'From the moment he took stage, Cousin Stizz’s gold-rimmed smile and idyllic personality captured the crowd’s full attention.'
Evan Dale // Dec 7, 2019
Everything about the theater was hip-hop that night. It was December: cold and sloppy enough for everyone to wear their classic Timbs; unseasonably warm enough to skimp on the three-dollar charge for coat check. From a line ribboning around the block, flashes of breath crystallizing in the winter air created a light opacity. Inside, a much thicker fog sourced elsewhere than the weather assured that even though the stage was, too, blanketed in an opaque cloud, it was the right show.
Packed from the moment doors opened, Denver’s Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom – as it often does – played the role as a beacon for the city’s slim yet proud and ever-burgeoning hip-hop fanbase. And that night, with a legend, a young gun, and an underground hero on the ticket, Cervantes made no space for anyone who wasn’t truly invested in rap’s timeless directionality. It was the kind of hodgepodge eclecticism that one expects from a genre that has long stood anthemic, important, and identifying for a fanbase connected only by a need to be represented. There was not much care put into the clothing as modern hip-pop shows often exemplify. Instead, hoods, beanies, black jeans, and rugged kicks tied the diverse crowd together; their collective energy focused stageward on a series of modern-day poets hellbent on telling their stories and relating it to the lives of their listeners.
An opening set from Conway the Machine reminded everyone in the theater of the true power in hip-hop. Rapping harder than most are capable of through a mug half-paralyzed by a shooting in his younger years, Conway saluted the crowd in a stream of tears and a barrage of rhythm, cadence, and emotional overcoming unparalleled in honesty and intensity.
By the time Cousin Stizz took the stage, the crowd was overrun with passion and concentration. The young rapper – as hyphy as he is lyrically inclined – has arguably been the most important thing to happen to the Boston rap scene since Gang Starr. His come-up hasn’t been necessarily swift, now four albums in over a four-year span, but it has been true. His fanbase is rigid in its obsession and right in their claim that Cousin Stizz is one of the most high-energy, anthemic hip-hip artists in the modern scene.
His show was reflective and affirmative of that ideal.
From the moment he took stage, Cousin Stizz’s gold-rimmed smile and idyllic personality captured the crowd’s full attention. And with that attention in his grasp, he turned up the bass, took off his jacket, and gave the audience a show much more founded in the understated penmanship of his anthemic hits than on their repetitive hooks. Interwoven monologues on his thankfulness for the tour – Denver being their last stop – was genuine. Stizz is a man of the people with a shining personality of positivism, making him somewhat the exception in a scene oftentimes grounded in rough edges and gangster-positioning. Instead, Stizz’s own persona is truly one-of-a-kind without losing any of the necessary appeal that makes him still in some ways a traditional rap figure.
And that traditionalism – that identifiable something in a rapper’s demeanor – was important for Stizz that night. Because even as such a vibrant and young force of hip-hop’s next generation, the audience at Cervantes wasn’t concerned with generational bias and modern trends. They were there for rap. Pure & simple. And Stizz, adjusting to a crowd that wanted to hear what we had to in his personal dictionary of flow and poetry, was able to successfully turn everyone in the critical and hip-hop educated ballroom into a student and a fan of a new sound.
Being scheduled between Conway the Machine, and the legend that was about to take stage – the unstoppable force of timeless rap that everyone really went there to see – Stizz did nothing without necessary intensity and the kind of pocketed skillset that only his truest fans, and the new ones made that night, know that he’s capable of bringing to the table.