By: Seamus Fay
Within the geographically-minded landscape of rap music, the weight behind a homecoming show consists of one central theme: loyalty. This encapsulates loyalty from the crowd, loyalty from the artist, and loyalty to a vision of success and “making it out” of one’s hometown which, amidst other manifestations of hard work, also translates into the ever-important power of pride. On June 6th, just last Sunday, Cousin Stizz crafted his own definition of both loyalty and pride by offering a live performance at the Paradise Rock Club in celebration of the anniversary of his critically-acclaimed debut mixtape, Suffolk County. The show sold out in 6 minutes.
At face value, the function of this performance was to make sure that those who missed Boston Calling would still receive the opportunity to see Stizz live while he was in the city. But looking back on the energy brought into the venue that night, the true function of the show was a reflection on the success that Stizz has seen since 2015 when he first released Suffolk County. The whole city came out, and just like that, the Dorchester native used this family affair to look back on the roots that brought him where he is today.
Personally, the reason that this project has remained a timeless collection of music in my ears is mostly due to the way that it brings Stizz’s lifestyle down to a listener-friendly level, complete with a certain degree of familiarity that only helps Boston fans to embrace its magic even more directly. Whether it be the triumphant, anthemic nature of “Dum Dope”, the unapologetically confident hooks of “Fresh Prince”, or the unfaltering honesty that comes through on “No Explanation”, Stizz tells it how it is on this project, and in doing so, listeners are doused in the emotional roller coaster of life in Fields Corner.
With this, Suffolk County is, in a nutshell, a uniquely comprehensive look of the triumphs and struggles that predated Stizz’s rap success. Life was certainly more simple, but times weren’t easy by any means, and the way that such intense pain and passion are communicated through ringing hooks that still resonate with people today, defines what it means to be a classic piece of music. And now, my Suffolk County importance rant is done, and we can delve into the show.
The first point of importance that surrounds such a legendary night was seen in Big Leano’s spot opening for Stizz. Any fan of Boston music might tell you that Stizz and Leano are close friends, but this brotherhood runs far deeper below the surface than that. In fact, Big Leano’s debut performance within the city’s rap community, after releasing just one song prior to the show (the ever-important “Muddy Sip”), was at Cousin Stizz’s first-ever headlining show in Boston at the Middle East. These two have been working towards the top since before rap was the plan, and to see them together even today, more strengthened in their bond than ever, is an immaculate sight.
From the mud all the way to fame, loyalty doesn’t budge.
That being said, Leano’s undying energy and galvanizing set, which, of course, included the insanity of a “Lean For Sale” mosh pit, made way for a perfect transition into an unforgettable performance from Stizz. But before the headlining act graced the stage, he retreated into the dressing room of the Paradise Rock Club, where a number of close friends and acquaintances hung around in pure excitement for what was to come. Luckily enough, I was brought into the room by a friend of Stizz’s (shouts out to Juxi one time), and what I noticed most specifically was the way that the Fields Corner native gets into the zone before shows.
Just a few minutes prior to when the opening notes of “Ain’t Really Much” would play and Stizz would jump on stage, he wasn’t talking to anyone, messing around, or even communicating with the world in front of him. Instead, he slipped his headphones on, stared at the ground, and simply slipped into an isolated zone, marking the calm before the storm that was a sold-out, nearly 1,000-person performance in his hometown.
And then magic happened.
Stizz went through Suffolk County‘s dense tracklist of hits, one by one, garnering the attention and love of the crowd with every successive note of music. The show didn’t need anything extra to make it an incredible performance, but sure enough, when Jefe Replay gets involved, there’s no limit on what insanity might occur. He’s an undeniable rockstar, and rockstars do rockstar things. Like crowd-walking. Not crowd-diving, for those who may be confused. Crowd-walking.
The chilling melodies of “Talk” creeped into the venue’s sound systems, and after Stizz had unleashed his unforgettable verses, Replay took center stage for his monumental role in the song. But just when it looked as if he might dive into the crowd to deliver each line, he positioned his feet on the raised hands and starting to walk out into a sea of feverish fans. Showmanship aside, the fact that the crowd walk even happened was insane in and of itself, and I suppose it only adds to the long list of reasons why Jefe Replay is a star and why this show superseded the concept of what a rap show usually is.
My final point of importance, before this article takes the form of a novel, was seen in the simple barrage of “thank you’s” that Stizz proclaimed throughout the night. He paused his set at least 4 or 5 times after a variety of different songs, and looking out at the physical evidence of how far he has come as an artist, Stizz couldn’t help but show his appreciation for his supporters. And sure, obviously most performers would be saying thank you if they, too, sold out a show in six minutes, but coming from Stizz, with his home city leaning on every new syllable that came out of his mouth, this “thank you” went far below the surface.
The Suffolk County anniversary show was a step back in time to one of Boston’s most iconic mixtapes and the lifestyle that came with it. Time moves quite rapidly with no foreseeable slowing, but by revisiting this classic set of anthems with the same fans who have watched Stizz undergo both musical and personal growth since it’s 2015 release, life slowed down for a moment and all felt right. Stizz is one of Boston’s bonafide stars, and we couldn’t ask for any better artist to help play the role.
Before I wrap this article up, however, it’s also important to note that the real magic of this night is only achieved when we take a step back and marvel at the inspirational sight of comradery as a city that it brought together. For the few, impactful hours that the show spanned, Suffolk County was suspended in its status as an eminent assemblage of reflective sound and thought, surrounded by an ethereal glow that reminds us, above all things, of one mixtape that united people from all different backgrounds and helped to offer us a common thread of pride in our city’s music scene that before then, had not been achieved in such an authentic, modern light.
Just one night of unwavering authenticity and prideful proclamations towards Boston granted me with an abundance of memories that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life, and for that, only two words capture the moment: thank you.
Thank you to Cousin Stizz, thank you to Tim Larew, thank you to Boston, and thank you to every person that made such a magnificent night possible. Suffolk County remains one of the best bodies of music that I have heard to date, and it set the stage for a bright future that even Stizz didn’t think was possible.
I guess there’s a reason he’s our favorite cousin.
Thank you to @gregisonfire for the photos used in this article.