To listen to Mozzy is to inhabit a world of paranoia, turbulence, and perpetual grief. Yet there is pleasure to be taken from the way his narratives unfurl like epics, how he still manages to portray vulnerability through his armor and a spirit of triumph in spite of it all. As its name suggests, Occupational Hazard hinges on the downsides that come with certain lifestyles—tales of revenge, rugged persistence, and pyrrhic victories litter the mixtape as the Sacramento rapper paints a vividly nuanced picture of how systemic trauma manifests and becomes cyclical. Songs like “Death Is Callin” and “Livin Thru Me” feel haunted by the Reaper (“I press ignore and I ain't answer, I think death was callin',” he declares on the former), but even surrounded by turmoil, he remains interested in survival and an existence that honors those who didn't live to see it.
Across the project, which is a return to grittier form, contrasts are more defined than ever: light and dark, life and death, love and hate, pain and joy. On standout “Don't Play Fair,” he serves up a bittersweet pill: “Finally made it up out it, was giving back 'fore I got it/Remember vivid who died, it feel good we did it without ’em.” And though Mozzy has tasted the kind of success that could remove him from the strife, some mentalities follow you everywhere, and “respect over everything” is the rule no matter where you are. The handful of additional voices only add to the pendulum of moods—among them YFN Lucci's pinched melodies, Quando Rondo's slick drawl, Blxst's warm croons, and Trae tha Truth's sinister growl. Each one injects their own fierceness into the songs, but Mozzy remains central. There's no shortage of anecdotes that land as revelations, each one more illuminating than the last. “I'm a gangsta first and then a rapper,” he claims on “Never Lackin,” but Mozzy is nothing if not a storyteller, consistent in his compelling ability to light up a full spectrum of humanity.