Pretty much everything in music has a precursor or precedent. Even all the sounds dominating Hip-Hop now, like DJ Mustard's “ratchet” sound or Atlanta's new bizarro-trap bounce, have an easily traceable lineage. But, every so often an artist comes along that throw's a wrench in that machine's cog. In this case, it's Detroit rapper and Danny Brown affiliate ZelooperZ.
ZelooperZ — whose normal identity is 20-year-old Walter Williams — was declared in an XXL feature to be “hip-hop's most promising act of 2014.” As an emcee, he's a spastic sound stylist who is equal parts dexterous and demonic, and he evades any conventional rhyme or reason in his songs. If hip-hop was physical boxing as opposed to a lyrical sport, ZelooperZ would be the physical incarnation of a crossing between the Mike Tyson character in Punch-Out!! and the Tyson that chewed on Evander Holyfield's ear. Over the phone though, the young upstart is a far cry from the restless savage he portrays on songs.
“I'm an artist,” says the 20-year-old over the phone. At the moment he sounds unbelievably calm and reserved, despite the fact that he's in the middle of playing the supporting role on Danny Brown's massive “Old” tour. “I do music because of the art, I love to create.”
As a less-than-fortunate kid growing up in Detroit, Williams was always in an environment that promoted passion for some form of art. He's been drawing and painting since he was a kid. He grew up in a household where everyone in his family freestyled and his stepfather constantly played various forms of rap music such as old-school west coast hip-hop like E-40. Having come up as a kid in that environment, the pull of art and music was inescapable.
“Growing up in a household around music just really made me want to rap,” he says.
His inclination to rap caused him to create such oddly-titled projects such as Coon N The Room: Eating Ramen Noodles While Watching Roots on Bootleg, and his artistically-disposed mindset ended up leaving him with gonzo creations that sounded more like an abstract piece of rhythmic lyrical warfare than straight-forward rap.
“It's one of those things that just comes out,” he says when describing his style. “It's one of those more pure feelings.”
His purer, less-planned approach worked though, as it caught the attention of Detroit's sovereign eccentric Danny Brown and his Bruiser Brigade crew.
“Danny listened to my music off the internet, but the Bruiser Brigade dudes always had their ear to the streets and they fucked with me cause I was a young dude doing something like they had. They basically messed with me just for being myself.”
Williams would go on to link up with Brown's Bruiser Brigade and do the hook for Danny Brown's ASAP Rocky collaboration “Kush Coma,” which brings him to where he is now: on tour as direct support for Danny Brown on all dates of his current tour.
“We get along like crazy. We're on tour right now and and I feel like this is the best shit ever,” he says. “Everyone's getting ecstatic about me just being on tour, and I'm receiving good feedback from fans and I feel like they're excited for what's in store for the project and stuff.”
An upcoming album entitled HELP is already completed and expected to be released sometime soon. “Plateau” is the first cut to be liberated from the project, and the maniacal track prompted tastemaker FADER to draw comparisons between the rise of unorthodox Atlanta upstart Young Thug and Williams, asking “Could ZelooperZ be the Young Thug of Detroit?” Williams himself stated in his XXL piece that many compare him to a “young ODB,” aligning himself with another historically-offbeat but successful character in hip-hop's canon.
However, as far as what comes next, the creatively-unpredictable rapper is more guarded. “Stay tuned,” he states.
ZelooperZ performs this Sunday at the Observatory as part of Danny Brown's “OLD” tour. All ages, $20. For full details, click here.