cøzybøy’s extreme honesty and vulnerability on his new single constructs a consistent image of the California-based artist.
cøzybøy delivers his emotive new single, “Ex Girlfriends with Cruel Intentions”. The track explores the toxic behaviors that can take place within a dangerous love through his dark, lamenting vocals. The multi-hyphenate, multi-instrumentalist from California combines diverse influences from metal to Bon Iver to R&B to make music that would eventually turn into what can describe his sound today. “I was writing songs without putting anything out. I probably wrote like, 80 songs before I put anything out,” he tells me. This kind of meticulous attention to detail is reflected in the subject material of his music as much as it is in the production quality.
High standards and self-criticism have the potential to be what brings an artist to greatness while simultaneously being one of the most excruciating aspects as an artist tries to communicate their experience truthfully. cøzybøy spoke with me on his new single, being too honest with himself, and more in our exclusive interview that follows:
What message do you want your listeners to take away from your music?
That you’re not alone. What I really try to do is be super real and put my heart on my sleeve. I feel like every artist probably feels like this, to some degree, but I really feel like I’m writing from a unique perspective of how mental health and all this stuff– depression, suicide, anxiety, stress, mistrust, and all those types of emotions– filters into relationships. I feel like people in the mainstream feel like they have this lane where they feel like it’s cool to do drugs and fuck girls. There’s obviously some melancholy to it but it’s kind of just, a lifestyle. Then you have other people where they make heartbreak music like, “I loved you, you didn’t love me back,” all that kind of stuff. Or you have really turnt trap [music] where it’s like, “Oh, yeah, it’s so lit being in the club all the time.” For me, I’m trying to tap into the standpoint of like, I want to be in a relationship and I think relationships are really great. Personally, I think you grow so much from relationships and being with someone who really cares about you, who trusts you and who you trust. You can really grow together and I think that’s where a lot of self-growth comes from. Serious relationships, not one-night stands or picking someone up in the club or a girl at the bar or a boy at the bar, I think [my perspective] comes from [being in] these serious relationships.
I really want to be in a meaningful relationship but as you get older, as you date more, as you have meaningful relationships you get… cynical isn’t the right word, but you get more picky or guarded, you know? Not even like your standards are raised but your self-awareness is raised. You realize like, “Oh, if I date that person it won’t really last.” I view people with a timer over their head: this one could last three months, four months, this one could probably last however long. I write from this perspective of longing and mental loneliness where I’m with somebody and it’s not a bad thing but it’s not like I’m just fucking some bitch having a great time. I’m actually with someone and I like her and she’s cool, but at the same time, this isn’t really going to last that long because I know myself. But I want it to last long, I want this relationship to last because I have had those relationships before. That type of thing can lead to depression, or if you have any mental health ordeal going on it will lead to that sense of nihilism. It trickles into all the cracks and crevices of that whole experience. So, I feel like that is a unique perspective I write from a lot.
How does the song “Ex Girlfriends with Cruel Intentions” supplement this message?
With a lot of my art I try to mindfuck people up front like I try to set them up for something, and then once they get through the song they realize it’s not that fate. Probably a good example of this would be my biggest song, “I swear this song is about eating my best friend’s pussy”, the first song I ever released, anonymously. It ended up picking up traction because the song title was kind of crazy, so people clicked on it thinking it would be some really ignorant trap-type meme song or something, but then when they opened it up and picked it apart, they get to realize it’s sort of a ballad, about longing to be in a relationship that you place somebody else in and it doesn’t really feel that right and it’s sort of supplementing these feelings that you had before that you want to have again.
I think “Cruel Intentions” does that same thing where you might read that title, [see] “Cruel Intentions” and think it’s going to be this vengeful song and I’m just gonna shit on my exes or something like that, but it’s really not. When you unpack it it’s really like, “You were so bad for me, I was so bad for you,” and just being like, it sucks we both have our issues, and it unfolded the way it did and I might’ve been more cynical than she was and she was more willing to go for a relationship and I was worried it might go here or there, and it ended, and the cruel intentions were that I thought the other person would react a certain way if we didn’t work out and instead of taking a mature route, they took the immature route and it’s not me being like this person sucks it just makes you sad. We had a connection and I wanted it to be this thing but you’re setting it up, destroying, this thing that we had and it doesn’t make me pity the other person or be sad for them. Bird’s eye view, it makes you sad because we had a beautiful thing that didn’t work out and you’re going to take the time to shit on it to destroy any connection we could’ve had in the future.
I think that setup is that I’m not trying to be like oh, what a shitty person, I’m so tired of these girls, dadadadada… I wanted to be friends and maybe have something later on down the line but now, the route that you took makes it so that we can’t do that anymore. And then it’s sort of me being like, this is all the stuff that happened afterward and having to stomach it and sort of just ignore it and move on but I have that with me now. You tarnished it, that thing, now when I look back I can’t see the good times. Seeing how it ended, those things that you told me, you ended up doing after we broke up. That’s why I’m so tired. That thing is very hard to stomach.
How do you approach your writing process?
I make a bunch of beats and I’ll go on a beat binge and make 50, to a hundred beats at a time over the course of a few weeks or a month or something, and I’ll go back in and listen to them. Then I’ll remember that I had a cool little idea for this song, that song, I’ll put an asterisk. I number my stuff rather than name it, that’s why my song titles can be crazy because I’ll choose the song title after the whole song is written and it just had a number. Then I’ll take the beat and freestyle, straight from whatever is on my mind, from the heart, whatever I’m going through at this moment. I don’t write about anything that I don’t do. I don’t write about anything that never happened to me. I really just say what am I going through at this moment, what have I been writing about that I haven’t picked apart from the past. Instead of trying to think of what to write, I really look at it like locating my thoughts. Then I just freestyle the melody and bring it all together.
Themes of romance and sexuality can at times be as prevalent in your music as themes of depression and mental health. Do you think there’s a connection that can be made between the two in your experience?
I think there is. And again I think this is something that may be a unique perspective… what I feel is that they don’t necessarily cause one another, but they definitely feed into each other. I struggle with depression, anxiety, extreme stress in situations, I really struggle. When you have those things and you find somebody that can really be a source of happiness for you and they become a crush and you hold them up on a pedestal, nobody can handle being held up on a pedestal because nobody’s perfect, it can really affect your relationship with that person.
You know, that other person can wonder, “Why is this person acting differently when I haven’t done anything differently?” so it affects them as well. I think it just becomes this pool of feedback depending on the people and the situation. I think there’s a lot of correlation between those things. If you struggle with things like suicide it can be very difficult to be in a relationship because a lot of that can stem from not caring and nihilism… not not-caring, like you, don’t care about anything, but it could be that you care about something a lot and you realize that that thing is not real or doesn’t matter. People just realize, “Wait, this doesn’t matter, you know, I’m gonna really try hard and then I feel like it doesn’t matter anyway, I’m just going to complicate this.” When you have those types of thoughts and have a problem in a relationship sometimes it can be really hard to talk about the problem, because you already feel like nothing matters […] you can put yourself in some precarious mental places.
What do you turn to for positivity when you’re in a dark place?
For me personally, I turn to art, I turn to my writing. A lot of people– well, not a lot of people, but I know some people who will be like, “If you’re sad, why do you listen to sad songs? Won’t it make you sadder?” For me, it’s really cathartic almost like crying. I turn to art, music, artists I find inspirational. Then also I write a lot, besides writing songs, I’ll write short stories that I don’t show people, I’ll write poetry, I’ll write little paragraphs of things that are on my mind. I’ll write songs and lyrics and I’ll make a beat. I turn to art. I’ve been lucky to never struggle with something like drugs. I know people turn to drugs, I’ve had friends turn to drugs, um, I’ve known people who’ve passed from it. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to turn to art and writing.
cøzybøy spends much of his time corresponding with fans via Instagram comments and Twitter DMs in addition to Discord chats and Livestreams. His commitment to growing an audience through an authentic discussion of issues like mental health and love proves to be of superior importance to his journey so far. However, in an era of more and more serious confrontation with mental health and toxic or harmful behavior within relationships, particularly from men, we have to hope that the safest avenues are being considered alongside those which feel most available to us in times of need. As music like cøzybøy’s is an excellent outlet for many of us, he should continue to use his platform to positively impact his fans, providing them with information about additional resources that correlate with the seriousness of the stories he puts on wax.