“Who you know from round here? Ya name ain’t ringing no bells boy.”
- Cousin Stizz, “No Bells”
“Who are you? You not gang. Get the fuck away from me.”
- Levi Carter, “You Not Gang”
Both these are hooks from songs of two rappers whose brash, yet undeniably authentic delivery propelled them to their fast-track to greatness, and also propelled them to build the bond that it now appears that they have. However, the two have yet to put out a single track together, and their fans have been waiting.
The hip-hop scene in the city of Boston has seen a true revival within the past five years with Dorchester’s (Field’s Corner) Cousin Stizz at the forefront, as he’s become not only the city’s hometown hero but also arguably one of the fastest rising rappers in the game today. Stizz gained early buzz in the city way back in 2012-13 when he was simply going by “Stizzy”; tearing up cyphers with his friends (around 9:13 mark) and killing shows alongside fellow Boston artists Jeff (now Jefe) Replay and Nick Gray as part of their Pilot Nation collective. Then came summer 2014’s “Shoutout”, a track which took off in the city and garnered massive success after being promoted by the likes of A$AP Bari, iLoveMakonnen, and even Drake, as you can see below.
The release of “Shoutout” was the first of what has now seemed to become a tradition of Stizz putting out heat for his fans summer after summer, as he went on to put out his debut mixtape Suffolk County in June 2015. Through tracks like the aforementioned “No Bells” as well as “Real Life”, and “Bonds”, Stizz gave an insight into the side of Boston that people don’t know or hear about: life growing up in Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury, Hyde Park and other predominantly black neighborhoods. It’s these neighborhoods that have given birth to the new wave of Stizz and other Boston rappers like Big Leano, Michael Christmas, and Plad Fine$$e.
Stizz followed up Suffolk County the next summer with the more personal tape entitled MONDA, the nickname of childhood friend and sort of little brother to Stizz and his friends, Damone Clarke, who passed away from cancer in January 2016. Stizz talked about the difference between the creation of Suffolk County and MONDA in an interview with HipHopDx, saying:
“This tape is a lot different from Suffolk County. Suffolk County was more me just recollecting my own life and looking back and having fun. This shit is more deep because of what was going on.”
Like Suffolk County, MONDA was met with rave reviews, supported by the singles “500 Horses”, and “Gain Green” (the latter of which is probably the most Boston-sounding record you’ll ever hear, that’s if you’ve actually ever been to the 617.) After MONDA, Stizz officially moved out to L.A. where he’d link up with KYLE and join him on his nationwide SUPER Tour, on which Stizz was exposed to a larger audience than ever before. Stizz later finally inked a record deal with RCA Records and went onto drop One Night Only, his highly-anticipated third project which included his smash singles: “Headlock” featuring Offset; “Jo Bros”; and “Lambo”, which had tour crowds going crazy before it was even officially released. One Night Only sees Stizz truly embracing the path to becoming a star, as he says in his own words:
“With One Night Only, I’m in a place where I’m just having a good time. I’m in L.A. now and everything is bigger and brighter. I’m looking at these crazy ass cribs all the time. It’s infinite inspirations and motivations, I just feel good. I feel a good energy coming off me all the time and it exudes through the music.”
As a child growing up in NYC (Parkchester, Bronx specifically), Levi Carter had known since he was a kid that he wanted to make music. However, the Bronx isn’t the only place Carter calls home; as he lived in Portsmouth, Virginia and all around Hampton Roads for the rest of his childhood all the way up till he started taking music seriously after dropping out of Norfolk State. According to Complex.com, Carter had began as a member of BRAIN DEAD MUSIC, the hip-hop collective headed by fellow Virginian DP; however very little can be found to support his involvement. Nevertheless, after one of Carter’s early hits, “Finessed”, took off on Soundcloud, he decided to work on his first mixtape, ANTISOCIAL, which he went on to release in February of 2016, to the acclaim of several online publications.
The title of the project comes from his saying, ”New York made me, Virginia made me Antisocial”, which he often uses when speaking of his upbringing.
“I want to be the next Mike Vick or Allen Iverson of hip-hop because where we from, don’t nobody make it out of Virginia. I happened to get where without no OG, nobody. It was just me and my brothers and my old heads. Coming out of Virginia is already hard. To do it without some kind of platform, it speaks volumes.”
“You Not Gang” was one of the first songs to blow up from the project as its infectious hook over Digital Nas (whom Carter calls his “brother”) production spread all over social media. Carter went onto tear up SXSW in March, and in August, after dropping off a few more tracks (all while moving back to New York), he released his second mixtape, Presence of a Lord, and was announced as the newest addition to the Roc Nation roster. And so in less than a year, the young 20-something-year-old who had to be pushed by his cousin into getting back into music, was able to ink a deal with the label headed by his idol Jay-Z. Carter detailed how the deal came about in an interview with Shawn Grant of KarenCivil.com, saying:
“Actually, when I moved to New York, Hov wanted to get in touch with me some way. He made TIDAL bring me to the office to have a meeting with Roc Nation. Hov heard my music, and he hand-picked me to come and join the roster. After I left the meeting, I had one more after that and it was pretty much a done deal.”
Since dropping Presence of a Lord Carter has shown zero signs of slowing down his work ethic, performing at Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival, going on tours with OG Maco and Jazz Cartier, all while spending time living in both LA and New York. And like Stizz, Carter also had nearly no features through his first two projects; however, he’s since released collabs with Key!, Lucki, and wifisfuneral. Yet the one collab that has yet to arrive musically is with Stizz himself.
If you’ve been following both Stizz and Carter on their Instagrams and watching their stories on there, it’s clear that they’ve become good friends. In an era where artists send each other money for verses, it’s good to see these two rappers who value the importance of building relationships with the people they choose to work with. However, we also live in an era where fans seem to just want the music quickly and in large quantities, and so seeing two artists spend time together causes nothing but anticipation for a collab in any form. When you listen to Carter and Stizz together it’s impossible to not imagine how well their flows and individual overall artistries would complement each other, whether over production from Digital Nas, Tee-WaTT, Vinylz, or DumDrumz. And although the collaborative project looks to be a thing of the past, you can’t help but wonder what one would sound like from those two, even if it’s just a 5-track EP.
Just the other day Stizz and Carter were seen together on Tim Larew’s (Cousin Stizz’s manager) Instagram story in a studio listening session to a freshly-recorded Stizz verse alongside producer 1mind. Hopefully, there’s a Carter verse to go with it, and moreover, it would be great if the track sees the light of day.
Check out Cousin Stizz’s upcoming tour dates below, and be sure to follow:
And Levi Carter