Hunched over in front of his keyboard, Stizz pounds at the keys. His corn rows are barely visible from under his white Red Sox hat. He smacks down harder and harder on the instrument, each time adding a new layer of sound. Just as his 11-year-old brother leaves the room with his hands over his ears, Stizz rises triumphantly. He has found his beat.
From the appearance of his studio — a room on the second floor of the house he shares with his mother and some of his six brothers — it would be easy to overlook the talent Stizz brings to every track he lays down and every rap he creates. But Stizz, 24, has come a long way from his DJ days on WYBC radio. Co-founder of Git It Ryte Records, a label he owns with his mother-manager Sybil Thomas, Stizz has had his music featured on the MTV show “Pimp My Ride,” and Tommy Boy Records has expressed interest in him.
A New Haven native, Stizz spends his days working at Wachovia Bank. His nights, however, are spent making beats, writing rap lyrics and performing. A “to do” list, with the week’s required activities, hangs on a dingy white wall above the oversized computer screen Stizz uses to adjust the sound levels on his tracks.
“I plan on taking my music to another place,” Stizz said. “I plan on making a really big impact on whatever I do with this music thing.”
Thomas and Stizz founded GIR two years after Stizz embarked upon a rap career; Stizz needed a label and a manager, and Thomas had an active interest in her son’s future. Having never worked as a manager before, save managing Stizz’s DJ career, Thomas relies on what she described as a little expertise, a lot of luck and persistence. Experienced at managing him as a DJ, Thomas was hesitant to continue managing him in his new career as a rapper. But, despite her lack of knowledge about rap music, she said she did not trust anyone else to do the job.
Although GIR has no artists signed as of now, Stizz and Thomas are working on cultivating rising talent. Stizz often creates beats for other up-and-coming rappers. As of now, GIR deals with four performers other than Stizz: Lil’ Demon, King, Deep Banger and Money Mack.
Money Mack also happens to be Stizz’s 23-year-old brother.
“We’re starting to groom him,” Thomas said. “But he has no background in music.”
Both Stizz and Thomas admitted that the family aspect of GIR can be trying at times, but agreed that it has helped Stizz enter into the music industry.
While a stranger could push him, Stizz said, only his mother could motivate him enough to allow him to thrive in the rap world.
“It’s a little tougher [than working with a stranger] because she will stay on me the way a mother stays on a son, but she does it business-like,” Stizz said. “So I’m never slacking off — I’m never off. She makes sure of that. She’s looking out for my well-being as well as the business end.”
Thomas admitted that she does put extra pressure on her son. Standing amid plastic cartons full of vinyl records — leftovers from Stizz’s DJ days — Thomas nods assuredly, arms crossed in front of the lettering on her old white T-shirt, short dreads bobbing.
“Oh yeah,” she said. “You should see what we go through. I want him dead-committed. I think I push him a lot harder. It makes him more disciplined. I know what to expect from him, and he knows I do everything in his interest.”
Stizz’s days in the foam-covered closet that doubles as a recording room may be soon be replaced by days in a real studio. During an artist showcase organized by Thomas, Hector Aveles of Double Empak Records spotted Stizz. By his second viewing of Stizz’s show, Aveles knew he had found a new talent.
“When I saw his performance the first time, it grabbed my attention,” Aveles said. “The second time, it was incredible — I like his character and his performance. He could be a good role model, also. He’s a hard worker and determined to get to his goal.”
Aveles is not the only one to pick up on Stizz’s talent; “Pimp My Ride” used his song “Tear Da Club Up” to accompany the breaking of windows on the car, and “Sound Off” played as the final car was displayed.
“When I heard the music on MTV, that’s when I was really excited,” Stizz said. “I was like, ‘Wow — I can’t believe this is it.'”
MTV also wanted to use Stizz’s music on “Newlyweds.” Stizz, not an avid viewer of the Nick and Jessica epic, said he could not verify that his music was actually featured on the show.
Tommy Boy Records has also notified Thomas that they would like Stizz’s press kit — his music, biography and press releases.
If Stizz does make it big — he already has an endorsement from a small clothing company — he has no plans to forget the small white house across from Albertus Magnus College, nor will he abandon other struggling rappers in the Elm City.
“I’m sending a message [to kids in New Haven] that lets them know that the streets are real, but you can do anything you want to do if you put your mind to it,” Stizz said. “I hope I make enough of an impact so that people doing the same things I’m doing will have an easier time. I’ll open the door.”
But as Stizz raps into the microphone over the beat he just created, his words barely audible over the computerized percussion emanating from his speakers, he has no way of knowing what the future may hold.
“I don’t want to just stop here. I want to make an impact on New Haven — I think I already have, but really the world. I want the whole world to get that message: No matter how hard it gets, just keep going,” Stizz said. “For me, it’s all about having fun and making an impact. If you’re not making an impact, it’s not really poppin’ like that.”