Since his 2015 breakthrough Bladadah, Mozzy has tapped into a deep yet underexplored vein of West Coast street rap with consistently interesting results. Belying its media rep as simplistically violent “gangsta rap,” the Sacramento lyricist’s music is full of regret for past actions, entrepreneurial hope and hustle, and marked by a keen social conscience. “It’s like the slums got a hold on me,” he says on the hook for “Black Hearted,” a track from Gangland Landlord. The album’s “No Way (intro)” includes Kendrick Lamar’s shout-out at this year’s Grammy Awards – “Like my man Mozzy say, God up top” – and numerous mainstream stars pay tribute with cameos, including A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Schoolboy Q, Yo Gotti, and Dej Loaf. Ty Dolla $ign and YG help score a remake of 2Pac’s “Thugz Mansion.” “I got love for them bloods out in Sac, homie,” says Blac Youngsta appreciatively on “Bands on Me.”
Gangland Landlord, a bigger-budget sequel to his 2015 project Gangland Landscape, may be prime rider music. But it’s not hard to wonder what Mozzy could do if he paired with a first-class producer, like YG & DJ Mustard or Freddie Gibbs and Madlib. The beats here are serviceable, and cuts like Juneonnabeats’ “Famous” and Jay P Bangz’ “Not Impressive” – which offers a screwed-and-chopped sample of Luniz’ weed classic “I Got 5 On It” – have a nice hydraulic bounce. But they sound like background patterns to Mozzy’s lyrical street stories instead of a true enhancement. But it may be just as well that Mozzy’s grizzled, sandpapery voice and matter-of-fact tone lies at the album’s center.