Cousin Stizz signifies a new generation of artists from a city which hasn’t been an easy place to breakthrough from on a national level.
Even in a digitally-dominated world, cities with strong hip-hop foundations such as Atlanta, LA and New York all hold advantages for independent artists who possess a better opportunity to cultivate relationships. And while Boston has a deep-rooted musical and cultural history, Cousin Stizz signifies a new generation of artists from a city which hasn’t been an easy place to breakthrough from on a national level.
Standing out within the underrated-skilled artist and versatile pool of New England talent, Stizz is making noise extending far beyond the Dorchester environment which fueled and helped jump-start his buzz. The journey starting at debut project Suffolk County, a raw and diligently crafted collection of alluring anthems showcasing Stizz’s effortless flow and flair for hooks, to last year’s Monda (similar to the latter with an extra dose of introspection) to the recently released, officially RCA-backed One Night Only seems like a standard trajectory. However, a concerted effort has been required to overcome the classic ‘crabs in a bucket’ mentality and other self-destructive, distracting realities which can deter artists from taking their careers to the next level.
Implementing a do-it-yourself model is crucial in turning any underdog situation into a success story. Purposefully organized cyphers, fan-building basement shows, forging the right relationships and constant inspiration bolstered by genuine friendships have all played strong roles in Cousin Stizz reaching his current status. But when communal groups operate strategically and become categorized as ‘power circles’, power struggles are born.
Ever since Suffolk County’s centerpiece single “Shoutout”, many have held Stizz responsible for the success of others, with claims of ‘if he makes it, we all will’ resulting in a crowded funnel as resources are selectively rationed for those who choose to wait in line. On the flip side, inevitable grumblings (some with more merit than others) arise from artists who’ve endlessly sacrificed on behalf of the craft, yet haven’t received a stamp of approval or their perception of widespread popularity, which is marked just as much by higher industry expectations as it is flash, celebrity parties and the other perks of a more ‘luxurious’ lifestyle.
On One Night Only, Stizz reconstructs his instinctive mass appeal toward a now Los Angeles-residing state of mainstream accessibility. Records such as “Headlock” (ft. Offset) reflect this mindset, but Stizz also makes self-assured statements detailing how his growing national recognition coincides with a brighter spotlight on Boston’s hip-hop scene. Slick quotables such as ‘Anything possible you gotta get it and I had to make the example’ on infectious single “Lambo” address the leadership role in question and for every big name feature/producer credit on One Night Only, the Dorchester native ensures a fellow Boston artist, specifically Big Leano on project standout “The Store”, is by his side for both hometown inspiration and to provide fans with a highly desired collaboration.
For artists based in cities with smaller hip-hop markets, Cousin Stizz’s progression is a story to learn from. By creating organic demand for his work and executing plans in all of the necessary areas vital to succeed in music in 2017, he has sidestepped a frustrating system capable of discouraging rappers who are perceived as ‘local’. There have been plentiful moments worthy of celebration for Stizz such as his three well-received projects, multiple appearances on Beats 1 Radio, and going from sold-out Boston shows to touring with KYLE in a short time span. But perhaps Stizz’s most important feat yet resides in not letting any negativity affect his grind and future aspirations.
This is the basis of One Night Only outro “Jealousy” and proves to be an essential lesson for any artist on the cusp of a come-up. By maintaining tunnel vision and constantly working knowing what’s here today can be gone in one night, you can achieve individualistic goals while sparking creative movements bigger than yourself. Every artist has their own path, and the only way your journey will arrive at its destination is by doing all you can to be the best version of yourself, not someone else who has already “made it” in the eyes of the community.
As Cousin Stizz’s prominence grows, the unique complexities that come with representing an up-and-coming city will always exist. Opportunists who latch onto success, rather than building their own foundation, will eventually wipe out once the wave runs its course while those who focus on hating may suffer from misplaced energy. Regardless, Stizz can move forward comfortably knowing all he has to do is put faith in himself and those he considers as family. By innovating and thriving on your own terms, accomplishments can be all the more fulfilling for artists who understand the importance of forging new paths. Don’t rely on someone else as a means of attaining increased notoriety, just work hard with like-minded people, earn every win, don’t skip any steps and be you…the results will follow.