Discovery: Cozz

“A couple of months ago, I wasn’t shit,” says rapper Cozz over the phone. Then, the South Central-native caught the attention of J. Cole who signed him to Dreamville Records, an imprint of Interscope. In October, Cozz, whose real name is Cody Rashad Osagie, released his debut album, Cozz & Effect. “I’m still not shit,” he laughs, “but the fact that I’ve got a name and people recognize me for my art is dope.”

If the new generation of rap can be divided into the whimsical throwback ’90s movement led by Joey Bada$$ and Chance the Rapper and commercial rap-pop, Cozz is neither. His tracks have familiar themes–the video for his debut single “Dreams” begins with scenes of the L.A. streets and uses the sound of gun to punctuate the beat, and there are plenty of “bitches” on his dick–but they have an actual narrative. His beats are aggressive, but not overwhelming. You get the feeling that he pays attention to his lyrics: “I’m 20 years old with the tolerance of a 40 year old father with a slut/daughter with a son that couldn’t get to no colleges,” he proclaims on “Cody Macc.”

“I would call it new age hip-hop,” says Cozz of his style of music. “Kendrick is new age hip-hop…Some artists got their own style and a lot don’t.”

AGE: 21

HOMETOWN: Los Angeles, California. The furthest place I’d been before I got signed was Vegas. We never really traveled. It was all L.A.

LOCATION AT TIME OF INTERVIEW: I just left rehearsals. I’m staying with my pops right now ’til I move out. He’s a quiet dude. He’s like me.

THE BEGINNING: I was always a music lover. [Growing up], my mom played a lot of old school rap. I listened to reggae, because my dad is Nigerian. Between that and old R&B, soul, and old hip-hop—I grew up on that. At 16 was when I first tried to pick up a pen and write. I met a homie in high school and he rapped. I was impressed by his raps so I was like, “I’m just gonna try.” I started writing and bringing it back to him. Then I tried to record and I heard my voice on the recording, playing it back, and I couldn’t stop playing it. I loved it. After that I just knew.

COLLEGE DROPOUT: I was lazy [in school]. I was never stupid though; I just never did my homework. I would just do enough to get by. I graduated and everything. I went into community college and shit, but I was ditching and I wasn’t really serious with it. I wasn’t a good student. [laughs] I was an alright student, average. Did I ever think of dropping out? Not of high school, definitely not. But in college, that’s why I didn’t get serious because I would ditch my classes and go record myself. I would pay for my own studio time and go up to the studio instead of going to school.

FAVORITE LYRICISTS: Eminem, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Tupac, Big, Kanye West, Lil Wayne—I was a huge Lil Wayne fan back in the day. His old shit was crazy.

FIRST CONCERT AS A PERFORMER: Supporting J. Cole on the Dollar and A Dream Tour this summer. It was July 17. That was my first time ever performing. It went great—the only problem was just [that] I was screaming so loud on the mic, I felt it was killing people’s ears. [But] I didn’t choke on stage. I wasn’t nervous at all up there. It was dope. I did pretty good for my first time ever.

ON NARRATIVE: I definitely write from a point of view [of a character], like the second verse of “Western Ave. Slaves” was from a point of view. [But] most of the time I find it easier to talk about what I love, so usually from personal experience. It becomes obvious which songs come from personal experience. I definitely do both. Music, for me, is my way of expressing myself. I don’t really speak on my problems. I get to do that through music—it’s my high. But at the same time, I love when I can affect somebody, no pun intended, with my music. If a dude says, “Shit made my day” or if “I woke up bumpin'” seeing that is dope.

“MOMMA NEVER THOUGHT I’LL MAKE IT THIS WAY”: [Music] was not the route she wanted me to go; it was definitely school and the regular American Dream. For me, I’ve [only] been rapping since I was 16, so I was late. She was like, “You came out of nowhere” and didn’t believe that it was all happening. Now, she’s convinced, for sure. She loves it. It’s funny to see her all for it: “Do your thing!”

“THIS LEAN IN THIS SPRITE GOT ME TALKIN’ LIKE YODA”: That’s why I don’t fuck with lean. I do not do lean.

KNOW YOURSELF: I’m good with judging myself; I’m really honest with myself. If I can’t listen to it, then I’m not going to put it out. I always knew when something was decent.