By: Seamus Fay
From a kid in Fields Corner to a star in the making. From basement shows to a sold-out House of Blues. From 301 out of 305 in his high school class to a national tour and a deal with RCA. From Dorchester to the world.
Since his beginnings as an artist, Cousin Stizz has proven time and time again to be destined for success, and now, years removed from these very beginnings, it has become clear that Boston has a hometown hero on our hands.
Here enters November 24, 2017. After moving to Los Angeles to work on what would become his critically acclaimed third mixtape, One Night Only, Stizz returned to the light with a vengeance this past summer (word to Big Leano) and turned a hell of a mixtape into a national tour. To end this tour, he played a sold-out homecoming show at the House of Blues – an incredible story in itself when you think about how far the Boston representative has come.
Today, I’m here reflect on the importance of the show and shed some light on a few moments that I found to be most impactful when you think about the rich history behind them.
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Within Friday’s historic concert, two moments in particular spoke out to me as a testaments to the growth that fans have seen since the Suffolk County days: one being the presence of Guillermo Antonini and Tim Larew at the show and watching them interact at the end of the night, and the other being Stizz’s performance of “Talk” with Jefe Replay.
When reflecting on the journey of how Cousin Stizz’s success came to be, one specific freestyle event called “12 For 12” cannot be missed. Initially helping to introduce the ambitious Dorchester rapper’s lyrical prowess, BU students (at the time), Tim Larew and Guillermo Antonini were two of the head figures responsible for organizing the “12 For 12” Freestyle events – a series of cypher sessions focused on uniting Boston artists and building working and personal relationships as the city came together and showcased its underappreciated and often times relatively unknown skills.
In a full-circle moment that not everyone may have caught eyes on or understood, right near the end of Stizz’s show this past Friday, I watched Guillermo dap up Tim near the back right corner of the stage. A simple handshake and a nod of approval and gratitude couldn’t have meant more. When seemingly no one was paying attention, these two saw the potential and talent in their city and went above and beyond themselves to make sure it was recognized. Pair that with some truly honorable work ethics and sharp ears for talent, and you’ve got the basis for a story that will never again be imitated in such an incredible manner.
That one handshake meant the world for me to see, and I can only imagine what Stizz, Tim, and Guillermo alike would have said back then if you had told them that their story would eventually lead to a sold out, 2700-person show at the House of Blues. What a sight to see.
Okay, so I sort of went on a rant with that one. Sorry. But now we can revisit the second impactful moment I mentioned: Cousin Stizz’s performance of the Suffolk County cut, “Talk” featuring Jefe Replay.
This song has always been one of my favorites from the tape even before I understood Stizz’s history with Replay. By utilizing an ominous atmosphere to paint the unforgiving images of life in the city, both artists are at their finest on this track in their lyricism as well as their stone-cold deliveries. Slow-paced but chilling in its nature, this is one of those songs that comes around every once in a while and sets the tone for an undeniable classic.
Taking a step back, before Cousin Stizz was “Cousin Stizz”, he was in a group by the name of Pilot Nation alongside fellow Boston artists Nick Gray (who also performed on Friday) and Jefe Replay. Almost reflecting on these humble beginnings when the three talents first began to establish their names as acts to watch out for locally, Stizz’s performance of “Talk” at the HOBs was another full-circle moment for Boston.
His well-documented chemistry with Replay has been impressive from the jump, and to see two artists who have remained among the most promising talents in Boston still performing together today is nothing less than historic. Hearing the lines of “I hear whispers of death come from many men/ But I still walk through my city, man” and the ever-important outro from Stizz, saying, “Still on that same shit, that never change shit, you know/ Stick with it, you gon’ get it, I promise”, acted as nostalgic reminders of the progress that has been made as well as reminders of the the sky-high potential that still exists – both of which rang out in the importance behind the handshake that Replay and Stizz shared at the end of the song with the instrumental playing in the background.
Boston’s music scene has seen quite a few changes since the 2012 days, yet the one staple that has remained consistent throughout and has personally been my favorite element to watch has been the unrivaled loyalty. Whether it’s observed best in Stizz bringing Replay out for “Talk”, Stizz’s come up with Big Leano, or something else, there’s no denying that the love still remains among some of the pioneers of Boston’s resurgence in rap.
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I could go on and on about the importance of this past Friday, but it’s probably best to leave it there. Let some things live in legend, you know? To end this article off, I first want to say thank you to Cousin Stizz, Tim Larew, Guillermo Antonini, and everyone involved in such an inspirational journey. Seeing those 2012 dreams come to fruition has been motivation for all of Boston, me included, and I can’t wait for the success that the future holds.
Here’s to a night that that will go down in history as the day a Boston rapper, or better yet, a hometown hero sold out the House of Blues. The story continues.