Cousin Stizz Goes From Dot to Commas on MONDA

“I came from the bottom but that wasn’t my worth/I showed you niggas it go up if you work,”

Cousin Stizz harmonizes on “Million Things,” perhaps the most triumphant offering from MONDA, his recently released second mixtapeThe exultant, autotuned track, produced by Latrell James, came right at a spot when the mellow, hypnotic project was beginning to rest on its laurels. Stizz’ timely sequencing is just one example of the Boston rhymer’s improving craftsmanship since his 2015 Suffolk County project thrust his profile beyond his native Dorchester, Massachusetts.

In a world where so many artists from the streets are fixated on hyperbole to get noticed, Stizz plugs along with the formula that made his fans initially fall in love with him. Production with transfixing melodies and soul samples. Sharp, trunk-rattling 808s. Most important in the equation is his judicious mixture of humorous indulgence and sobering, redolent stories from the trenches of Doherty Gibson Playground, the one-time center of his universe.

The park is to Stizz as the block is to an NYC rhymer, or the trap is to an ATLien. After listening to MONDA, it appears that the park was at once a boot camp and sanctum through which the complexities of the world became clear to him. He learned to “move with wisdom” in the park, as he notes on “500 Horses.” On “Reup and Bake,” he recalls that he “cried a lot” because of the trauma and hopelessness of Fields Corner, his edge of Dorchester. Through it all, Stizz notes, “yeah we struggled but I kept my smile intact.”

There are a fair amount of lines about bad bitches and the other trinkets of fame, but Stizz is about his people first. The mixtape’s title is an homage to a friend who passed from cancer–a friend who’s name Stizz tattooed on his arm. He has his e-mail up on his Soundcloud to solicit beats, but tellingly, every producer who appears on the 14-track tape—save Lakim, Cardo and Puffy—was on Suffolk County. The familiarity is what helped him craft a consistently throwed, laidback soundscape that’s an easy, straight-through listen. However, to highlight his entrancing sing-songy flow alone would do his lyricism a great disservice. Stizz has the admirable ability to convey thought-provoking, vivid images with simple, clever diction. His best qualities are at the core of strong songwriting.

On tracks like “Wanted To Live,” and “Reup and Bake,” each consisting of soulful vocal samples, Stizz is upfront about the circumstances that forced him to the park and the hardships he encountered within it. On fan favorite “500 Horses,” he laments, “Back in my city, first thing I did was hit the cemetery,” before waxing on the toll continuous loss takes on his spirit.

His lyrics on “You Wouldn’t Understand” are the most empowering on the mixtape, as he spits, “you can do it too, I ain’t tryna hype shit / I want us all to win.” If more MCs follow the blueprint Stizz laid with his career and dope sophomore offering, they can join him and his team as slick rhymers who, as he noted on “Reup and Bake,” continuously “make money out they losses.”

You can stream MONDA below.

Alex Oka