The first thing you need to know about the 18-year-old rapper Stitches is the ink on his face: the curling Joker-esque scarred smile, the star under his eye and on his earlobe, the smooched lips on his jawbone, the flames (?) running up to his eye, the name in cursive on his left cheek and, of course, the AK-47 on right his cheek.
He looks like a joke. But unlike Riff Raff—the one-time reality star turned tattooed white boy rapper who got the logos of MTV and BET tatted on his neck in an effort to go viral before "going viral" was a thing—Stitches, who is Cuban and Greek, appears to be mostly serious. In an interview with Complex's David Drake, he explained his face tattoos thusly:
I've been living on my own since I was like 14 years old, so it ain't shit. There was no saying if I could get it or not. I've been inked out—I got that on my face actually when I was 16. I've had all those tats on me already. I had a different lifestyle, man. I grew up fast. I've been living on my own, doing my thing, making my music, my money. Just hustling.
The same spirit that moved him to desecrate his face is what drives his music, too. "Brick in Yo Face," his breakout single (above), is pure hormonal, reckless aggression: he screams the entire song, his throat ragged. He grunts and growls. He taunts and threatens. He sticks comically oversized guns directly into the camera lens. Like his tattoos, "Brick in Yo Face" is meant to make you flinch—this is the joy of the anti-social. If you first saw a photo of Stitches, you might imagine him shouting over a boisterous rap beat; if you first heard this song, you might imagine a teenager with a mohawk and a few too many ill-advised tattoos.
This harmony is important: not much about Stitches should make sense, but when you consume the entire package—visuals and sound—you somehow end up thinking, "Okay, this makes sense." There, precisely, is his magnetism: it's not easy to dismiss "Brick in Yo Face," because Stitches makes it existence feels justified. The end product, at least if you already like this brand of rap music, is surprisingly digestible.
Still, "Brick in Yo Face" doesn't go down that easy. Like a permanent tattoo of a stitched-on smile, the song answers some questions but leaves many others open. We don't know much about Stitches—like Riff Raff, he is evasively coy about his background. When asked by Drake where exactly in Miami he grew up, Stitches sidesteps the question:
What neighborhood did you grow up in?
I was everywhere, man. I was doing my thing everywhere. Thuggin it out.
He later brushes away a question about his life as a runaway:
What have you been involved with since [leaving school at 14]?
Just listen to my music, I can tell you right now ain't nothing in my music fake. I guarantee you that. Listen to my music, I ain't gonna talk nothing over the phone.
Eventually, if Stitches proves worthy enough, someone will pry open his background. But, in the meantime, "Brick in Yo Face" is exactly as real as it needs to be.