Timothy Patterson, the prolific Sacramento-based rapper more widely known as Mozzy, released his first album when he was 14 years old. Growing up in Oak Park, Calif. — an area dominated by the Bloods — the young artist didn't see many other career routes other than becoming a professional athlete, rapper, or gangbanger. He chose the latter two. Fast-forward 16 years later and Mozzy is finally off probation, enjoying California hip-hop royalty, and touring the nation after releasing the instant gangsta-rap classic, 1 Up Top Ahk, which he calls the story of his life.
Mozzy says he uses music to cope with the tremendous loss and hardships that come with growing up in a gang-affiliated neighborhood. "I mean in the beginning, it was so hurtful and painful, you just don't care. You don't care what happen to you. The loss was so major that you don't care about retaliation and doing a life sentence in jail," he says. "You don't care about taking a life. You lose a sense of living. I've seen so many losses now that I've learned how to channel it. I channel it with my music, I channel it with the way I move, we walking in the name of these people. I'm living for them, I'm breathing for them."
Channeling this pain the only way he knows how, Mozzy is able to support himself and others from his community with his music. He explains that even though he has been successful, he is still deeply tied to the gang community and does everything he can to give support in hard times. Most recently, he paid for the funeral of 15-year-old Tamir Williams, who was shot in the streets of Sacramento due to what Mozzy believes was gang activity. "I paid for his services because that's my community, he's my people. That's who I do it for," Mozzy says. "His family was out there doing car washes and fish frys and they didn't even have the opportunity to grieve, to lay in the bed sick for three days. The next day he died they got to do car washes because insurance don't pay for gang members."
Despite being brought up around this violence, Mozzy says he escaped gang activity throughout most of his own childhood. "Pops was in the pen and my mom was dealing with her struggles, but honestly, my childhood was peaceful," says Mozzy, who was adopted by his grandmother at age 2. However, at the same time his rapping career started, so did his life as a gang member.
"You know, I failed at sports," Mozzy remembers. "I was too short, I couldn't get the ball in the rim, so I took to gangbanging hard and I just incorporated gangbanging into my music. It just started small," he says. "When you're a kid, you start with knocking on doors. And then it elevates to knocking on doors hoping that people ain't home and trying to go up inside their residence and find what you can find and get up out of there... and then it elevated to my partners dying at a young age, 15, the same dudes I went to school with."
Mozzy's trouble with the law first started in his mid-teens. He'd go to jail, then probation, then jail, then probation, until this year. "I got on probation at 17 or 18 and I just got off. I'm 30 years old," he says. "It's an everyday struggle that goes on in the urban community. So, I wrote about it."
And write about it he did. The artist boasts nearly 150 tracks on Soundcloud and more than 20 mixtapes released in the last six years. "This is my passion — wordplay, communicating with my people, being able to relate to my people like nobody else, just being able to give you the descriptions about what transpires in our neighborhood," he says.
Mozzy explains that his criminal record and the nature of his music has given law enforcement an unfavorable perception of him. The intro to 1 Up Top Ahk is an actual voicemail from a Las Vegas police officer left for the promoter that was in charge of Mozzy's show: "This is going to be a big issue. This is going to be a problem. It's gonna be a problem because you run a clean club, and this rapper is not clean. I asked you if he's clean and you say, 'Oh yeah, he's clean,' and he's not. He's a thug. This dude's got a problem with guns. And they're more afraid of him and his crew with guns than the crowd."
Although Mozzy has been arrested for illegal possession of firearms, he explains that the issue is much more complex. "We go to jail early. We damn near go to juvenile hall. I skipped juvie but every single one of my peers went," he says. "So, before we're even eligible to get a gun license, we're criminals."
However, in Mozzy's case, he says, the consequence that comes from not having a gun is even worse than having one. "I'm the top target," he says. "Not even just for the police, but for the oppositions... If they clean Mozzy up then it's game over."
Despite being a target and all of the obstacles that come with it, Mozzy has risen to the top of the rap game with his latest release. "I put the most work, the most labor into this project," he says. "I actually took my time to make sure everything was in perfect condition before I dropped it. I made sure all the songs were in sync. I made sure this was the story of my life."
Mozzy performs on Friday, Nov. 10 at the Crofoot; 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; 248-858-9333; thecrofoot.com; Doors open at 9 p.m.; Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 day of show.