Introducing Co$$ (Part 2): His Thoughts & His Debut

By Niki Gatewood  |  10/19/2011


Before I awoke, I didn't realize that Troy Johnson, best known as Co$$, has been on a diligent grind, repping for The Park (Leimert Park, CA) and for hip-hop. Having laid his foundation with countless contributions to the craft -- he even has collabs from Blu and production from Exile -- he has earned the respect of his Los Angeles peers.

Co$$ continues his mission to share his message with a nationwide audience. Speaking on everything from being one of society's bastard children of inequality, to speaking on the universal pursuit of love, the emerging emcee's range of material is sure to resonate with an appreciative ear.

In conclusion to this exclusive BallerStatus interview, Co$$ speaks on Before I Awoke and his views of hip-hop. As an emcee, what's the most demeaning thing that's been said about you and your music; was the critique justified?

Co$$: I read blogs and I've been accused of biting Royce Da 5'9's style. I don't even listen to hip-hop. As far as my style, I don't get any inspiration from other emcees. I don't know. I feel like these days, with the blogs, that everybody is a critic. I feel like a lot of people do share sincere criticism, but it's just their opinion. I', not very thin skinned with this sh**. I know that music is kinda, hit-or-miss. Any time that people accuse me of biting other people's style, or trying to sound like somebody -- because honestly, no offense, I don't give a f*** about none of these other rap n****s. I rap the way I rap and that's it. N****s sayin' my sh** is wack, or not liking my beats, sh** like that really doesn't get to me. Music scores memories, both for the artist and the listener. Before I Awoke, your debut, can be considered an emotional/mental time capsule. Right now, what's your current perspective on life? For what are you striving?

Co$$: Just 'cause I have been a pessimist my whole life, I've been working at looking at the brighter side [of things]. So, right now, I'm in the transition of striving to be happy. In my mind, I also understand that even if I'm not totally content, I am blessed. I'm healthy, I have a support system with my friends and my family, I do have music and I am progressing with that. So, I wouldn't say I'm unhappy because I'm not fulfilled yet. I don't have the right to be unhappy. I'm driving a car, I got both my legs. As far as I know, I don't have cancer or anything like that. I'm good. To be honest, I deal with ups and downs. I'm taking it day by day. With all your experiences making your first album, how have you learned to maintain your meticulous attention to detail and still be conscious of time? How are you ensuring the second album won't take as long as the first?

Co$$: I don't know. With the first album, I never intended for it to take that long -- it just kind of happened that way. So, I've learned to focus in on new projects. What really caused, Before I Awoke, to be stretched out was not being focused, production-wise. I wanted a cohesive sound, but I went with mixed production. It's really hard to explain, because I don't have a method of how I make music. I'm just focusing in and being more determined not to take too long.

For example, with Sleepwalking (his mixtape), that only took me a month. That was the first time that I really sat down and mapped out the project, as far as knowing exactly how many songs I want, the sound I want, the concept that I want. So, maybe just going into it with a game plan as opposed of just going into it, phonetically. I ask this question a lot. How do you know when a track is done and that it's time to start creating something else?

Co$$: For me, it's a feeling. I know a song is done when I feel it. Like, I just wrote a song to an Exile beat, and I was supposed to go and spit it for Ex. But honestly, I rescheduled it because I kept keeping it to myself because it just didn't feel dope to me. I know that if it doesn't feel dope to me, then just subconsciously, the person that you're spitting it to, it's not going to feel dope to them either. They're going to be able to tell that you're not feeling your own sh**. Really, for me, it's a gut feeling. That's why Before I Awoke took so damn long because a lot of the songs just didn't feel right. I ended up recording 80 songs for it before I had the 16 songs that felt good. That leads nicely into my next question; do you admire your own work?

Co$$: Um, nah, because I'm my biggest critic. I never think it's good enough. I'm always striving for each album to be doper than the next. I admire other people's work. I strive to reach the level of the people that I admire. I like the fact that other people can take something from my music. As an artist I never feel complete, I always feel like I need to step it up. I want to be a better lyricist, a better songwriter, [and] a better live performer. I don't necessarily admire it, but I do acknowledge that there is some talent there. As far as you being an emcee, why do you think that what you do matters to hip-hop?

Co$$: Sometimes I question if what I do does matter, because a lot of the times that stuff that's coming out of the hip-hop culture is so trivial. I feel like it's my content, because at least I'm making an effort to say something that I feel can have a positive effect on someone's life. So yes, what I do does matter. It gives me a platform and if I make it to a big enough scale, I'll be really able to touch people [through my lyrics].

That's my biggest dream. I really don't give a f*** about fame. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't care about money -- I do want financially security -- but my biggest dream is to get out there a national platform, kinda like the platform that Lupe Fiasco has. He can make a statement and he'll be called on by Bill O'Reilly and have a discussion to where he can say something, and it'll really affect people. I feel like that's where hip-hop matters. But, if you're making records and you really ain't saying sh**, then I don't really feel like that music doesn't have any relevance. What is hip-hop for; what is hip-hop's purpose?

Co$$: Sh**, it's for the people (chuckles). Hip-hop is a reflection of a culture. Just like music is for the people, hip-hop is for the people. A lot of people say that they make music for themselves, and to a certain extent, you should. But, I really think that if you're not making music for the people, then why are you making it? From your debut, one track that I like is "Spaceman." The wordplay is clever.

The first time I listened to it, I laughed out loud when you said, "your wackness makes a n**** want to cut off his ear." Then you said "I breakdance with rhythm and pop-lock with scriptures." Your eloquence is dope. That track made me want to keep listening to the rest of the album.

Co$$: Word? What do you to try to ensure that time doesn't mock your lyrics?

Co$$: My content doesn't get caught up in the trends of the moment. I'm just the kind of artist that's very passionate. I listen to political talk radio all day; I'm not the normal emcee. I think that my content transcends. You can take my sh** back to the early '90s and it'll fit in there, and today it's considered relevant. I really feel like it depends on the individual. Me personally, my mind doesn't work like that. I really don't give a f*** about materialism, as far as clothes. I've seen comments on sh** to where n****s think it's dope. But, they say, "He don't got no swag." I don't give a f*** about swag; I rap better than you, or better than the emcee that you praise. Is there anything else you'd like to share with your supporters?

Co$$: If you haven't had the chance to hear Co$$ -- I know that a lot of people see the two dollar signs and they assume that I'm a certain type of rapper, don't let the two dollars signs throw you off. Honestly, I'm thinking about turning it into two S's so that people will stop getting the wrong idea about me. Just give the music a chance. If you like it, cool. If you don't I respect that, too. The album dropped on June 21st. I have a mixtape called Sleepwalking that I dropped on May 30th. You guys can go get that from Get Before I Awoke, and thank you for interviewing me.

Previously: Introducing Co$$ (Part 1): His Thoughts & His Debut