In 2014 South Los Angeles rapper Cozz released his first song, “Dreams.” The cut sees the artist mixing and matching comic book references with visions of fame and a fear — or a refusal, rather — of being stuck in a daily grind.
It’s turning out to be prophetic.
The song caught the attention of superstar rapper J. Cole, who invited him to meet. After discussing the vision for the music, Cole signed Cozz to his Dreamville label, which is backed by Interscope.
Cozz, born Cody Osagie, is in the midst of wrapping a 16-city tour, his first headlining trek, with a hometown sold-out show June 10 at The Roxy. His sound transcends regions. The artist said people often ask him where he’s from after hearing his mix of boom-bap raps, funky grooves and looming melodies. As a storyteller, Cozz raps about personal ambition, balancing music and his love life, as well as his efforts to escape the harsh realities of poverty and crime in his hometown.
Songs range from the eerie sonic backdrops of “Freaky 45,” about wooing an older woman, to the introspective “That’s the Thing,” in which he affirms his commitment to music despite the distractions that come with fame.
“It’s part of the dream, and I’m still a long way to go,” Cozz said, “but this is a first step to many more things to come.”
The tour is in promotion of his debut album, “Effected,” which was released in February. It includes guest appearances from Cole, Kendrick Lamar and Currensy, as well as fellow up-and-coming local artist Garren on lead single “Bout It,” which is one of several songs on the project produced by longtime friend Meez.
“I feel like it’s my best work to date,” the 24-year-old rapper said, “so I hope people receive it the same way. I just dropped the video for ‘Bout It,’ and a lot of people just now heard that and they’re going back and they’re, like, ‘Yo, I gotta listen to the whole album now.’ Just based off the reactions of certain songs… and the fact that they are saying, ‘Yo, I gotta listen to the whole thing now,’ it’s just great.”
Cozz selected Garren, a smooth vocalist with his own knack for invoking emotion, as the opening act for his tour because of their natural chemistry. “He’s a very talented dude,” Cozz said. “Of course, he’s from the city. So it just felt right.”
Garren and Cozz have been working together for about a year and a half, and the singer appreciates the easy friendship they have formed.
“We’re never forcing nothing with our relationship,” Garren said. “That’s on a business level and a personal level. It’s all organic.”
After “Dreams” gained traction, Cozz was in talks with various artists and labels to determine his next step, but it was an instant connection with Cole that made him sign.
“He was super, super, super humble,” Cozz recalled of the meeting at Cole’s childhood home in North Carolina, where he was recording “2014 Forest Hills Drive.” “He didn’t try to win me over with money talk or he didn’t try to, like, take me to the club and entice me with women.”
From there, Cole has been more than a label owner to the youngest artist on his roster.
“He’s like a big brother, I can call him for anything,” Cozz said. “That’s why I really appreciate him, that’s why I rock with him. It’s not just music, it’s not just business. I could actually talk to him, human to human.”
Although it took just one song to catapult his career, Cozz had already been recording for three to four years prior to releasing “Dreams.”
“Everything happened fast because I had already developed myself as an artist,” he shared. “So when I put it out, I knew it was good. I knew what it would do. I knew it would get me noticed. But it did even more than what I thought it would do.”
Despite the increasing fame, Cozz is aiming to keep himself grounded with words that he learned from Cole.
“I just kinda keep doing what I been doing,” he explained. “I make sure, of course, like the album got me to another level, but I still work like nothing has changed.”
Being raised by a Nigerian father and a mother with roots in Louisiana, Cozz was influenced by several genres of music, from reggae to rap. He names Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, 2Pac, the Notorious B.I.G., Cassidy and Lil Wayne as some of the artists who influenced his sound.
Now, on a label that features artists from New York, Atlanta and North Carolina, he said the Los Angeles DNA is what makes him stand out.
“I can’t really explain it,” he said. “The only way I can explain it is just West Coast.”