He said he moved out of his mother's house when he was 14 years old, relocating to South Beach, where he rented penthouses and rode around in exotic cars. "I was dating older chicks," Katsabanis said. "They would sign the leases."
He added that he was expelled from G. Holmes Braddock Senior High School during the first week of his freshman year for punching the principal. "He was talking too much crap," Katsabanis alleges. "He said, 'You think you're gonna be the next Lil Wayne, but you ain't gonna be shit,' so I stuck him in the face."
This is the first of several places where questions begin to arise about his past. Manuel Garcia, principal at Braddock, confirms Katsabanis attended school there. He says he was never punched. "I know the young man by name," he practically seethes over the phone. "I've been the principal here for 11 and a half years, and that claim is completely false."
Katsabanis says he was arrested ten times as a minor "for stupid shit" but won't reveal details about the alleged crimes. When pressed for more information, he becomes visibly annoyed. "I'm really about what I say I am about," Katsabanis growls. "Just listen to my songs."
His reluctance to divulge anything concrete about his alleged drug-dealing days has led to a growing chorus of doubters, some of whom claim they have proof Katsabanis is a phony. They point to a series of publicity stunts via his Instagram account that were allegedly meant to bamboozle his 700,000-plus followers.
Roel Luciano, a 27-year-old Miami Gardens resident, was a Stitches fan until late June. "Not anymore," Luciano says. "He's a bitch." On June 23, Luciano tells New Times, he found a gold chain Katsabanis had thrown from a moving car traveling north on Interstate 95 during the late afternoon rush hour. Indeed, Katsabanis posted a video on Instagram that shows him hurling the chain out of the sunroof. About 20 minutes later, Luciano saw the 15-second clip and began scanning the four lanes in front of him. -"I-95 was bumper-to-bumper," Luciano says. "Traffic was moving really slow, and I was looking out for it. Sure enough, the chain was sitting in one of the middle lanes."
He says he stopped his car, got out, and snatched the chain off the pavement. When he took it to a pawn shop to determine the value, he says he was told it was gold-plated copper. "It was faker than silicone titties," Luciano says. "When I called him out on -Instagram about the chain, Stitches blocked me."
A few days later, Katsabanis posted another short clip in which he shows up at the South Miami residence of "fan" Melissa Jackson. He pulls out a stack of hundred-dollar bills and hands it to Jackson. "You won the ten grand," he says. "This shit is real." A petite, olive-skinned girl in a yellow polo shirt and white jeans, Jackson jumps up and down with excitement. She takes the wad and hugs Katsabanis. "Thank you," she says.
The clip garnered 4,685 likes on Instagram and 706 comments, most of them flowery platitudes. For example, a user named lavitachallenge wrote, "awwww that's so generous of you. Wow I'm impressed 100%." Kid_retro93 wrote: "You're such a good person man."
In an interview with New Times in mid-August, Jackson reported the whole thing was a set-up arranged by a friend who knew Katsabanis. "He didn't give me the $10,000," she says. "He took it back and only gave me $100." Jackson complained that Katsabanis used her to win social media brownie points with his fans. "He put me on blast," Jackson adds. "When you talk to him, let him know that I said he didn't give me shit."
In late July, an anonymous blogger named Fake Watch Buster posted on Instagram a photo of Katsabanis with the word "fake" stamped across the gold Audemars Piguet watch the rapper is wearing. "Stitches with the terrible, low-end replica of Audemars Piguet," Fake Watch Buster wrote in his caption. "Burn it."
Then there's this: A day after meeting with New Times at the Coral Gables car dealership the Collection, Katsabanis posted a photo of him test-driving a Maserati. The caption read: "How you like my new toy?" But the Collection salesman who assisted Katsabanis, who did not want to be named, reported, "He didn't have the money for the down payment, so he did not get the car."
About four years ago, Katsabanis was on the top floor of a parking garage in West Kendall. Then 15 years old, he was dressed in a Boston Red Sox baseball cap, rosary beads, a red -T-shirt three sizes too big, and baggy jeans. A crude homemade tattoo spelling his name in cursive letters was etched along his left forearm. On a cell-phone video, he waved his arms wildly, pointing at the camera and jumping around while spitting out:
My name is Lil Phill,
Ain't nothin' Lil
He continued with profanity and -- though he was the size and age of a Little Leaguer -- rapped about his sexual prowess:
Bitches on my dick,
Just for the thrill,
I come up on the beat,
and rip it quick.
Miguel Segarra Jr., another 19-year-old aspiring rapper, says that back then, Katsabanis -- Lil Phill -- was known for showing up at different schools to battle other teenaged lyricists. "A lot of people didn't like him, but I respect his grind," says Segarra, who recently made a song with Katsabanis."Despite all the hate he got, he kept pushing."
Born on June 17, 1995, Phillip Katsabanis is the youngest of three brothers in a family of Cuban and Greek descent. He was barely 1 year old when his parents, Esther and Alexander, broke up. It was a bitter split. According to public records, Esther filed for divorce on March 28, 1996 and eventually won a permanent restraining order against her estranged husband. At the time, the family lived in North Miami Beach.