Success, however you define it, isn’t always easy to achieve. If you have a vision, you’ll do everything in your power to realize it. Even if the odds are stacked against you, that strong desire spurs you onward. Sometimes you have to take risks and defy conventional wisdom. At a young age, artist Cozz found his true calling and snatched the opportunity to ignite the rap industry.
Cozz, whose real name is Cody Osagie, is a native of South Central, Los Angeles and grew up on 65th and Western Avenue. At the time, the neighborhood was riddled with gang violence and dominated by the Rollin 60s Crips. Fortunately, he had parents who cared about his well-being and tried to keep him on the right path. His father was originally from Nigeria and immigrated to America at age eighteen. As a kid, Cozz’s father would play reggae songs while his mother played old school hip hop and R&B songs. In addition to the music his parents played, he listened to rap legends like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Notorious B.I.G., Eminem, Jay-Z, and Nas. Los Angeles rappers such as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Tupac greatly influenced him as well. Eventually his parents divorced and Cozz moved with his mother to Redondo Beach where he attended Mira Costa High, an affluent and predominantly white high school.
Naturally, he experienced an immediate culture shock, but this didn’t faze him. Instead of feeling like an outcast, he viewed this as an opportunity to expand his horizons. In stark contrast to South Central, this new environment introduced Cozz to people whose life experiences were different from his own. This was also a pivotal period in Cozz’s life that ultimately fueled his passion for rapping. His high school friend, Chris Martin, rapped as a hobby which motivated him. The two would often compete against each other and Cozz relished the chance to create his own rhymes. From that moment, he became obsessed with rapping and frequently skipped class to record in the studio.
Although he neglected his schoolwork, the aspiring rapper was studious in his musical endeavors. After graduating high school in 2011, he briefly attended El Camino College Compton Center, but dropped out. Despite this setback, he regained his focus on rapping. To pay for time in the studio, he worked various odd jobs and sharpened his skills as a rapper. His effort manifested in recording sessions, and he hit his stride as a performer. In 2014, Cozz would drastically alter the course of his life by releasing a hit single and music video.
The video, titled “Dreams” was extremely well-received and caught the attention of several prominent record labels. The college dropout was now poised to make a name for himself as a rapper. Ultimately he signed with J. Cole’s label Dreamville Records. Cozz told Complex that he and his manager chose Dreamville Records over other labels because of the artistic latitude. “We wanted full creative control, and we wanted to kind of do the whole thing ourselves. With Cole and Dreamville, they gave us that flexibility to do whatever we felt like we needed to do music-wise with putting stuff out, what videos we wanted to drop, and what we wanted to shoot. That’s what we were mainly looking for.” Cozz knew how vital it was to have control over his own content. Many artists in the music industry lack the luxury of creative control and their music suffers for it. As an artist, Cozz has the freedom to be himself and focus solely on his music.
Despite being a newcomer, the 21-year old believes he will be a valuable addition to the Dreamville roster. In an interview with Hip Hop DX, Cozz explained what he offers to the music label. “I feel like I bring new energy, a brand new energy. I’m young. I’m like the youngest dude in the group by like 10 years […] I’m from the Westside. I got my West Coast swag to it. I grew up in the hood so I bring a little bit more grittiness to it but still lyrical at the same time.”
Before I watched the “Dreams” music video, I was a little bit skeptical. For the most part, rap has become too commercial with more emphasis on production and less attention to lyricism. Too many artists have become lackadaisical and rely solely on catchy beats to sell records. While watching the video, I was pleasantly surprised. It was good to see a rapper emphatically announce his presence. There aren’t any gimmicks—this is strictly Cozz’s perspective. The video is set at night against the ominous backdrop of the South Central streets. Cozz firmly acknowledges his roots and doesn’t sugarcoat the harsh environment that molded him. In the hook of the song, he exclaims, “Always had dreams of being rich, huh? Momma never thought I’d make it this way!” The beat is rugged and complements the visceral lyrics. Cozz brutally attacks the track and declares his relentless pursuit of wealth and fame. He also raps about his humble beginnings, overcoming poverty, and annihilating the competition. His lyrical prowess is unique, which distinguishes him from the typical rapper. With allusions to Batman, Yoda, and Lucifer’s fall from grace, Cozz shows off some intriguing wordplay.
Cozz meandered but wound up forging his own path as a rap artist. He’s a lyrical contortionist with a raw delivery. The West Coast rapper hopes to rejuvenate rap with his high intensity and dedication. He definitely has the potential to add some legitimacy to the current rap scene. Contrary to other rappers, Cozz refuses to be pigeonholed. He prefers to be recognized as an artist, not just a rapper. Already he’s making significant strides in the industry. On October 3, 2014, he released his debut album “Cozz and Effect” on iTunes which has been a critical success. While he doesn’t identify as a “gangsta rapper” he certainly upholds many of the gangsta rap tenets. If you’re a diehard fan of rap, you should definitely consider listening to this young artist’s music.