By: Antonio Salgado
Regional beef has long left rap music (for the better), but regional pride is something that I still have when it comes to music. It’s always great when a guy from the state you are from pops off, putting out great projects.
This was a long winded way to shoutout Mozzy for putting out his latest project Occupational Hazard. The Sacramento rapper’s latest mixtape is a follow-up to his album Beyond Bulletproof, released earlier this year. Every song on Occupational Hazard is a story, with Mozzy narrating about what life was like while growing up. This same storytelling is accompanied by some great instrumentals, a combination that is essential to peak rap music. When rappers open up, songs and projects feel more personal, and that is exactly what Mozzy does here.
One of Occupational Hazard’s strongest features is its detail, with Mozzy’s storytelling reaching some truly fantastic highs.
“Don’t Play Fair,” featuring Wale and Blxst, is one of the strongest tracks on this project in terms of lyricism. Mozzy’s second verse on this track is a great display of introspection; two lines in particular highlight the existential questions that he now faces after becoming successful. “How you my dawg and ain’t applaud, what’s all the hate about?/I’m one of the ones to show my face when you was facin’ counts.” Mozzy is questioning how someone he supported during their hard times is not happy for him as his success grows. While this is a common theme in music and life, there are times when it happens to the person using the financial support they provide as the reason why they deserve love. However, the California native does not fall on the crutch of being the provider; he just wants the backing of those he rubs shoulders with . It is also mentioned that this person prayed with Mozzy for success, exacerbating his confusion. How or why would someone hop off the train now that the destination has been reached and success can be celebrated?. “Never Lackin’” begins with Mozzy remembering his late grandmother, a subtle layer that adds to his reality of fame being lonely and full of struggle. It’s also beautiful to hear the California native be so open about his love and longing for family, especially as he said “she the only one (who) believed in me”. This song is a particular standout in its tragedy: it definitely must be tough for Mozzy to lose one of his biggest supporters. The power in vulnerability is that the artist is treating their music as an avenue to vent and express themselves; while I do not relish in hearing about people’s pains, this song is a simply beautiful ode to his grandmother, a welcome change of pace to experience.
The Sound of Music:
Now, storytelling without a good sound is really just sentences and speeches recorded over an array of beats. Mozzy, besides bringing great lyrical content to the table, also made sure to be backed by some great instrumentals on this project. One song that is a clinic for great instrumentals and lyricism is “Same 40.” The light sounds of the keys really set the stage for a terrific sounding song in which the Sacramento storyteller raps about the tough environment he grew up in. His vivid wordplay paints his hometown as violent, damn-near requiring a young Mozzy to be armed at all times. He flows effortlessly over the beat, never sounding like he is catching up to the rhythm or compromising his flow to fit the pocket of the instrumental. “Death is Callin’” is one of the more uptempo songs on the tape, with Mozzy continuing his exploration of the past while completely grabbing the audience’s attention due to the dark presentation. The low bass on “Livin Thru Me” was an instrumental highlight, with it serving as a backdrop to Mozzy’s reflections on a lost friend that now “lives through him.” He speaks on how he will try his best to take care of his friend’s child and give him a chain when he gets he of age, a symbol of family belonging. However, it may also symbolize a gun: a necessity so the child does not meet the same fate as their father.
Overall I feel that I am just rambling, but that is because this tape is really great. It is the perfect album for both “old school” and “new school” fans. The content is very heavy and introspective while sounding very very crisp on the instrumental side. In terms of beats and bars, Mozzy can stand toe-to-toe with the best rappers in the game. However, let’s not look for comparisons; instead it’s best to just enjoy his work. Any rapper who strings together lyrics, storytelling, and great instrumentals is a great rapper. That is what Mozzy is, a great rapper whose success will come whether he is on the radio or not.
Shoutout to California for producing some of the best rappers in the game!
Tracks to Save: “Same 40,” “Livin’ What I Know,” “Don’t Play Fair,” “Never Lackin’, “Livin’ Thru Me”
Tracks to Skip: N/A
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