Sacramento's Mozzy is the embodiment of gangsta rap. He doesn't glorify the lifestyle—he's just lived the things he raps about, and it's hard to fake something like that. Things aren't as bleak for him as they were when he was on the streets trying to make it out, the rapper is currently gearing up for a big year. After his album 1 Up Top Ahk received significant critical acclaim, a televised shout-out from Kendrick Lamar during Grammy acceptance speeches, and a feature on the upcoming Black Panther soundtrack, Mozzy is poised for great things. And, through opening up about his fight for changes in his personal life—he made a public pledge to get off lean earlier this year with his #kickthecupchallenge, which has taken on a life of its own—the gangsta rapper has emerged as a genuinely inspiring figure.

We talked to Mozzy about his struggles with addiction, that Kendrick shout-out, and his upcoming EP. Check our short talk below.

Tell us about how you got involved with the Black Panther soundtrack.
Shout out to my management, he's clocked in with TDE; all of them are like family, though. They invited me into the studio function. The first time I met Kendrick, he let me know he was familiar with my music. He actually started quoting some of the bars off "Ima Gangsta." It was the highlight of my life, that day alone.

You guys make the same kind of music, especially Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q.
We all come from the same type of terrain, too, the slums. That all coincided and worked in my favor also. Shout out to them, I function with them heavy. We’re related by the culture, through the culture. So, it was natural.

Around what time did Kendrick reach out for you to appear on the Black Panther soundtrack?
I ain’t even gonna lie man, I’m about to reveal too much. I was unfamiliar with the movie. I was unfamiliar with the soundtrack. My manager Dave-O kept popping it on me and I knew it was kind of a big deal, but I didn’t understand how big it was. That’s damn near a Kendrick Lamar album, if you ask me. Until I seen the tracklist, that’s when I understood. 

I thought it was more like a revolutionary movie. I was sleep, I ain’t gonna lie. I’m so much into my craft and work that I didn’t know what was going on. We just hit a million in the bank account, I just had a baby, and my management kept putting [the soundtrack feature] up there with all that and I’m like—I don’t think it belongs in the same category as a million dollars and just having a baby, you feel me? [But] this opportunity is beyond big.

The movie is already breaking records with pre-sales. I guess you’re not too big into comic books and movies to begin with.
Yeah, I ain’t really tapped into all of that. I’m familiar with Batman and Robin and Superman and all that. Now just understand it’s one of the biggest Marvel movies yet. Just appreciative and just them even considering sticking Mozzy on there. That’s big, straight up.

Tell us about the shout-out Kendrick gave you at the Grammys. That was kind of a big look for you, too.
Everybody and they momma called me, no lie. It’s crazy. You got people in the penitentiary calling me. You got family members, my grandmother. I wasn’t watching the Grammys as it transpired. I immediately—just Instagram, everything just went crazy. I didn’t believe it. I’m like "Hell nah." But there were so many people calling and confirming it.

I mean also, that was another highlight of my life that ain’t the BET awards. Shout out to BET Awards, MTV, and all that. This is the Grammys, though. He could have said anything in the world. He didn’t have to mention my name. He could have said anything in the world, so for him to just even be sitting in his seat already prepping himself like, ‘If I win, Imma go up there and give my boy a shout-out.’ That’s humongous, man. It recharged my battery. I got to writing raps right after that. [Laughs.]

The Spotify and Apple Music streams got a spike after that, I bet.
Hell yeah, I’m pretty sure it did. I ain’t see the revenue from it yet but I know it’s coming.

You have an EP coming out at the end of the month, right?
Yeah, Spiritual Conversations is just me having a conversation with a higher power; me tapping into self. But I’m really just prepping it for the Gangland Landlord album that'll be dropping shortly after the EP. I wanted to bless my fans with something before the album because it’s been a minute since 1 Up Top Ahk.

Gangland Landlord? That sounds like it’s going to be a little bit more aggressive than the '1 Up Top.'
Yeah. I ain’t gon lie no more. I’m trying to break out, I really wanna touch the people. I don’t want to be just stuck in these slums. Shout out to the slums, they’ve been so supportive of me. I’m ready to really just turn the bases as far as the industry is concerned. It's got bigger features. It’s crazy.

Talk about a little bit about the #kickdacupchallenge.
I ain’t gonna lie, I didn’t think it was going to kick off the way it kicked off. I was just struggling with my own inner demons. I was trying to better self. They say health is wealth. I ain’t think it was going to have an effect the way it did. A lot of people took to it. I got a lot of text messages from a lot of family members, and I get a lot of DMs. A lot of families are thankful and appreciative that I kicked the challenge off, or whatever. They said it helped a lot of they family members, a lot of people that look up to me. It just got a real positive response.

I’m not mocking nobody for picking up the cup or functioning with the cup. I can’t. Everybody got their own inner demons they gotta fight. If that’s what helps you get through life, I can’t mock you. As far as it just being fashionable or people who said picking up the cup and sipping because Mozz is doing it or to look cool, it got some consequences. It got severe consequences. Rest in peace Fredo. Rest in peace DJ Screw. Rest in Peace Pimp C.

I’m just trying to live. I’m just trying to see what tomorrow looks like. I just want to live a healthy, progressive life and that’s why I did it. I did it for self. I didn’t really do it for no attention. I wasn’t doing it for recognition or notoriety. I was doing it, I poured out the brick to reassure myself that I’m really through with this one, I’m cool. I gotta get it together. And then there was just people following through and functioning with the movement, man. It’s a blessing. I’m appreciative.