Since the release of “Dreams” four years ago, Cozz has been synonymous with hunger. The Dreamville artist hailing from Los Angeles, California rapped with the chilling conviction of a man whose starvation turned into vehement determination. Cozz was awarded the attention of J. Cole, Dreamville, and the entire blogosphere by exuding an intense craving to overcome obstacles on the treacherous road to achieving his rap ambitions.
Across Effected, Cozz’s debut album, the 24-year-old continues to impress by providing an attention-seizing raw energy that magnifies the stories rapped. The Kendrick Lamar-assisted “Hustla’s Story” doesn’t house a verse from the Compton king—his role is simply as hook vocalist—but Cozz doesn’t miss the opportunity to prove his penmanship by illustrating the circumstances plaguing the settings where hustlers dwell. It’s the kind of strong storytelling that’s transportive, where the visual is easily conjured by the listener. Effected does this well, providing sweeping music through Cozz's gifts as a detailed lyricist.
The boastfulness embodied within the DNA of “Ignorant Confidence” is felt. The irritation born from untrustworthy associates puts fire in the gut of “Effected,” probably the only rap song in history detailing how innocence can be lost in the aftermath of having a holographic Charizard stolen by a “friend.”
Cozz's Los Angeles home casts an influential shadow on the overall textures; the sonic palette has the haziness of a hot box and thumping bass for lowrider enthusiasts. A South Central upbringing is felt in both bars and vibes. Effected isn’t a warm album, but I wouldn’t call it cold either. It's a project that takes you into the twilight of a California night with light glowing from vibrating phones, bright street lamps, and the occasional illumination of red and blue. I love the late-night prowling ambiance of “Freaky 45,” the jazziness of the Curren$y-assisted “Badu,” and the J. Cole-produced “Zendaya” has a manipulated vocal sample that sounds like the Wicked Witch is melting―a flip that’s absolutely murdered underneath their two verses. Cozz and Jermaine collaborations have yet to let us down.
Cozz is still at his best when he’s the rampant rhymer who crushes beats underneath his voice with the same intensity as Simon Cowell crushing dreams on American Idol. Highlights like “That’s the Thing,” “Not a Minute More,” and “Proof” are for listeners who want to hear the refined stream-of-consciousness uninterrupted. But you see stylistic growth on a record like “Bout It,” where he softens his tone to adjust for a melodic effort.
I prefer “VanNess.” The mix of melody and hard rapping over such a springy beat will be a powerful juxtaposition when Cozz finds a harmonic middle between these dual styles. I’m interested in hearing how Cozz further pushes his voice and begins to experiment with his approach.
The story being told throughout Effected isn't immediately decipherable. Each skit provides deeper context, and every song is meant to be glued together to form a photo. Most of the project sounds like it focuses on the transitional phase between being a starving artist and being starved to be heard. As he boldly raps on “Questions": "It's an emergency, rap need a savior / And I think that I can save it / But look, ain't no one heard of me / Yeah, ain't no one heard of me."
Even with a co-sign from J. Cole, Cozz isn’t Ali Baba. There’s no magical phrase to open eardrums. The album takes you through different circumstances, the causes life brings and the effects that become his actions. Even though “My Love” has a singing Cozz―not his strong suit―the song is imperative in painting the way the life of a workaholic ruins the romantic lust and love brought by a significant other. It’s the little details that complete a portrait of a rapper still peeling back the layers of a life he's not only lived but is currently living.
Artists, like mobile phones, are always expected to improve from one release to the next. Phones rarely undergo drastic adjustments, each iPhone is just an upgrade from a familiar template. Effected isn’t an evolution, but fixing the bugs and providing development where Cozz & Effect showed room for improvement. Being able to hear the progression compared to four years ago is a reward for all the supporters who have been anxiously awaiting Cozz’s return.
Effected doesn’t just continue Dreamville’s hot streak (J.I.D, EarthGang), but further solidifies Cozz among a group of gifted L.A. rap artists on the verge of blossoming into undeniability.
By Yoh, aka Cozz & Yohffect, aka @Yoh31