Born Stephen Goss, Boston-bred rapper Cousin Stizz, 26, recently became the first hip-hop artist to be named Artist of the Year at the Boston Music Awards. Born and raised in Dorchester, he was forced to choose between military school and high school in the suburbs after he began acting out as a teenager. He chose the latter. Stizz released his first mixtape, Suffolk County, in 2015, and it quickly went viral. In July 2017, he released his major label debut, One Night Only, which was led by “Headlock” featuring Offset, and he’s currently the voice of the Celtics hype videos for this season. On his last tour, he sold out the House of Blues in 36 hours. His next record is expected this year. He lives in Los Angeles.
Jonathan Soroff: What sets you apart as a rapper?
Cousin Stizz: Knowing who I am. My story. It’s different than everyone else’s. It’s special because it’s my story.
How does it feel to be the first rapper named Artist of the Year at the Boston Music Awards? It’s great. Really cool. I’m super appreciative of the acknowledgement. I never even thought of something like that. It’s pretty tight.
Where do you keep the award? It’s at my mom’s house. All my everything is with her. Anything that’s given to me, I give it to my mom. Paintings, old pictures, everything. She has a drawer where she puts all that, not just from me but from my sisters. It’s like a family shrine, I guess.
How vibrant is the Boston hip-hop scene? I feel like it’s dope as hell. It’s really moved. It’s lit. That wasn’t a thing when we started rapping. It wasn’t in the forefront the way it is now.
How tight is the Boston rap community? I think it’s really tight. When I was comin’ up, like in 2012, it was a small circle of us. We didn’t know anything about infrastructure. Now it feels like everybody’s a part of it. It’s really dope.
Word you overuse the most? I overuse a lot of stuff. Probably lit. I say that a lot. Fire, too. I say that to everything.
Hardest word to rhyme? Maybe orange. I hear that there’s no word that rhymes with it. I haven’t tried it out yet. I’ll work it into a rhyme at some point.
Easiest? I guess anything with a sharp vowel in it, because I know there are multiple words that have those kinds of sounds.
Anything you’d never rap about? Never? I don’t think anything’s off-limits. As long as it has to do with life. You feel me? If it’s happening out in the real world, it should be spoken about, regardless of what it is.
Prediction for a rap fashion trend in 2019? I feel like whatever Gucci or Prada drop. Givenchy. YSL. All those guys. Just the usual.
Top three things in heavy rotation on your devices? Let’s check. I like Kodak’s album, a lot. Future’s that just dropped. And Cardi’s album, I would say. I’m listening to a lot of old stuff right now, too. Tribe Called Quest. I even have some Anita Baker in there, too.
Favorite rapper of all time? I don’t know. I like a lot of different rappers for different reasons. If I say all-time, I’m going on and off the court, so I’ll go with Jay-Z.
Cardi B or Nicki Minaj? I’m staying away from that one. There’s no way I’m going for that. [Laughs.]
Story from working with Offset? Offset’s hilarious. He’s actually a really funny guy. People probably wouldn’t know by lookin’ at him or hearin’ him talk, but he’s hella witty. He also broke out some dance moves at the end of “Headlock.” I don’t know if they got it, but he was definitely gettin’ his dance on. It was tight.
Biggest indulgence? Food and clothes, for sure. More food than clothes, 1,000 percent. I eat a lot. I don’t look like it, but I consume a lot, I guess ’cause I have the munchies all the time. I eat a shit-ton.
Most baller thing about you? Hmmm … my lifestyle. Me. The whole package.
Least? I don’t like to go out all the time. That’s not my style.
Favorite way to kill time? I play a lot of video games. I guess that’s kinda baller, ’cause video games are making seven figs.
Thing you miss the most about Boston? My family. My friends.
Venue in Boston you’d most like to play? TD Garden! Then after that, I gotta keep goin’.
Biggest musical influences? Rap, definitely. Oldies and old soul and R&B, with the melodies. I definitely like the oldies.
Genre you just don’t listen to? I don’t try to listen to super-duper heavy metal, where the yelling gets too crazy. That’s about it. I don’t really listen to country music, either. I’ve listened to classical music and opera. I have no fault with it.
Toughest part of doing the hype videos with the Celtics? The pacing and enunciation. Like any voice-over, I have to remember to slow down. You want to read it fast, so you have to know to keep it at a good pace. You have to enunciate really well. It takes a lot of takes to get the right one. It could take 30. I’ve heard of people taking six hours trying to get the right thing, so I guess I was lucky. I did like six in four or five hours.
How important was basketball to you when you were growing up? I loved sports. Sports were an outlet. An escape. The one place besides music where you could go and just not have to worry about anything. You were just worried about the next play. I still watch basketball, but I like football more than I like basketball, to tell the truth.
Most underrated rapper? Maybe MF Doom. He’s a legend in his own right and, as far as rapping, he’s pretty damn good.
Anybody you think is overrated? No, man. I think if you’re at where you’re at, you’re supposed to be there and you did something to get there, so I’m not tryin’ to knock anybody like that. That’s crazy.
Thoughts on Kanye? Too many. That’s a whole other discussion.
Pop star you’d love to collaborate with? I’ll go with Ariana [Grande]. She’s killin’ it.
Cousin Stizz photographed for The Improper’s Jan. 30 issue by Stefan Kohli in Los Angeles.
Favorite source for music news? Twitter and Instagram. The timeline to react is quicker than anybody else.
Ever smoked a spliff with Snoop Dogg? No, I haven’t. But would I? Hell, yeah. Snoop’s the man.
Favorite brand of headphones? It’s a tie right now between Apple, because I use them all the time, and Beats, when I’m trying to write. I rock with Beats.
What would you consider your trademark? Makin’ fly records. Makin’ hits. That’s what I’d like to be my trademark.
If you weren’t rapping, what do you think you’d be doing now? I don’t know. I really don’t. I’m just happy I am rapping, though, because I don’t know who I’d be. I didn’t really have another option. I definitely wouldn’t be in LA, for sure.
How has LA changed you? It made me more aware of life. I always had a pretty good perspective on the way that people act, which has a lot to do with where they are and where they came from. I think LA sharpened that a lot for me.
In 10 years, you’ll have how many Grammys? Oooh. Ten years is a lot of time. I’d be cool with seven.
Super Bowl prediction? The Pats! What else am I supposed to think?
Any money riding on it yet? No. But I don’t bet. I’m not a gambler. ◆
Cousin Stizz photographed for the Improper by Stefan Kohli in Los Angeles