geesed, it means she was trippin’. Even to this day, she call me, we still be having arguments on the phone because she want me to change my music. That’s all she preaches. She never told me to stop writing raps. She never tried to persuade me to try and do anything other than rap. She always was very supportive but she enforced that I change my music, she never approved of my music. Not even to this day.
Your grandmother was a part of the Black Panther party. How did that play in your life growing up?
Yeah she was involved. She was very strict. I didn’t have mom or pop so being with grams and her strictness, I kind of grew resentment. I wasn’t feeling her. Probably like 12 through 17 I hated her. When I said hated, I hated her; did some boosie shit, burnt her face out in pictures and write notes like I don’t want to be here, you’re not my real mom. I flew out of town in Atlanta and rocked with the other side of my family and that’s when I knew.
I was 17, I realized how much she really been a part of my life, how much she done for me. I just took a lot of shit into consideration. I changed my whole outlook. Ever since then we’ve been solid. Just realizing she been there for a nigga since day 1. A lot of the family ain’t pick up the puzzle. They kept on about their life; they kept on raising their children. She came in, adopted the nigga, did all the legal documents and partook in raising me.
She ever persuaded you to join the Black Panther party movement? Were you around during a meeting or something?
Nah, she always encouraged me to become strong, strong-minded, strong-willed, outwork everybody. Whatever you do just outwork them. She just made me militant. The books that I chose to read were because of her. It was off the energy I got off of her so I’ll choose shit like Malcolm X or Frederick Douglass, Marcus Garvey. I picked them up. I just always wanted to be powerful. I wanted to hold some type of power like it didn’t matter what it was. I could be team captain; I just wanted to be the leader, the source. I just read books on leadership and hella strong Black men.
How did you progress with your rap?
After the talent shows, I kept progressing with them until 16. After 16, my music just changed. I started showing up with grams. I’m thuggin, I’m smoking weed, I’m ditching school, I’m fucking, I’m selling dope, my mentality changed with the times. It wasn’t even like a drastic change. It just progressively changed and my music changed with it. I just rapped about truth, what I honestly feel.
So when I was a kid and doing gospel rap, I was just rapping about what I honestly felt, rappin’ about my dad and my uncle and how they weren’t there for me, violence going on in the streets. Then when shit started happening to the people I love, my feelings change because now it’s happening to me. I got revenge on my mind. That’s what started coming out in the music.
What was your first project?
My own first project, I was 17, 18. It was never dropped. It was just a project pressed up in the streets. The first project I dropped was probably Mozzy Mobbalotto. That was the first project I learned how to put on iTunes. I was just practicing, threw a picture up there, I was buying my own music to make sure that shit work [laughs]. From there, I started to really get album covers and dropping projects more—more sound projects. This when I was Lil Tim.
When did you become Mozzy?
I became Mozzy, damn, I think I was Lil Tim when I was 17. Then I became Mozzy like 2011. But it was officially Mozzy, 2012. 2010 to 2011 I was Mozzy P.
So 2012 you are officially Mozzy. What were you going through outside of music?
I was broke. I was 25 and broke, trippin’, fuckin’, living everywhere. I was living with a bitch when we’re on good terms. When shit gets funky with her, I was back at grams’ house, spending the night at the homie’s house. I had a daughter. I was drug abusive, when I say that I mean lean, powder, pills, all that. I was just in the struggle. You can hear it in my 2012 music. I was hurtin’. I was trying to find my way. I wasn’t a person that was used to not just having money. Since I was a kid I was always able to generate some type of federal funding. If it was out a bitch or out of hustlin’, around this time I was in a breaking point.
You once said that “My childhood in Oak Park was luxurious. But emotionally, I was devastated.” What does that mean?
What I mean by that is that my childhood was actually decent. I didn’t have anything to complain about but I didn’t have my mother or father. My grandmother is raising me and she’s old fashion. She don’t fuck with Jordans, she don’t know what Fila is but my cousins, they all got moms and pops. So they all got new Jordans, for birthdays, Christmas, they all have crazy shit under the tree. I got Hanes socks and drawers. And I’m the oldest.
Now I’m playing basketball with my little cousin who I’m slam dunking and twisting all on that nigga shit because I didn’t have parenting. When I said I lived luxurious, my grandmother provided everything that a nigga need but I didn’t get everything that I wanted. Where as I’m watching my cousin getting everything they wanted. I don’t put that on [my grandmother]. I knew that wasn’t her fault, it was my parents’ fault. Them being absent probably play a big part but I think it was them not…just that extra shit, just that parenting.
You got a relationship with your parents now?
I love my mom to death but honestly we haven’t been really tapped in with each other. We ain’t tapped in like we should be. Me and pops, there’s friction that we’re trying to iron out ‘til this day.
2014 you got sent to jail. Was that your low point?
Hell nah, that was the high point. My ranking in the hood, it was the highest it ever been. And at this point in my life I was the highest. I was broke but my rank was the highest. I was actually enjoying that high. I was really feeling it. My music was taking off, people started to gravitate to the music. I’m seeing it. When I go to the Bay, I’m seeing it. People started to notice me and I’m feeling it.
I’m broke though so I’m trying to hide out. I started to learn about being broke and started to embrace being broke. I started to put it in my music. I started to embrace it more instead of running from it. My music then started to pick up.
When you have your back against the wall, that’s when you’re at best, huh?
It was all or nothing. In 2014, it was either succeed or completely fail. Nigga, we either going to full fledge with this gangsta shit or we’re either going to rap about this shit. It’s either going to get us a deal or indicted. However it goes, I’m tired of juggling. I know I’m the dopest nigga doing this shit. I know ain’t nobody fuckin’ with JuneOnnaBeat sound. It’s now or never. That’s how we were pushing and it paid off a bit.
When you were in jail, how did you push? Did you write a shit ton of music?
The whole time I was in jail that’s all I was doing, preparing. If we got a court date three weeks from now and you’re really thinking you’re going home, you getting ready for the streets. I’m finna write 100 raps. Three weeks go by, I got another two months before I get out, I ain’t trippin’. I’m innocent, I’m finna go home. So I’m just cookin’. I was getting a lot of trouble in there too so I was in the hole a lot. So the hole also gives you the opportunity to cook. I was plottin’. I was waiting for them to crack the gates.
2015 was a crazy year for you. Tell me how much your life changed.
It’s like a nigga was dead broke then a nigga got a million dollar deal. When I got out of jail I was on a mission. I wasn’t smoking, I was sober. I felt like they stole a year from me. I was trippin’, I was hungry. Those iTunes checks kept me maintained in jail. They were really working. I asked my sister how much I got and she is like, “Five.” I be like, “Okay, I got $500, just put like $200 on my books.” She is like, “Nah, you got $5,000.” I’m like, "Nigga, what [laughs]?" So that motivated me ‘cause it was workin’.
I got out. I said I’m going to drop a hundred projects in a year. When I say 100 projects from me, I mean 100 projects from my squad. The projects started to do numbers. Sacramento started getting too small for me. Someone shot at my vehicle and hit my partner in the face and from there it opened up for me to get out of Sacramento. My notoriety is getting too big for me to keep trapped into this little location. Labels started calling. When that happened, that validated that I was serious. I moved to L.A. and it been peachy ever since. I got to really breathe and write and do my music. It’s been a drastic change.
How often do you record? You did four albums in 2015 and two so far in 2016. That’s insane.
Every day. I wake up and try to record. And if I’m not recording, I’m writing for sure. I write every day, it’s mandatory. I record at least twice a week and when I get in there, I don’t be playing; this what I love to do.
So what’s next for you this year?
1 Up Top Ahk, that’s going to be the dopest project. I postponed it. It was supposed to drop before Bladadah but I want to make it dope. So that’s all I’m focused on.
Here Are the Most Anticipated Hip-Hop Projects for the Rest of 2016