Cousin Stizz is shining a bright light on Beantown. In a city that’s seemingly a place of Irish heritage, overuse of the word “wicked” and a Red Sox/Yankees rivalry that at times determines the city’s mood altogether, Cousin Stizz is bringing attention to a place whose most recognizable musicians include Aerosmith, New Edition and, well, the band Boston. Stizz’s humility accurately defines his character. He is a grounded, levelheaded person whose simple needs and dedicated work ethic allow him to enjoy the process and journey of success. Having already made a major impact with his debut, Suffolk County, Stizz’s newest work, Monda, is an introspective narrative of self-reflection and maturation. Monda (a project dedicated to his good friend, who tragically passed away from cancer) tells the other half of his story. Records like “Wanted to Live,” “You Won't Understand” and “Where I Came From” show a vulnerability to an artist we’re still becoming familiar with, and to take that risk at such an early stage is truly special. It’s no surprise, though; Stizz’s humility and focus drive him. They center him. Those traits allow him to share his story with us from such an unfamiliar place and embed us there every step of the way. While his humble nature won’t allow him to take credit for the new surge of energy from the New England area, he is a main driving force in the city receiving hip-hop recognition. The music is authentic. Tales of ups and downs, the pitfalls of the trapping lifestyle and personally intimate revelations are what Cousin Stizz continuously offers. This is the beautifully timeless story of the underdog: a rapper from a place with little hope whose music connects with people of the same breed. RESPECT. sat down with Cousin Stizz to discuss how two independent projects and an unquenchable thirst to be the best breathed life into a city hidden in rap anonymity. Not bad for a kid from Boston.
RESPECT.: Let’s start with Boston. How did the city help shape you as an artist and as a man altogether?
Cousin Stizz: Boston shaped everything, dawg. I’ve been there my whole life. It shaped the whole sound. Both “Suffolk County” and Monda are just sounds from Boston. Like, if you live here, see the day to day of what’s going on, what people really go through, it’s in the music. I was one of those people. I still am one of those people, feel me?
RESPECT.: When was the pinnacle moment you realized music was your avenue?
Cousin Stizz: I don’t know if there was an exact moment, because I always believed in music. I knew I wanted to rap, and I knew what I wanted to set out to do. I’m the kind of person who says they’re going to do something and they do it.
RESPECT.: With very few artists coming out of the New England area, what’s Boston’s hip-hop scene like? Is it accurately covered or overlooked?
Cousin Stizz: The Boston scene right now is real new. It’s almost like a revitalized culture. It’s popping, though. There are just a lot of people doing their thing, whether it’s music or anything just creative, you feel me? There’s just so much of it right now, and it kind of came out of nowhere. Sh*t is dope.
RESPECT.: Do you feel partly responsible for that new surge of energy?
Cousin Stizz: You never wanna toot your own horn [laughs], but Boston was a space where not much was going on because nobody really gave a fu*k, you feel me? My friends and I were doing everything on our own, and we just made it happen. I think it made people realize you can do it on your own, you don’t need someone to come make it happen for you here. Places that are poppin’ musically always have a guy; that one guy, we haven’t had that here, so we had to do it for ourselves.
RESPECT.: Are you creating a definitive lane for yourself?
Cousin Stizz: Oh, absolutely. I listen to everybody, but I’m not concerned at all with what anybody else is doing. Being able to do you and try new sh*t is what being an artist is all about. I just try to make what I do better, you know?
RESPECT.: Suffolk County was major for you in so many ways. Did the overwhelming response change your focus and direction?
Cousin Stizz: Hell yeah, it definitely changed my seriousness [laughs]. None of us really thought Suffolk County was gonna do what the fu*k it did. We didn’t come in the game thinking that, especially coming from where we came from—it doesn’t happen like that. When the tape kind of took off, it made me buckle down more. It made me want to give my fans better.
RESPECT.: Where did you see Suffolk County start to buzz first?
Cousin Stizz: It was just getting a weird amount of love [laughs]. It definitely started from home, like friends and sh*t. Your friends and people around you are typically going to support you, but when you see people you don’t know in your city showing love, then people outside the city showing love, it’s just something so special that we didn’t expect.
RESPECT.: Okay, so now you’ve dropped Monda. How did that come together conceptually?
Cousin Stizz: Monda is such a different project for me. Even though I only did one project before [laughs]. It was just really close to home for me. Monda was a project for my little bro, who passed away from cancer. It was one of those things where I really had to sit back, take some time and try to make music that really meant something. That’s what Monda was about: being meaningful. I can do that turn-up sh*t, but this project wasn’t the time for it. This project was time for introspection and seeing where I’m at in life.
RESPECT.: Do you believe it surpassed what Suffolk County did?
Cousin Stizz: I just think it’s different, man. My lyrics and sh*t got better ‘cause I really worked on everything, and of course it’s a growth, because it should always be growing and evolving, but I was in two different stages of life. Suffolk County, I was just an adolescent talking about life. Monda was a project with real moments that hit close to home.
RESPECT.: From “500 Horses,” “Where I Came From,” “Every Season,” et cetera, what are the most meaningful records to you personally?
Cousin Stizz: “Wanted to Live” would have to be one. “Big Fella” is another one. “Every Season” is more of a motivational joint for me. “Re-up & Bake” is also one for me.
RESPECT.: What does a day in the life of Cousin Stizz look like?
Cousin Stizz: On a day-to-day, Cousin Stizz makes music, kicks it with the homies, tries to stay out of the jail system and that’s pretty much it, bro [laughs]. I’m a real relaxed dude; I don’t need much, to be honest. I’m a simple dude. Maybe eating some good-a*s food and what I just mentioned. I’m about having a good time, man, and making good music. It’s really that simple.
RESPECT.: What’s the master plan for Cousin Stizz?
Cousin Stizz: Another project, something much bigger. I’m really busting my a*s to make this the right one, for me at least. After that, man—the stars, you feel me? I need to be the biggest in the game, that’s just it. I’ve got to work that way and I’ve got to make it happen that way.
RESPECT. Founder: Jonathan Rheingold
Senior Editor: Jasmina Cuevas
Writer: Jake Mayo
Photos Copyright MUSINART LLC