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ZelooperZ never intended to become a rapper. Unlike some MCs who knew they wanted to spit rhymes before they were allowed to cross the street on their own, the 20-year-old lyricist born Walter Williams, didn't find his calling until he was halfway through high school. While attending the Detroit School of Arts, ZelooperZ, who initially went to study drawing, stopped rapping over beats pounded out by friends on lunch tables and hopped into a booth.
After honing his skills, he dropped his first mixtape Coon N the Room: Eating Ramen Noodles While Watching Roots on Bootleg in 2011, which showcased his gritty lyricism and distinct perspective of the 313. Following its release, ZelooperZ linked up with Danny Brown and the Bruiser Brigade, a move that has aided the process of his upcoming album HELP, which will be released tomorrow (June 13) on LiveMixtapes. Earlier today we premiered the video for the album's lead single, "Plataeu," (above) which features Z and Mr. Brown in their hometown.
Complex caught up with ZelooperZ earlier in the week to find out the story behind his Detroit upbringing, his early musical influences, and what it's like working with Danny Brown. Fresh off a national tour, ZelooperZ also shared his five essentials on the road.
Interview by Edwin Ortiz (@iTunesEra)
First off, tell me about growing up in Detroit.
I mean growing up is a learning experience, but growing up in Detroit is, of course, different from other places. It was kind of rough growing up as a kid. I ain’t get to have everything my friends had and we just moved a lot and shit, so it was kind of weird.
You moved around lot. Was that like a financial thing or—
Yeah, we got evicted a lot. One time, we had to stay at a Residence Inn for like two weeks. My grandpa had to end up paying for it and shit because we were homeless. I moved probably like 15 times in my life.
And sometimes, even on the same block. Like, two times I lived on the same block twice, around the corner from each other. I stayed in a couple hoods in Detroit, like on the Eastside and Westside too. I stayed all over Detroit basically.
With you moving around and having these rough experiences at home, I’m guessing it was probably a release for you to get into music. When did you start making music?
Well, at first I wasn’t recording. You know, beating on the table with your friends at the lunch table. But I started making music when I got to high school. I started going to [Detroit School of Arts] in 11th grade and they had a studio there. Initially, I was going for art because I used to draw and shit before music. I’d do anything that got me out the house, so when I got to high school I started recording songs.
Who were some of your influences?
E-40. A lot of West Coast music. Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, and Missy Elliott. Those artists mostly.
Was there a specific mixtape or album from those artists that you gravitated towards? For instance Lil Wayne, he released a ton of shit from the late ‘90s into the 2000s. Was there any specific project you enjoyed from him?
I like all the Gangster Grillz mixtapes. When Lil Wayne was in mixtape mode he was going crazy. Everybody knows Lil Wayne for his early mixtapes, so I fuck with Lil Wayne. But as far as how each of these artists inspired me, Lil Wayne always had bars.
Missy Elliot, from the shit that she sang, it was different— like, some of the shit you wouldn’t think of. E-40, some of the shit he would be coming up with, like the slang, I just liked that about him.
You released your first project, Coon n The Room: Eating Ramen Noodles While Watching Roots on Bootleg, in late 2011. Tell me about that first experience of really getting into the studio and putting a whole project together.
It was new to me, so I was just recording and just trying to make songs. I was in between my mom’s house and my homie’s house at the time. I forgot where this dude stayed, somewhere outside of Detroit, but he used to come scoop me up to record. Some of the songs just connected and some of the songs we didn’t put out, but I put together Coon N The Room from those sessions.
Two and a half years later and your album HELP is coming out. Tell me about the growth that’s taken places since releasing that first mixtape.
It’s been tremendous growth, because I was a kid then. I’m still young now, but I was really a kid, I was thinking in a kid’s mindstate. That was 2011; it’s 2014 now. I’ve been working on HELP since then. Having to face new problems and getting into the real world showed me a lot.
Along the path to HELP, you ended up hooking up with Danny Brown and the Bruiser Brigade. Tell me about working with Danny Brown, and what you’ve learned from him. Studio life, performing, maybe some tips he’s given you.
Danny Brown, he writes a lot, so he’s always telling me to write. He doesn’t just go to the studio and work; he works on his songs before and then he’ll make a trip to the studio. Performance-wise, he’s like, "know your limits," and "always push through them for the best performance each time." Because this better be the best time for first time viewers. He just tells me to go hard.
There’s a lot of energy behind your music, and there’s also a lot of aggression behind it. Where does that come from?
Well, I just know I’m not trying to be struggling, so that’s where the energy comes from. If you don’t want to be struggling no more, you better go hard. Most of the album, I’m writing in anger. In my raps I try to get angry because that’s how I feel. I really want to better my situation.
Tell me about working with A$AP Rocky on “Kush Coma.” That was a really good look for you.
Danny Brown set that up. One day he hit me when we were in New York for a show, and Brown had told me that “Kush Coma” was going on his album, and he said he was getting Rocky. I didn’t know if he had the verse yet, but he let me hear some of the song over the phone, and he told me Rocky was going to be on it. And that was it.
Speaking of performing, you recently just toured across the country on “The Old Danny Brown Tour.” Describe the experience of being on your first national tour.
Yeah, this was my first time actually going on tour like that. I got a chance to go on tour with Brown, and I had so much fun. It was probably one of the best moments of my life. It was just crazy, I don’t even know what to say. I can’t believe I’m back in Detroit right now. I told him like 50 times before I fucking left, “I ain’t trying to go back.” So hopefully I’ll be gone soon.
Now that you’ve experienced life on the road, what would you say are your five touring essentials?
Okay. One, water. Two, I would say exercise. Three, you’re going to need your sleep. Off top, you need the weed. Nah, I’m going to scratch the weed out and put drugs. I said four good ones already. I don’t even know about the fifth one. Oh, you need to eat too. That is essential.