In case you weren’t paying attention (or don’t follow us on Twitter), We Out Here Magazine gave a pair of free tickets for tonight’s sold out Forest Hills Drive Tour stop in Eugene to one lucky winner over the weekend. J. Cole is huge right now, and this tour – which kicks off tonight – plans to launch his new label-mates into superstardom as well.
Enter Cozz, a 20 year old rapper from South Central with an ill flow and dreams of being rich. Signed to Cole’s Dreamville Records (an imprint on Interscope Records) in June of last year, the previously unknown LA native dropped his debut album, Cozz & Effect to critical acclaim, with his lead single Dreams breaking the Billboard charts upon the announcement of his signing. A true overnight celebrity, I got a chance to chat it up with Cozz for a bit over the weekend and talk about life, the music industry, and his first trip to The Great Northwest.
Anyone who’s been in the music business knows that 20 is a young age to find success in rap, so I was especially interested in how Cozz found his calling in rap. “I was always into music… My father is Nigerian and listened to different types of music. And my mom was into ‘real hip-hop’. She listened to Biggie, Pac and Bone Thugs,” he responded before going on to explain that he started dabbling with rap in high school because he liked the competitive aspect and the lunchtime freestyle ciphers. As expected, he contributed his quick path to success to “a little blessings, a little skill”, but blew my mind with what he told me next.
“Dreams is the first song I ever put out.”
Wait, what? I had to ask him to repeat that several times because I’ve never heard of anyone’s first rap song being any good, let alone a commercial success, and he clarified that it wasn’t the first song he’d ever recorded, but was definitely his first release. With the blogs buzzing around the quality independent video release, it wasn’t long before Cozz’ name was buzzing, and shortly thereafter, his friend Matt introduced him to the good folks at Dreamville. By the time the signing took place, Cozz & Effect was already almost done, and they wasted very little time getting it finished and released. So much for the 7 Year Rule. Asked if he catches any hate from his industry peers for landing on the scene with no history and a strong co-sign, Cozz replied, “Not yet… Everyone has shown me love and respect… because the music is strong.”
Throughout our discussion, it became obvious that Cozz prides himself on making honest music; I’d assume this was a big factor in J. Cole’s choice to sign the virtually unknown rap kid. Dreams is an extremely personal piece of art, and fans across hip-hop are quickly getting over rap’s pointless exaggeration phase in preference of bars that tell true stories. Of Dreams, Cozz maintained that “the whole song is real. Even the part about crashing my mom’s car. Everything. I’m writing about what I know and I’m making it rhyme.”
I also discovered that this trip to Eugene would be Cozz’ first time in the Pacific Northwest, but apparently Eugene’s reputation precedes itself. “I’ve heard stories. I have a friend that goes to school at *******, he told me how it is! I’m excited!” he assured me as we talked about the turn up in Oregon’s wildest college scene. Sensing no lack of confidence on his part, I asked if there was anything he’d like to tell the ladies: “I’m the future, get on now before it’s too late!” he responded with a laugh that indicated that he was only half-joking. To his greater future fanbase in the NW and beyond, Cozz had only one request, and I certainly agree: “Listen to the music.”
All in all, I found Cozz’ story to be inspiring and his music refreshing. For a young artist to be discovered by a great lyricist and explode on the scene off the strength of a single at the age of 20 is probably every rapper’s dream. Throw in becoming an OG member of a burgeoning label and this could be movie fodder… But it’s not. It’s real life, and that’s the way Cozz prefers it.