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Mozzy Talks "Thugz Mansion," Tupac's Influence,'Gangland Landlord' & More
Mozzy, a Los Angeles-based rapper by way of Sacramento, is ready to make it big in the hip-hop world with his latest full-length release, Gangland Landlord, which drops on Oct. 5. He's been preparing for takeoff, putting out an impressive amount of music over the years, finessing his sound with plenty of solo and collaborative releases to date.
The first single off of his upcoming album, "Thugz Mansion," is a powerful shout-out to his biggest influence, Tupac Shakur. The song, featuring YG and Ty Dolla Sign, is a fresh re-envisioning and tribute to the legend's song of the same name. The single was released on Sept. 13, the 22nd anniversary of the visionary rap star's untimely death. The music video features the three rappers chilling in a beautiful mansion with Pac himself—well, Demetrius Shipp Jr., who played him in All Eyez on Me. Mozzy is not only paying honors to his idol, but setting big dreams for himself as well.
We caught up with Mozzy at our Santa Monica, Calif. headquarters to learn more about the new album, his take on "Thugz Mansion," Shakur's influence on his work and his life, collaborating, and more.
You're latest album, Gangland Landlord, is coming out on Oct. 5. You've put out an impressive amount of music in recent years – what are you most excited about with releasing this new album?
The most exciting thing about this album, to me, is just all the time, all the time I put into it. I treated it like my baby, this is my baby and I just can't wait to see the world's reception. I want to see if other people receive it, if they vibe to it. I want to see if I hit my mark, you know, I just wanted a ghetto gospel. I just want people to feel it spiritually. I want to hit home with it. I want a heartfelt album. It's my life. This is my story and it's nothing fraud about it so you know I just want to make sure that the people feel it.
You just dropped a new video for "Thugz Mansion" featuring YG and Ty Dolla Sign, on the anniversary of Tupac's death. Can you talk about the vision behind the song and the video, and why it was important for you to pay tribute to him?
It was important for me to pay tribute to Pac because he's legendary. He's my biggest influence as far as musically, politically; he's my mentor. I, still to this day, vibe to his music. I throw it in the deck, I listen to his speeches. So you now, that's one of my biggest influences. I don't think I'd be the rapper that I am today, or as creative as I am if it wasn't for Pac.
The way that the song came together is just, it's just a blessing truthfully. It's just a blessing and if you ask me, it wasn't necessarily planned like I'm going to make this kind of song, I want these two people on it, I'm going to drop it on the dates. It didn't come to me like that at first.
I'm so excited about the song. If it was up to me, I would've dropped it the day of, you know? I got Ty Dolla Sign, I got my boy YG on there; it's a legendary song for the West Coast. I would have dropped it the day of, but my team prepped it and put it together to come out today—shout-out—I would've been able to do it without them, so you know it was really a team effort.
Did watching Tupac when you were growing have an impact on you wanting to go into hip-hop? How has his influence affected your career, when you were first starting out and now as you have more experience?
I was in tears in one of his song, "Dear Mama." I just identified with that song, just crazy how I identified with that song, just seeing the video. My grandmother, Tupac fan, loves Pac. You know, there aren't too many rappers that she like, you feel me? She loved Pac, so he has always been in the household, everybody in my family [loved him], my uncle got thug life tatted on him, you feel me? But early on I used to read books about him and just how hard he worked, how consistent, how persistent he was, and I vowed, I vowed to follow that trait. I vowed to adopt that trait and his work ethic, just his work ethic and the amount of projects he put out.
If you go back into my history, you'll see at one point of time I was driving projects every week, every month, you feel me? I was inspired early on to work like him. He made you read, he made you think. He inspired you to think – he was not just a rapper, he also had something to say.
You could listen to his music and pick up all his vocabulary, you could pick up his quotes, like Shakespeare. I think one of his biggest influences was the way he connected with the people. How could somebody so young have influenced my grandmother to just fall in love with him, you feel me? That just got me early on. Rest in peace Pac.
You've worked with a lot of other rappers and put out quite a few collab albums. What have you learned from working with other artists, and what is the biggest challenge with putting out a joint album?
I pay attention to other artists' mistakes. I watch, I listen, I listen, I just pay attention. I'm in it for longevity, you know, so I study what not to do more than I study what to do. I love collab albums. It's just that you get half the money though, [laughs] that's my only thing with them, you feel me? Other than that, I love working with people, I'm a people person. I just love the energy of working together—as long as the energy's there, it's good.
Kendrick Lamar gave you a shout-out during his GRAMMY acceptance speech earlier this year – how did you feel about him sharing that moment with you? Did you ever get to ask him about it?
That moment—I tell people all the time—he could have said any other name in the world, its Kendrick Lamar. You feel me, fella up here, you know what I'm saying, next to Pac. I'm a political person and for one of the heroes from the West Coast, for him to say my name at the GRAMMYs, with my grandmother watching, my uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews watching, it's crazy. I still can't really explain it to this day, but it was unbelievable.
When somebody first called me about it I thought they were trippin'. I didn't comprehend what they were saying. It was just crazy. I couldn't believe it, it's still unbelievable.
I thanked him for it. I sent him a text message, and he said it was purified love. Shout-out to Kendrick, pure love brother.
You grew up in Sacramento and moved down here to Los Angeles a few years ago – how has the new scene affected your life and your music?
It's like you go from playing basketball at the park and fly into the major leagues. You go from playing with your friends to playing with the people you used to watch on TV, you feel me? It's the biggest difference as my career is concerned. As for living, L.A. just put me at a new place, especially with my mind frame, business-wise. You're around money so it teaches you to respect it. The friends, the relationships you walk in with—I'm at the GRAMMYs, we're doing an interview here, in L.A. right? [laughs] This is where it's at, it's platinum. I couldn't have made a better move.
What advice do you have for younger rappers trying to get in the game? Is there anything that you wish you had known when you were first starting out?
I wish I'd known that you can build the cake off of crumbs I wish somebody told me early on. By putting a little music out consistently you're building a catalog and if they catch wind of that catalog it could go somewhere.
I put my music out through CD Baby [music release service] early on, and it was only fifty, sixty dollars to put out a CD then. I wish I would have started earlier and would have just focused on digital. At one point in time, we were pressing a lot of CDs and I wish I would have thought digitally sooner.
My advice though now is to just put it out. There's so many ways you can put out music. Nowadays it's so easy. Once upon a time you had to put up flyers, you had to get radio spins for a promo. It's easier now, it's at the tip of your hands to put music out.
My other advice is just to work, work, work. You got to work like you know it's not going to work for five to ten years and I think that's when you hit in this business. When I was 19, I wanted it to work out for me, but by 25 I thought I was an embarrassment to my family because all I'm pursuing is music. I don't want to focus on any other job, music was it. And it worked out eventually, if you keep working hard it will start working out for you.