Review: Mozzy, ‘Survivor’s Guilt’

Sacramento’s hard-hitter, Mozzy, returns with another soul-seeking scripture, further displaying the many hardships that stem from living a street-heavy lifestyle.

Compared to the works of his Bay Area-bred peers, Mozzy’s artistry is a special case. Hailing from Sacramento (which holds the least representation in terms of Bay Area artists), Mozzy set the streets of fire with his brutally honest tales of a gangland landlord and the psychological aftermath. While other artists in his lane tend to glorify the mindset of dabbling in the streets, Mozzy’s music plays the devil’s advocate role and highlights the pitfalls of the game. This sense of transparency has made Mozzy a major standout in the modern-day West Coast scene as he continues to display his evolution with his latest release.

Survivor’s Guilt peels another layer to Mozzy’s character while serving as the gospel to those who have found themselves trapped in the same rigorous lifestyle he once represented.

Photography: Lestyn Park

It’s no secret that grief is a feeling that we hope to avoid as long as can be; but to those who come from rough backgrounds such as low-income housing in a dangerous part of town, the feeling is met earlier than it should be. To those who find themselves on the wrong side of the game, a conscious risk is taken every time they leave their house that may result in a fatal manner, to them or to an ally. Mozzy’s Survivor’s Guilt taps in to this anxious sentiment of seeing a close comrade meet this fate while feeling responsible for their untimely demise, and serves as the empathetic soundtrack to those who constantly face this feeling.

From the cover’s grim image to the bleak opening lines (“I just wanna be left alone / It’s nothin’ more painful than death alone”), Mozzy makes it clear that survivors guilt remains heavily present in his everyday life. Rather than shrugging off and neglecting the emotion, Mozzy embraces the pain and pours it all into this project as he hosts a eulogizing intervention for those who find themselves in the same situation.

The album’s third single, a gospel-infused tune titled “Open Arms”, serves as the archetype for the project’s sound and themes. The record makes use of the heavenly instrumentals and the comforting voices of a choir to establish an angelic atmosphere, well-suited for Mozzy’s sermon. The Sac-town rapper continues to preach with brutally honest talesabout life in the streets, perfectly summarizing his experiences in the opening lines (“The streets welcomed me with open arms / But it ain’t offer us nothin’ except these broken hearts”). This sense of transparency is present throughout the majority of the album, leaving the audience closely engaged with Mozzy’s artistry.

However, it wouldn’t be a Mozzy project if he didn’t sprinkle in a few anthems to ring out in clubs and functions all throughout the Yay Area. Contrast to the gospel-like production that a handful of the tracks wield, Survivor’s Guilt does its best to balance out the intimate psalms with bouncy rhythms and menacing sounds. While this may serve as a contradiction to the record’s mission statement, Mozzy manages to tie it all together with his blunt delivery remaining consistent on any occassion.

One of the main aspects that allows Survivor’s Guilt to stand out in Mozzy’s catalog is the transparency in regards to trauma and mental health. Mozzy is no stranger to these topics as the Sacramento native has managed to build a majority of his empire on the foundation of therapeutic breakthroughs via his music. But as his career matures in the industry, Mozzy finds himself slowly revealing his position in the mental health discussions that currently surround the culture. To an extent, Survivor’s Guilt continues the conversations that the 2021 release, Untreated Trauma, tried to spark and firmly plants itself in the unsettling taboo that is home-bred trauma.

As poignant as the record seems, Survivor’s Guilt faces a few issues in its attempt to balance soulful sermons with bass-boosting anthems. The flow of record is disrupted at times with records that don’t entirely fit the theme. Tracks such as the electric “In My Face” and the groovy “Wouldn’t Be Us” serve as great contenders for radio play, but fail to add to the album’s themes. Though the record faces a few obstacles, Mozzy delivers a great performance throughout the majority of Survivor’s Guilt and still manages to remain consistent in his delivery.

Mozzy continues to break the stigma of mental health in hip-hop from the street perspective with each release, but trying to find the balance between vulnerability and credibility from the same point-of-view is one that is easier said than done. Survivor’s Guilt makes a solid attempt to bridge the two worlds, but the record finds itself falling back into some old habits. Nonetheless, Mozzy’s latest record is still an exhilarating listen with a solid set of takeaways to add to your playlist.

7 / 10

Best tracks: “Open Arms”, “Not the Same”, “Lurkin”, “Murder on My Mind”, “Real Ones”