An Interview With REEF

By: Seamus Fay

Tagged by his ever-important slogan, “Music is Energy”, REEF is a Boston-based DJ for Cousin Stizz and producer known for enthusiastic performances and an unrivaled ear in curating mixes for any mood. In my own experiences, his infectious personality yields memorable shows night in and night out, and considering the positive mindset that this young talent brings to the city, he’s destined to continue on the path towards great things in the near future.

We here at Graduation Music had the opportunity to speak to REEF about his come-up in the DJ world, touring, and more. Check out our interview with him below.


To start off, where are you originally from?

I am from Boston, MA, born and raised.

Who were you listening to at a young age?

I was listening to a lot of great music as a youth such as Michael Jackson, The Temptations, The Stylistics, James Brown, Jagged Edge, The Isley Brothers, Avant, Chris Brown, Sam Cooke, T.I., Kanye, 50 Cent, etc. The list goes on but those are just a few.

If you had to listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Hmmm, that’s a hard question right there. I would have to go with Michael Jackson’s The Ultimate Collection because I always looked up to Michael Jackson. He loved everybody, was a true humanitarian, and made some of the most impactful music to this day.

At what point did you know that you wanted to become a DJ? How did you go about actually learning how to DJ?

You know what’s crazy? What really got me into DJing was playing DJ Hero when I was in middle school, but I didn’t start actually DJing until after high school.

I self-teach myself everything. I get inspired, then I focus.

How did you first meet Stizz?

It was around the Dojo days when we all use to hang out in the city when we wanted to get out of the hood to cleanse for a bit. I was just the cool youngin’ lol.

How did you become his DJ?

We were all chilling on Newbury – me, Stizz, Rah, Christmas, OG, etc. Christmas brought up the fact that it would be dope if I became Stizz’s DJ because at the time he didn’t have a fully committed DJ. So, I stacked up, got some equipment, and naturally, it went from there.

Name three food places in Boston that everyone needs to try.

Shittttt. There’s way more than that, but I would say Tasty Burger (Fenway Only), Silver Slipper (Roxbury), and Simco’s (Mattapan). There are many more, but those are my favorites.

Explain what “Music Is Energy” means to you.

Music Is Energy is a way of life. It’s a way we connect our energies within whether you’re playing a sport, running, dancing, singing, driving, relaxing, etc. Music gets us through so many obstacles in life and it’s all because of the artist’s and producer’s energy that they put into that track, just to sum it up a bit.

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What is your favorite city to visit on tour and why?

LA because I love cruising, listening to great music, and looking at nice houses that I will someday acquire. It’s inspiring and cleansing.

What is one story from the One Night Only Tour that you want to share with our readers?

Lol, too many long, hilarious stories.

What did Stizz’s sold-out show at the House of Blues mean to you?

The HOBs show meant that this isn’t the final curtain call; we all have so far to go and it’s only the beginning.

Was there a specific moment that made you realize how monumental that show was for Boston?

When Stizz’s dad came on stage and felt all that energy when the crowd screamed in joy. Amazing.

What can fans expect from REEF in 2018?

Music and visuals from REEF. I’m not going to say – instead, I’ll just do it.

Lastly, any advice for aspiring DJs and/or producers?

FEEL IT, THAT’S IT.

Thank you to REEF for the interview and thank you for always providing the city with such positive energy. Boston appreciates you. Can’t wait to see what you have in store for the rest of 2018.

Follow REEF on:

SoundCloud

Twitter

Instagram

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Shea Serrano Talks Cousin Stizz

By: Seamus Fay

Shea Serrano is a man of many titles: former teacher, current best-selling author, basketball encyclopedia, father, husband, and the self-proclaimed “#1 Cousin Stizz fan in America”. He truly does it all, and with the substantial amount of Cousin Stizz-praising tweets and even articles that Serrano has offered throughout the years, it only made sense for us here at Graduation Music to ask him a few questions regarding Boston’s hometown hero.


How did you originally discover Cousin Stizz?

Someone sent his Suffolk County tape on Twitter when I asked if anyone had any good new music I should listen to. This was back in 2015, I think.

What are your top 3 favorite Stizz songs and why?

“Fed Up” is probably my favorite one because it arrived to my ears at a point in my life when I needed to hear it the most. “Doubted Me” is my second favorite for the same reason. And “Talk” is probably my third favorite, mostly because it feels like a very good encapsulation of what a Cousin Stizz is.

You can only keep one – Suffolk CountyMONDAOne Night Only. Which project would you choose to keep and why?

One Night Only is the best Cousin Stizz tape, but my personal preference is Suffolk County because I have a personal emotional connection to it.

If you had to compare Stizz to an NBA player, past or present, who would it be and why?

I would probably say somebody like James Harden, on account of how Harden makes the very difficult things he’s doing on the court look easy and effortless. That’s the way Stizz raps and builds songs. You hear them and you go, “Oh, everyone can do this,” but then you see people try and go, “Oh shit. Wait. This is terrible.”

If you could choose any artist, past or present, to collaborate with Stizz on a song, who would it be and why?

The perfect Stizz collaboration would be Cousin Stizz featuring Cousin Stizz.

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Thank you to Shea Serrano for taking the time to do this interview and for the tremendous love that you have shown to Boston’s own. 

Follow Shea Serrano and his FOH army on:

Twitter

Instagram

Cousin Stizz – “Lambo” [Music Video]

By: Seamus Fay

Simply put, whenever Tee-WaTT and Cousin Stizz join forces, it’s a wrap. Throughout their numerous collaborations over the years, One Night Only standout and one of my personal favorites of their catalog together, “Lambo”, has proven to solidify itself as an anthem of determination and the success that it yields for fans everywhere. Thankfully so, Stizz is back on our pages today to revisit that banger with accompanying visuals.

Rich not only in the luxurious imagery of a Lamborghini but also in the work that it takes to get there, these visuals show us the money-minded ambition that Stizz always seems to exhibit so gracefully with pinpoint accuracy and a personable touch. His inspirational rhymes and relaxed cadences act as promises of the success that the Dorchester native will soon see along with recollections of the success that he has seen so far, and with “Lambo”s purposeful presence as an anthem for getting the bag, these visuals were very necessary to painting the picture of motivation that One Night Only offers to us all.

In the beginning of the video, we watch Stizz eyeing the Lambo alongside Boston-raised designer Derrick Houston Jr. as he seems to take mental note of the car as his monetary goal – he’s not there yet, but with the look that he gives, he knows damn well that he’s on the way to the finish line. Following this decided ambition, the video pans into scene after scene of our favorite cousin collecting cash from boxing bets, shooting dice, and doing whatever else it takes to get what he needs in pursuit of the car, only to return to it by the end of the video and ultimately achieve his goal in racing the Lambo.

Directed by Ian Goodwin, these visuals paint a vivid picture of the motivational presence that Stizz represents in a manner that truly makes for a standout music video. But this comes as no surprise, as this director-rapper combo has seen immense complementary growth throughout the years with many success celebrated alongside one another – a staple case being the “Shoutout” music video that helped put Stizz on the map. With that, it’s always great to see these two rising stars back together with the same chemistry and passion they have shared since the jump, and “Lambo” is living proof that this collaboration yields a spectacular final product every time.

Something tells me that Stizz is just getting started with what he has to come in 2018, so be sure to show some love and click play on the music video for this money-minded anthem below.

The Top 50 New England Songs of 2017

By: Seamus Fay

Looking back, 2017 was a year of immense growth for New England and specifically Massachusetts’ budding music scene. We were fortunate enough to see the rise of many new talents as well as watch some of the more established artists prosper in their own ways, and frankly, it was inspiring to us to see the work that the artists, the producers, the photographers, the graphic designers, the mixers, the managers, etc. have been putting in. Without all of these people playing their respective roles, our scene wouldn’t be where it is today.

Having said that, we here at Graduation Music collaborated with Fresh Out The Mint to compile a list of the “Top 50 New England Songs of 2017” (in our humble opinion). Below is the playlist of all the tracks – enjoy!

Thank you sincerely to everyone for supporting us throughout 2017 and making our first full year as a blog a successful one. We greatly appreciate all the love and can’t wait to show you what we have in store for 2018.  

  • Young Seuss – “123”
  • Big Leano – “Broke” [Prod. Tee-WaTT]
  • Vintage Lee – “Bless You” [Prod. Jew Paidro]
  • Millyz – “Lessons” [Prod. Achillies]
  • VALLEY – “Atari” [Prod. Stoop Kid]
  • Caliph & Jefe Replay – “The Mood” [Prod. Obeatz]
  • MyCompiledThoughts – “Romeo and Juliet”
  • Cousin Stizz – “Lambo”
  • DJ Lucas – “Doubt”
  • Lonny X – “Believe It” [Prod. Gravez]
  • Juxi – “Leave Me Alone” [Prod. Banbwoi]
  • Jiggz – “Excuses” [Prod. digitLIX]
  • KREW$ – “Dog Days” [Prod. DMND]
  • RAMS – “Disease!” [Prod. Maka]
  • Rothstein – “Jaded” ft. Supa Bwe [Prod. Shepard]
  • Patrick Michel – “Perfect” [Prod. GrandCruu]
  • Alejandro Blanco – “Give It To Her” [Prod. TFresh & SSB]
  • Jefe Replay – “Stay Ugly” [Prod. Humbeats]
  • Mizzie Cash – “Maneuvering” [Prod. Rob $urreal]
  • Lord Felix – “Power” ft. Marvelous Stefan [Prod. LoLoTheGod]
  • Plad Fine$$e – “Cheese” [Prod. 4oTo Roles]
  • Maye Star – “Adjacent” ft. CH!LD [Prod. Sevnth]
  • WHYTRI – “XURWIFI (Remix) ft. Lily Rayne [Prod. Cecil]
  • Stripes iii – “Henny Down” [Prod. K.C.B.]
  • Khary – “1-800-IDGAF” [Prod. Cloud Atrium]
  • SuperSmashBroz – “Replay Interlude” ft. Jefe Replay [Prod. LDG]
  • Michael Christmas – “Not The Only One” ft. Tobi Lou [Prod. Durkin]
  • $ean Wire – “Moonlight” [Prod. Tropicana Bwoy]
  • Pistola – “Jokes On You” [Prod. Stoop Kid]
  • CAVE – “Who’s Next” [Prod. Maka]
  • Maka & Durkin – “Waterworld”
  • Gio Dee – “Buzz Lightyear” [Prod. MLVN]
  • Humbeats – “Monday” ft. Austin Fair & TeaMarrr
  • StupidGenius – “Palm Trees” ft. Capito [Prod. Lil Rich & Gruca]
  • Garrett Merk – “Simple” [Prod. Frace]
  • Danny Diamonds – “Can’t Talk”
  • Gogo – “Cocaina”
  • Polo $ummers – “$ad Boi” [Prod. WaVe GoD]
  • SuperSmashBroz – “Still” ft. Big Leano & Vintage Lee [Prod. Tee-WaTT]
  • Haasan Barclay – “Live For You”
  • CHE – “Thii”
  • Avenue – “Ain’t Shit Funny” (Remix) ft. Prano, Millyz, Le$, Al-Doe & Chase N Cashe
  • Donald Grunge – “Shade” [Prod. Maka]
  • Boogie Da God – “Get Well Soon” ft. Jefe Replay
  • Marvelous Stefan – “Double Tap!” ft. Saint Lyor [Prod. Trevor Powers]
  • Black EL – “Another Dose” [Prod. Durkin]
  • $wooli – “Rainy Days” ft. Rachel Aiello
  • Rosewood Bape – “Miss Me” [Prod. Kin Rich]
  • TeaMarrr – “The One” [Prod. Ky Thompson & Keith Bell]
  • Michael Christmas – “Top Turnbuckle” ft. OG Swaggerdick

An Interview With DumDrumz

By: Seamus Fay

Sure, he may not be from Boston, but Florida-based producer DumDrumz has undoubtedly made his impact felt in the city’s budding rap scene with production credits on tracks like “No Bells”, “Gain Green”, “Super Bowl”, and more. Utilizing hypnotic sounds and downright intoxicating melodies, this promising talent has proven himself as a force to be reckoned with on the boards, establishing seamless chemistry with any artist he works with and never failing to craft a hit together when needed.

Just yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with DumDrumz about his upbringing, his work on Suffolk County, Florida, and more. You can check out what he had to say below.


So to start things off, where are you originally from?

I’m from Miami, FL; Carol City to be specific. It’s a surrounding neighborhood in the city of Miami Gardens.

Growing up in Florida, what role did music play in your life and how do you feel about the local scene?

Growing up, music was always around me. My background is Jamaican and I was literally always surrounded by music. My Father would play music all the time growing up especially on Sunday’s when we would clean up. Then is where I got my musical creativity. He would always Mix Music and it sparked my interest in how Music should sit in a certain pocket.. at least what I think it should sound like. I always listened to Reggae, R&B, and a bit of rap, which I didn’t really get into heavy until about middle school.

The local music scene, well Miami, for the most part, is, in my opinion,  the most diverse place for music. We have so much talent here to create a sound, but at the same time, it is a lot of pride here that doesn’t make it easy for people to blow up. It takes a lot of work. It’s not like the Atlanta scene how they have their own sound. Miami is literally like a mixing pot of talent and I know one day everyone can come together and create a sound like no other. I’m hoping to become a legend with that one day.

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When did you take that love of music from your dad and turn it into producing?

I started producing around 12 years old. It progressed into high school. I was familiar with certain softwares and things like that. When I got into high school I used to sell ringtones with my friends and people thought I was really good at mixing songs. So, I thought to myself, I should just really start making beats. I had TV production for a couple years so every now and then I would finish my work and then sneak into a room and make beats on garage band. That was it from there.

When you attended Florida A & M, what did you study? How did you balance producing and school?

I attended Florida A&M in 2009. I studied Health Science in a concentration with physical therapy. I ended up going back to school after I graduated though.

Balancing producing was difficult. I always had six classes, plus I worked. To be honest, sometimes I look back and realized I was like a machine. I would work, go to class, study, do homework, and always at the end of the night make 3-5 beats. It was the desire that made it possible. Desire with anything makes whatever focus you have possible.

How did you end up turning this hard work into breakout opportunities with Stizz on Suffolk County? How did you two first link and when did you decide to work together?

To be honest I was actually about to just call it quits on music for a while and focus on building my life. I had all my equipment ready to be sold on Craigslist. I guess I was fed up with my lack of patience to not be heard. Something told me just to relax and wait. So one day in my last semester of school – I don’t know how I ended up finding his music video on YouTube – but I saw the “Shoutout” video and heard Obeatz’ production on it and I was amazed. I must have played that song 100 times that same day. Then, I just found his twitter and hit him up.

I told him I loved the track and that I wanted to send him some beats. I must have sent like 20 beats or so, most that I thought were okay. The ones he picked were the ones everyone loved and the ones I disliked the most, funny how life works. From there that was it. Just built that relationship. Besides music, he’s one of the most solid guys I know.

Did you know anything about the Boston scene that was being built up at the time? If not, how did you view Boston as an outsider?

I actually didn’t know about the Boston music scene until I heard his music, then I ventured and listened to Michael Christmas. I felt like Boston was going to be on the come up. I knew that for a fact. Outside looking in it seemed like the whole city as a whole supporter each other. That’s something that I thought was real positive. Most places don’t show support. I still need to go up there.

A few other frequent collaborators of yours are Tee-WaTT, M. Ali, Obeatz, and Lil Rich. How did you link with them and begin working together?

Right after I sent those beats to Stizz, it wasn’t that long before I reached out to them via Twitter. I thought wow, these guys sounds are on another level. Again, building another relationship. Those are my guys for real. They push me to make better sounds. Tee-Watt, M. Ali, Lil Rich, and Obeatz are real solid guys that I met through my journey so far.

What’s one story you can share from the creation of Suffolk County that fans may not know?

I was finishing a physics 2 exam and I was stressed. I had my computer on me because I was studying before. I felt like I didn’t do well on my exam so I drove home, pulled up into my complex, and sat in my car. I didn’t feel like going inside because I was beefing with my roommates. I pulled out my computer and sat in my car. I opened up FL studio (that was my DAW at the time), made a simple drum pattern. Then I made another drum pattern. I must have played the drum pattern for 15 minutes. I wanted something with a mystic type sound, so I searched through sounds and bass lines. 10 minutes later, I had no bells. I was going to trash that.

What advice do you have for young producers?

Be yourself and never doubt yourself. Remain genuine – people can see when you have an agenda or not. If you’re not in it to be a legend then you’re in the wrong business. Be patient, but still put energy behind your work. You can do anything you put your focus towards.

What’s your DAW of choice and why?

Ableton. I left FL studio then went to Native Instruments Maschine for a couple years. It was a little slow for me.

Ableton seems to fit me. Sound quality is amazing and it’s a little unorthodox like my mind sometimes, so it just fits. I’ve been on Ableton the past five years. Still so much to learn, but I recommend everyone gives Ableton a try at least once.

With the current climate of producers in rap today and their struggles, what do you have to say about receiving credit for your work and what the roles of producers are in both music and culture at the moment?

Producers now are at an all-time high. I feel like it’s easier to get into music. It seems like everyone is a producer nowadays. For some, it could seem frustrating, especially the ones who have been trying to break a barrier to get knee deep in the game. I used to get frustrated, but it’s all in the game. Things take time and even with the credit that I received I know I still have to push a little further to get heard. I’m humbled, but I’m striving for platinum status. I’m already platinum is what I tell myself every morning when I wake up.

I don’t feel people realize how important producers are. We are the building blocks to artists and if you’re respected enough, an artist can go far. Producers are also trying to find a lane for themselves just like artists now to make a living and to be equal on the same platform as artists.

I respect all the young producers, just stick with it, make a lane for yourself, and ask yourself, “what are you in it for?”

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Lastly, what can we expect from DumDrumz in 2018?

Trying to create another lane with some joint projects with artists I’ve been building with. Looking to develop a project for myself. Been working on the idea all year so it will come into next year. I don’t like to speak on these things, but next year should be good to me. I feel like next year is my turn.

Thank you to DumDrumz for the interview – it has been an inspiration to watch your success as of yet and I wish you the best of luck moving forward. Here’s to a bright future.

***All photography via @kenirish***


Connect with DumDrumz on:

SoundCloud

Twitter

Instagram

An Interview With Joe Johnson

By: Seamus Fay

Whether fulfilling his role by supplying Henny, ordering 50 wings to the club, or rushing an artist to a venue, the show doesn’t go on without the help of Roxbury’s own, Joe Johnson. As a tour manager for some of Boston’s most prominent names in rap including Cousin Stizz and Michael Christmas, Johnson has solidified his spot as a pivotal figure in the logistics of getting a few of our favorite talents around the country and beyond, most recently taking the wheel during Cousin Stizz’s One Night Only tour.

In pursuit of learning a little bit about what Joe does and how he does it, I had the opportunity to ask Joe a few questions about his life as a road manager and how this is all came to be. You can read our conversation below.


What was high school Joe Johnson like?

I actually went to boarding school for a couple of years in Maine. Outside of intense ping-pong battles with international students, I would say in those two years I was connected, literally. That was 2007-2009 – I had just gotten a laptop and was online basically self-educating, observing, learning.

What role did music play in your life at this point and did you ever think you would become a tour manager?

I’ve always been into music. My father had a Caribbean show on the radio growing up. He has played in celebrity basketball games (although missing every shot he took) so it was a cool experience. I was always at the station and got to meet some folk – Terror Squad in ’99, Master P n Lil Romeo, Christina Milian in like ’02. I used to always see the managers and busy people around and kinda wondered what they did.

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How has Roxbury helped to shape you as a person? 

Love and humbleness and civility. That’s what Roxbury has given me.

Describe Boston in 3 words.

Patriots, Celtics, Sox.

How did you decide that you wanted to be a road manager?

One day Michael Christmas introduced me to someone like “Yeah this is Joe, my road manager”. That was when I knew.

What is the most difficult part of being a road manager and why?

Dealing with artists with low bladder control can be a real hassle. Say you have 8 hours ahead of you and you just turned onto a 315-mile stretch and an artist has to use the bathroom. It can really hurt morale and can take upwards of 20 minutes to get back on the road. On top of that, you are changing time zones and losing an hour, so…

What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

Getting to see the artist’s dreams come true and impact fans of every background.

How did you first link up with names like Stizz, Christmas, and Leano? 

Stizz and I actually met at Children’s Hospital – it was my mom’s birthday and she was visiting my Aunt in the hospital who had just given birth to a legend. Leano is a package deal with Stizz that came in the later years. I’m pretty sure I met Christmas over a tray of baklava.

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When and how did you decide to start working with them on tour?

When they needed a driver I was the guy. I was able to rent a car and was responsible, haha. It’s funny because I actually brought Christmas, Stizz, Replay, Dan Mac (Rolex Daytona), and another rapper to Long Island for a release party for this old brand I was working with in like 2013. The first real road trip was in 2015, I think.

What does Joe Johnson’s typical tour preparation routine consist of?

Nothing. I just get up and get to the bag. I pack a little, but with an iPhone you can do a lot on the go. I usually make sure I tell my momma I love her, that’s necessary.

What tour has been the most fun for you to be on and why? 

One time we did a two-show run in Canada with Christmas and Stizz co-headlining. Leano came along for the trip. We hit the dispensary and racked up on like 30 pre-rolleds. The rest is history. Our Northern neighbors are great.

What specific show has been the most meaningful?

The sold-out House of Blues show as cliche as it sounds because we sold out the House of Blues.

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What is one story from the One Night Only tour that you can share with our readers?

Albuquerque. I can’t actually share that story but it’s a funny one lemme tell ya.

Lastly, what are your goals for the next 5 years? 

See Europe, win a Grammy, own a pair of Off White x Nike Prestos size 12, at least ten tour bus tours with the squad, and to meet Rihanna.

I just wanna say hi mom, look it’s me! Thanks for everything. Thanks! 


After speaking to Joe Johnson, it becomes clear that he’s not only passionate about what he does and the role he plays in the lives of artists, but he is, in every way, for Boston. People like Joe play crucial roles in the logistics of music and simply put, that cannot be overlooked. Thank you, Joe, for the interview. Best of luck moving forward!

***All photography courtesy of @perspec7ive

Connect with Joe Johnson on:

Instagram

Twitter

 

Statik Selektah – “Slept To Death” ft. Cousin Stizz & Curren$y

By: Seamus Fay

As a professional dot connecting, dream team – forming, multitalented producer, Statik Selektah has been known to give the world the gems that it didn’t even know it needed. Today, in this very fashion, Selektah is back with a new single off of his forthcoming project titled “Slept To Death” featuring fellow Boston native Cousin Stizz and the ever-so-calm legend, Curren$y.

Utilizing a soulful instrumental while grounded by a laid-back, relaxed atmosphere, Curren$y and Stizz go back and forth on this one about the way their lives have been with charismatic cadences and a certain, inimitable steez that transcends words. There simply couldn’t be a better pairing of two artists in the way their styles interlock and thrive alongside one another, and in all honesty, this is one of my favorite recent releases out of Boston. Statik Selektah has the magic touch, so don’t sleep. Listen to “Slept to Death” below and appreciate the fact that we really got a song with Stizz and Curren$y together. Too important.

A Reflection On Cousin Stizz’s House of Blues Homecoming Show

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.

– – – – – – – –

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.

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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.

Thank you to @photokohli  and @Perspec7ive  for the photos used in this article.