Cedric Moses, who performs under the stage name Mozez Tha Great, is all smiles lately. How could he not be? Moses is days away from accomplishing a goal he set for himself more than four years ago. On Saturday at Trees, Mozez Tha Great will headline I am Dallas Hip Hop. The show will coincide with the release of his EP Undefined.
After 10 years of trying to make his way in the Dallas hip-hop scene, Moses believes he’s equipped with the proper tools to propel his career to new heights.
“We actually tried to do this show like four or five years ago, but for some reason, it just didn’t happen,” Moses says. "Then one of my good friends, Cecil Smith, who partnered with me to produce the show, played my music for the right person.”
Smith got Dallas concert promoter Nikki Morris to hear Moses’ music, and Morris expressed interest in producing a concert with Mozez Tha Great at the top of the bill. They needed a concept, and Moses presented his idea.
“As soon as they hit me up, I was like, I already know what type of show I want to do. I am Dallas Hip Hop. I’m ready for it,” he says.
Instead of a typical arrangement in which the promoter books the artists, Moses was adamant about organizing the event with the vision he had in mind. Although the show is at Trees, it has an authentic DIY feel to it.
“Me, Cecil and my girlfriend, Chanel Sampson, who is like my right-hand person, are doing everything,” Moses says. “We coordinated the sponsors, booked the other acts, all three of us just knocking it out.”
The concept for I am Dallas Hip Hop came about from Moses’ desire to be an advocate for diversity within the local rap scene.
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“The idea stemmed from a conversation I had years ago," he explains. "It was about what is the sound of Dallas [hip-hop]. What’s our sound; what’s our identity? My answer to that was, 'Why do we need a sound or identity? Why can’t we just have a bunch of dope emcees and be known for great music?' I took the same approach putting this lineup together as I did with my own music. We have all types of artists. We have trap, Christian artists, conscious rappers. I just want show dope rap music, all kinds, all from Dallas.”
Moses hopes to turn I am Hip Hop Dallas into a multiplatform brand. The goal is for the concert to grow and become an annual event. He also wants to curate other events dedicated to Dallas hip hop. This year’s lineup comprises IQmuzic, FL Loud, Hyper Fenton, Previs The Best, Amber Bee, Alex The Great, Shoose McGee, DQ Hampton, Contrabandz, Jui$e Leroy and Eye Am.
“We could have went for bigger names, but honestly, as someone who’s spent over 10 years trying to further my career, it’s only recently that I’ve been able to have opportunities such as this," Moses says. "I know there are a lot of super-talented artists that I’ve come across. Trees is one of those venues you want to have on your resume, so that played a part in how we picked the lineup."
Moses’ new EP, Undefined, features a variety of music styles, including EDM, traditional boom bap hip-hop beats and guitar-driven compositions structured around live instruments. During the interview, he previewed three songs from the project. Each track was unique, but none strayed from Moses’ musical identity or skill set.
“I look at the concept for the album in two aspects," Moses says. "As a human and an artist, people want to label you and box you in to something. To be realistic, as human beings, we’re too complicated to just say, 'Hey, you’re just hip-hop,' or 'You’re just African-American.' Yes, I’m African-American, but I’m a brother, I’m a son, I’m a lover, I’m a fighter. I’m a hip-hop artist through and through, but Undefined is my way of being defiant. I’m not going to allow you to box me in with my creativity and what I do in life or music.”
Undefined almost never saw the light of day. A few years ago, the project was complete and Moses paid an engineer to mix and master the album. The engineer took Moses’ money along with the masters and was never heard from again. In August 2017, Moses won the Premier Live Battle of the Bands talent competition and was awarded $1,000. However, he'd pawned his laptop to pay for expenses related to his show. When he retrieved his laptop, much of the data was damaged or lost — including his album.
The loss of his music, various health problems and other setbacks have tested Moses’ resolve. He credits his relationship with his girlfriend for giving him the strength to endure adversity.
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“I was telling my girlfriend the other day, I would have quit by now if it wasn’t for you," Moses says. "You always hear that having a good woman is a strong and powerful thing, but you never know how much until you get one. She’s the driving force that keeps me going."
In a way, Moses is grateful for the setbacks. The journey has given him a better appreciation for what he’s been able to accomplish, and he believes his experience will give him a better return on the time he’s invested.
“The last 18 months have done more for my career than the previous eight years,” he says. "I’ve had the chance to open for Bun B, Paul Wall, Rakim, and winning the Battle of the Bands competition was big for me. I didn’t have as many tools or knowledge four years ago. If this had happened then, it probably wouldn't have benefited me as much. I have a better understanding of the business, and I’m prepared for it now.”