By Graeme Wiggins
VANCOUVER – At this point it goes without saying that the internet has really been a boon for aspiring rap artists. What’s often neglected in that narrative, however, is the important role that establishing yourself in one’s local scene has to get you to that point.
Cousin Stizz grew up in Dorchester, which is just outside of Boston, built a name from himself there and in two short years has come to established himself as a solid new artist with a contender for song of the summer (“Headlock (ft Quavo)” from his most recent mixtape One Night Only). “The internet played a big role in my success, [especially] after the tape [Suffolk County],” he explains. “I was relatively popular in my city before that. I knew a lot of people; I was just a cool guy [who] built a niche to myself. People around the city just kind of gravitated towards me because they knew me and who I was.”
This is impressive given the relative lack of scene in his area. “There wasn’t really a rap scene there. I guess there was like years ago, like 20 years ago. But besides that, when we started there wasn’t anybody.” With important online platform Soundcloud in dire financial troubles, one Stizz used to build his following and share his music, it will be harder for future aspiring rappers to have the same story arc. In his words, “It sucks. Without Soundcloud there’s no Cousin Stizz. Without Soundcloud there’s no a lot of artists; there’s not a Playboi Carti, there’s not a Chance the Rapper. It was a platform for a lot of kids to make money so it kind of sucks.”
His latest tape, One Night Only, is step more positive than his first tape, Suffolk County. His music has always had a laid back vibe, possibly due to the music his parents listened to growing up. ”My parents only listened to music, there was TV but not much of it. I watched my cartoons and shit but if my dad wasn’t watching Sports Centre, music was on in the house. Same with my mom, she didn’t watch much TV either.” And much of that music was pretty chill, “Erykah Badu, Tribe Called Quest, Slum Village, all of that kind of stuff.”
It’s also reflective of where he is in life and his career right now. “That’s the kind of guy I am. All my music reflects the time of my life that I’m in; all of my music is my life. That’s a perfect description of where I’m at these days. I’ve always been a laid back guy. I’m in LA now; I’m feeding myself; I can pay my mom’s bills. I’m in a good space and it reflects that.”
Being in LA in particular seems to have a positive effect in him, giving him the right atmosphere and scenery to keep the laid back vibe strong. “My career, the way things were going at the time. The energy out here. The mountains, the scenery, that shit inspires me. The ocean. I’m from Boston, we don’t have the mountains like that. When I first came out here, the first thing that stuck out to me was that this place looks like a movie and it got me in a good space to start the project. I didn’t come out to kick it, you know, I came out to work. I spend a lot of time in the house. You need those breaks, just being out, being inspired.”
If mountains help inspire Stizz to better and more positive things, his show in Vancouver, on his first tour as a headlined, should be the stuff of legend (or at least a pretty amazing party).
Catch Cousin Stizz live at the Biltmore Cabaret September 15.cousin stizz, The Biltmore Cabaret