“Yo, he’s a bitch!”
“He looks like a doo-doo brown cockroach in this photo,” he yells. “I’m not gonna front.”
Spider Cuz doesn’t have a problem with Travis Scott. He just hates anything that has to do with his nemesis: Batman. For months, he’s been running through the streets of New York in a full Spider-Man costume, taunting Batman and telling him to suck his dick. In January, he took the beef to a new level when he dropped a diss song, rapping about “smokin’ on that Martha Wayne pack” over a drill beat.
Wearing a blue bandana and a Yankees fitted cap over his Spider-Man suit, Spider Cuz is never caught without a bottle of Henny in his hand and a pair of Timbs on his feet. He looks and sounds like what would happen if Peter Parker spent years hanging out in Brooklyn, listening to Pop Smoke and studying ASAP Yams tweets. Carrying himself like a Brooklyn drill rapper, he punctuates sentences by yelling things like “viral” and “movie!” And if you watch enough local rap videos, you’ll see him dancing in the background of at least a few of them.
Spider Cuz has become a fixture in New York City over the past few months. Last fall, his appearance on the city’s one-minute street show Sidetalk went viral, and videos of his antics have been all over social media pages ever since. He even made an appearance in ASAP Rocky’s announcement video for Yams Day 2021. At this point, he’s a full-blown local celebrity, getting mobbed for photographs wherever he goes.
On a cold afternoon in late January, I find Spider Cuz in Bed-Stuy with the hopes of learning more about his origin story. At the door, I’m greeted by a large bulldog wearing a Spider-Man shirt. His name is Gucci. Standing behind him is the man I came to meet, suited up in the full costume with a bottle of Henny near his feet.
We sit down at a table and he enthusiastically jumps into a saga about how he transformed from a gang-affiliated man who was “running around reckless” into a neighborhood hero with a six-figure social media following. As he speaks, he gets excited, throwing his hands in the air and yelling. Half a dozen times, to no one in particular, he shouts, “Are you shittin’ me?!” That’s when I realize the wild persona we see online is barely a shtick. He’s really like this. All the time.
As the story goes, the man under the suit was facing uncertainty before becoming Spider Cuz. Like many New Yorkers at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was struggling to figure out where to direct his energy after being laid off from work. He was used to being the center of attention, with a reputation for being “a funny dude,” so when a $1,200 federal stimulus check was direct-deposited into his bank account, an idea popped into his head.
“I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’ll just get a costume.’”
A few days later, he went on Amazon and spent a portion of his stimulus check on an adult Spider-Man costume. When the suit finally arrived, he made his first public appearances by joining Black Lives Matter protesters in the streets of New York. Then, one day, he came across a video of a man walking through smoke at a Philadelphia protest, dressed in a full Batman suit. “All of a sudden, I had this idea,” he remembers. “Whoa, let's start some beef. Fuck it. What's the worst that could happen?”
He started yelling “fuck Batman” whenever he put on the suit, and on Aug. 31, he recorded a video, directly calling out the Philadelphia Batman. “I’m gonna violate you,” he said, with Crip beads hanging around his neck. “I’m gonna smack the shit out of you.”
Starting beef with Batman brought the attention he wanted. Soon, videos of Spider Cuz were getting reshared on popular Philadelphia Instagram accounts like Philly Scoop. And before long, he was a regular on pages like The Panic Room After Dark and Zoo York. Despite the love he was getting on social media, though, he admits that he wasn’t immediately accepted by everyone.
“I ain’t going to lie to you, being Crip and being a Spider-Man was kind of hard,” he says. “It was like, dawg, are they going to accept me?”
Spider Cuz says he made most of his appearances in Manhattan at first, after people in his own neighborhood clowned him for the costume. “When I first started this, oh my God, people were coming at me,” he says. “I was getting messages like, ‘We gon’ beat you up when we see you, son. Where you at?’"
He could sense that he was onto something with Spider Cuz, though, so he kept at it. “I had this thing in my head where I didn’t care what nobody thought about me,” he recalls. “Fuck what anybody got to think about me. I started to reframe my mindset to think differently from other people. I want to be an alien. I don’t want to be like y'all.”
As members of his inner circle tell me, the secret to Spider Cuz’s success is that the man under the costume isn’t much different from the character everyone sees in the viral videos.
“Even my mans was like, ‘Yo, bro, everything you’re doing is just you!’” Spider Cuz confirms. “He’s like, ‘This is crazy. People don’t understand that you’re just being you, but in a costume. That’s the crazy part.’”
All the Spider-Man and Batman references are jokes, but his over-the-top charisma and the way he carries himself are real. “This is not acting,” he explains. “You can tell acting from real. This is all organic energy. The same way I’m acting with you right now is how I act normally. It’s an energy. People accept that. People accept good energy.”
Last fall, a 19-year-old NYU student named Trent Simonian picked up on that energy when he saw one of Spider Cuz’s videos on the Zoo York Instagram page. Simonian, who hosts Sidetalk, reached out and asked if Spider Cuz wanted to appear in an upcoming episode.
On Sept. 23, he made his Sidetalk debut, pouring out a bottle of Henny in memory of Pop Smoke and, of course, threatening to "smack the shit out of Batman." It was a funny moment that brought him some attention, but it wasn’t until the follow-up appearance on Oct. 13 that everything changed for him.
In the second Sidetalk episode, Spider Cuz took over Simonian’s usual role as host of the show and turned it into his own playground. Running around lower Manhattan with a microphone in his hand, he smoked hookah through his suit, asked a man who he would choose between Kim Kardashian and Janet Jackson, and answered questions about if he can fly or not (he can’t). At the end of the episode, a Jeep drove by, with Pop Smoke’s “Mood Swings” blasting through the speakers, and Spider Cuz jumped onboard, singing every word as he swung from the side of the vehicle. The episode went viral immediately, with reshares on Twitter and Instagram racking up millions of views. A star was born.
“I caught chills just now thinking about it,” he says now. “That was the most viral moment. When we go out to do Sidetalk, we don’t plan none of it. None of it gets written down, like, ‘Hey, buddy, you’re going to go inside the Jeep and you’re going to do this and this and this.’ Nah, this is raunchy, ratchet shit. I didn’t even know those guys. They seen me and I jumped on the side of the car.”
Spider Cuz gained tens of thousands of followers on Instagram after the episode went live, and he noticed that the negative comments from people in his neighborhood slowed down. He was accepted.
“People embrace me now, and it takes a lot for New York to embrace you,” he says. “To get New York to embrace you? You’re winning.” Hoping to pass on that energy to others, Spider Cuz adds, “Forget what everybody thinks about you. You want to put a costume on? Go a-fucking-head. Do it. Drink some Hennessy with it. It’s Friday. You know the vibes. Be yourself, man.”
When I ask him to share details about his life before he became Spider Cuz, he declines to disclose his real name, but he does open up about the man behind the costume. “He changed his life around, basically,” he reveals. “He came from the hood. He came from gang-banging. He came from seeing a lot of shit. He was that guy that was running around reckless, wylin’ out. But he turned his life around and made people realize, ‘Wow, we could actually embrace a dude in a costume?’
“When I first did this, everyone was like, ‘Show your face. Reveal your face,’” he adds. “But now, you don't hear that no more, because they accepted it. Now, Spider Cuz is for the people. I want kids to know they can be whoever they want to be in life.”
He admits he’s still growing and maturing, but he proudly speaks about the fact that he’s become a source of inspiration for kids. He tells me a story about a young fan who recently opened up to him about wanting to hurt himself, and he expresses a responsibility to be a positive influence in the lives of his followers.
Along with the new fans and viral fame came new revenue streams for Spider Cuz. In addition to merch, he also makes money from booking music video appearances, recording Cameo videos, selling social media promo, and more.
Figuring out how to monetize Spider Cuz came at a crucial time, because he also lost his job in the middle of the summer. “They called me back in July, then told me, ‘We don't got that many man hours; we’re going to have to let you go,’” he explains. “So shit just started to go to shit. Then boom, all of a sudden, the video of Sidetalk and these guys blew up, and shit just started coming.”
Remembering those whirlwind weeks, he tells me, “This saved my life.” Then, after a rare moment of serious reflection, he ramps up the volume and adds, “Now, I don’t want to go back to work for nobody. Fuck my job. Fuck my bosses. If you’re reading this, fuck you.”
Every morning, Spider Cuz wakes up early and walks over to a whiteboard in his apartment that has each day’s tasks written out on it. A typical day in the life of Spider Cuz involves coming up with skits, making videos, going live on Instagram with fans, and planning out ways to grow his audience.
Surrounding himself with a small team, he’s in constant communication with his manager and consultant Casey, who affectionately calls him “a nut.” Laughing about their unique rapport, she tells me, “My mother is always like, ‘Oh, you’re on the phone to that Spider-Man again?’”
Spider Cuz is determined to turn this into a real business. “This is a career for me,” he says. “This is not a costume. This is a uniform. I’m dressed in my uniform. This is how I feed my family.”
He bristles at comparisons to costumed characters in Midtown who ask for money from tourists. “Those dudes down in Manhattan, I don’t like those dudes,” he says. “Elmo, Mickey Mouse, all them dudes that be out there panhandling and hustling? I don’t deal with those guys. I’m Spider Cuz. I don’t want your money. I mean, I do want money, but we’re going to do it business-wise. Am I going to say, ‘Hey, can I get a dollar?’ No, hell no. Begging for dollars? What the fuck?” After a short pause, he adds, “All respect to these guys that do it. I mean, get your money. But me? I’m doing it in a different way. This done turn to business now.”
The latest development for Spider Cuz is the launch of a rap career. He says he had “been doing this rapping thing” before ever putting on the suit, so it was a natural progression to step in the booth one day as a superhero. “Everything you see is what I might have been doing anyway, but I just transitioned it over and did it smart,” he reminds me.
One of the first songs he recorded was, naturally, a Batman diss. Produced by A Lau, “Batman K” is centered around a bass-heavy drill beat, giving Spider Cuz room to talk as much shit about Batman as possible. In the studio with the guys from Sidetalk, he says it was a collaborative experience, giving credit to A Lau for inspiring the opening “I don't fuck with no Bruce Wayne” bar.
Throughout the song, and in the accompanying music video produced by Respective Collective, Spider Cuz plays the part of a Brooklyn drill rapper so well that you almost forget he’s in a costume. He credits Pop Smoke, 50 Cent, and Fivio Foreign as his main influences, and actively wants to collaborate with New York rappers in the future. “Fivio, Rowdy, and all you guys that’s in Brooklyn, let’s link up,” he says. “Let’s do something. Let’s bring New York back. It’s a feeling.”
He reveals he’s filming a music video for his next single, “Are You Dumb?” and says he has plans to release “a little EP or something.” But he’s very clear about the fact that he doesn’t want to be boxed in as a rapper.
“Spider Cuz is not a rapper,” he clarifies. “Spider Cuz is everything.”
“I want to be in movies,” he adds. “I want to be on set. I want a nice little Netflix series. Commercials would be dope. I rock a lot of New Era hats, I rock a lot of Timbs, and I drink a lot of Henny. I could be in a little clip, you know what I'm saying? And whatever else they got to bring my way, I’m with it.”
He admits to obsessively checking the analytics on the “Insights” tab of his Instagram account and worrying about falling off, but he also understands that if he cleans things up too much in pursuit of a bag, he might lose everything. “I feel like if I take away that raunchy and ratchet shit and make it commercial, it won’t go nowhere,” he says. “It just won’t have that good feeling. So I’ve got to continue giving them that raunchiness and that ratchetness. That’s the reason why they’re here. They didn’t come to hear me sing at church. They came here to hear me say, ‘Suck my dick. What’s up?’"
For now, Spider Cuz is happy being New York’s most popular new superhero. The day before I met up with him, a bus crashed through guardrails on a bridge in the Bronx, and he was called to the rescue by his fans. Showing me a New York Times story about the accident on his phone, he explains, “They were tagging me in this, like, ‘Yo, Spider Cuz, you should have been here!’ Where’s Spider Cuz?’”
Even a superhero takes some days off, though. He tells me, “I was like, ‘Y'all, I was drinking Hennessy. My bad. I need downtime, man.’”
Everything is moving quickly for Spider Cuz, and even he doesn’t know exactly what the future holds. But one thing that will stay the same forever is his deep hatred for Batman. Throughout our conversation, he frequently breaks concentration and slips in a quick “fuck Batman” before returning to the topic at hand. And at the end of our talk, he asks me to relay a message to his enemy.
“If Batman is reading this right now, ‘Fuck your mother, ya heard?’” he says. “I’m going to put flats in your car when I see you. You ain’t going to be able to ride that piece-of-shit Batmobile no more, bro. I’ll throw a Molotov cocktail in that shit.”
Your move, Batman.