By Kristopher Tondre
Artist: Cousin Stizz
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Losing a friend is tough. It’s a difficult discussion you have with yourself as you wonder why that person, why now and, sometimes, why it wasn’t you. You might find yourself just going through the motions day to day, trying to reclaim some feeling of normalcy while coming to terms with what has happened. The blur that was the winter break when a friend of mine passed away in a car accident at 20 years old, it still leaves me shook up from time to time, especially now as I gear up to celebrate my birthday when only last year, we were both planning to celebrate together with some other friends and just have a good time. The same feelings that washed over me during that terrible December I find resonate in the sounds of this project. After taking listeners on a cruise through his home of Suffolk County, Boston-based rapper Cousin Stizz returns with a somber sophomore effort, MONDA. The project is dedicated to a boy whom Stizz knew that unfortunately lost a battle with cancer, but not before the rapper was able to inform his friend that his next project would be named after him. It’s a fitting tribute to the loss of a life that happened way too soon.
Cousin Stizz has created quite the buzz for himself since he released his debut project Suffolk County over a year ago as of this past June. After teasing new-found fans with such strong singles in the form of “No Bells” and “Shoutout,” Stizz was able to craft a project consistent with the sound portrayed by those two songs that offers no filler and a project worth playing front to back. It was reality rap that displayed the environment that Stizz grew up, in from a small time street hustler to making the decision to pursue music when he got tired of the life that the urban jungle had to offer. Now with the accumulation of his second project, Cousin Stizz truly shows growth and maturity as he tackles all that’s happened since his proper debut project.
The opening lines of one of the lead singles on this project, “500 Horses,” perfectly let fans know where he’s at with this project as he spits “Back in my city first thing I did was hit the cemetery/I talk to my n****s pull me out some liquor/Tears shed in my head I’m really ready.” It’s an unfortunate reality that Stizz is now touring the country, is billed to perform at festivals, has gotten recognition by rap publications and fans alike, but still, that won’t bring back his friends that are buried in Beantown as his life continues on at a high speed rate. The instrumental backing his lyrics on “500 Horses” is probably one of the more hard hitting tracks, whereas most of MONDA has a lighter sound that serves as a soundtrack more so for self contemplation and not so much the hustle and grind that was sonically crafted throughout Suffolk County. It’s reminiscent of what I feel when listening to Diddy’s debut of sorts that was No Way Out, released after the death of The Notorious B.I.G.. There’s definitely songs on here that ramp up the energy, but the underlying sound and lyrics of reflection on the inhabitants of the real life Suffolk County that makes up Boston and the hustle that it takes just to make it out of the city are what carries this project. “Reup and Bake” is a good example of this as Stizz laments the hardship it was to make it just this far and all that’s happened since he’s started this journey with music. The beat just loops in the background, really bringing emphasis to what Stizz is saying over the next three minutes as he depicts the highs and lows he’s experienced.
“Million Things” is easily the most obscure sounding song in Stizz’s discography, as it sounds more so like a Young Thug record and less like something from the man who called himself Ill Smith on the song “Fresh Prince.” But it’s a woozy song where the autotune seems to have it almost sound like Stizz is crying out for help as he might drown his sorrows in the substances surrounding him after working so hard to get here. It’s almost heartbreaking.
Stizz’s bread and butter has been his reality based raps with an almost monotone like delivery that best communicated his gritty tales of hustle, struggle and success over hoodesque instrumentals that packed on the bass and twinkling sounds of piano keys and other little ticks and beeps. MONDA is definitely a calmer effort than its predecessor, but it also shows the maturity Stizz has gained since then. When someone close to you passes away, it brings those around you closer together, and it also forces you to grow up a little as well. Learning that you’re not invincible can be a harrowing realization and really mess with a person’s psyche as they grieve. For musicians, sometimes the best way to express their issues is over instrumentals, and with MONDA Cousin Stizz has done just that. I just hope, for his sake, that crafting this incredible project really did help Stizz come to terms with the passing of his friend.