Danny Brown’s outsider rap protégé ZelooperZ

Insane in the membrane

See 30 photos from the album release party

Walter Williams, who performs under the name ZelooperZ, is coming up hard. Fader, Complex, XXL, and dozens of dedicated hip-hop sites have been flipping out on his unique style ever since he bum-rushed some verses on his friend and mentor Danny Brown’s “Kush Coma” in 2013. Just the other week, i-D magazine referred to the 6-foot-7 rapper as “the Björk-loving rapper redefining Detroit’s sound.” So as the 21 year-old marijuana enthusiast and prolific visual artist readies the Bruiser Brigade member’s debut album, Bothic, anticipation is understandably high.

Williams’ eclectic work is joyously fucked-up, loud, hyper, and meant to annoy old people. It’s also original, while not pretending to not be influenced by Brown’s hyperkinetic avant-garde style. The ZelooperZ 2014 online mixtape HELP turned a lot of heads, but Bothic is leagues beyond it. If it doesn’t result in Williams being crowned the next big thing out of Detroit in the form of a big check, then there is no justice in the world. The colorful, kinetic video for his “ISBD” (short for “I Should Be Dead”) has a quarter of a million views within a month of its release — no small feat for an underground artist.

In advance of his release party at the Loving Touch in Ferndale on Friday, Feb. 19, Metro Times caught up with the charismatic, lanky dude over email.

Metro Times: To get two of the more boring questions out of the way at first, what's "Bothic," the title of your about-to-be-released album, mean, if anything? And your name, ZelooperZ, where'd that come from?

ZelooperZ: "Bothic" is bruiser gothic. Bothic is a term used to explain the way I felt when making this project, and an expression of an art form. A word me and the homies use to express a dark situation but also allowing yourself to see the light in it. Last shall be first. Z is the being the last and first letters and everything that comes around goes around in a full circle – a looper lesson life has taught me. 

MT: Where are you from in Detroit, what part of town, and where do you stay these days?

ZelooperZ: I'm from the west side. I currently live all over Detroit.

MT: What effect did your appearance on Danny Brown's 2013 song "Kush Coma" have on your career/life?

ZelooperZ: My first song with Brown, and my first time ever being on an official album, and we made a classic. When he first told me it was going on his album, I was ecstatic. When "Kush Coma" came about, it was my record at first. I didn't even really notice how good the hook was till Danny came to notice it. The first time I ever was on a plane then landed in New York for the first time, and playing a show for the first time, he told me that he was using the song for his album, and that A$AP Rocky would be on it. Shit happened so fast and I was so high making the song; it was too hype. That was icy as fuck.

MT: What are you listening to this week, and why?

ZelooperZ: I been hella busy listening to my own shit this week getting ready for the release, but catch me on some Lil Uzi Vert or Maxo Kream. Future just dropped "Go to the Moon," so I got a fire rotation with Fredo Santana — better play it smart right now for currents.

MT: What's your relationship with Danny Brown like? Is it true that he became aware of your work because you bugged him on Twitter?

ZelooperZ: Brown is my big homie when it comes to the music part; he always promotes my way of going about things, but will also always let me know when I'm fucking up. He's been there since I dropped my first project. Might wanna use the phrase "music sensei" to describe him.

MT: The spoken intro to your album thanks both your mom and nephew. I take it your family is supportive of your creative work?

ZelooperZ: My mom has always been there for me with all my aspirations in life. But with my music and art careers, she goes crazy for me. And my nephew is always leaving me messages. He's 3 now so he getting on my damn nerves. He's too funny.  MT: Would you characterize marijuana as part of your creative process, or just something that chills you out?

ZelooperZ: Weed is a part of my life, been that way since a kid. Always been around so when I get high and create music it puts me in my realm but I don't have to be high all the time to make music. Sometimes I be chill when I'm high. But I didn't smoke yesterday. And now I got the pack so I'm zooted as fuck, trying to send this interview.

MT: Outsiders might categorize Detroit hip-hop as either solidly boom bap or trap, but obviously there's a lot of diversity and rich originality from so many young artists today. In what way do you think your music represents/ references Detroit? Do you feel like you're part of a tradition?

ZelooperZ: No. I'm not a part of a tradition of Detroit rap. But I live here and talk about what I been through, and know life as through my eyes so I live in it.

MT: The other day you wrote on Twitter, "if you want a painting before I drop my album dm me now," and obviously you've sold a bit of original art online, via Twitter. Are people still taking you up on that offer? How much for that black and white abstract you recently posted?

ZelooperZ: I'm a hustler. It's in my blood, so yeah I know how to talk. That was just [worded that way] because my album will give another piece of art to the puzzle. It would be smart before I stop giving it away for the low, but I'm just trying to get my art out there and people appreciate it now so a painting that's 10x10 would be $200. That 16x20 that I posted woulda been $400 if I still had it. But after I sell the original I always get a request for something like it. I'm always busy sending shit out.

MT: Say you run into your favorite teacher from school, and they ask about your work, what you're up to now. How do you describe it to them?

ZelooperZ: If I run into any of my art teachers I'm pulling my PayPal up and my Instagram to show 'em what I sold; that's the stunt.

MT: What's your creative process like? Are you making music all the time? Do melodies and phrases get stuck in your head?

ZelooperZ: Make music like I make art. Art is my church. What's real gets stuck in my head and what's really hilarious but real gets stuck in my head. I'm always fucking with all different types of ways to go about creating music. just the different mediums in art.

MT: What's next, what's in store, what's in the future for you?

ZelooperZ: I just got my passport, so you know we overseas trapping with it. I can't wait to tour.

MT: Do you have anything special planned for the album release party?

ZelooperZ: Gonna be a fun night. Lots planned. Gonna give away a painting

That would be icy: a ZelooperZ painting for the free ball. Last time I did that shit, I did it in the wrong manner. I threw a painting out to an enraged crowd, and they tore that shit up in pieces, took it home, sent me the pics like little savages. I love them though, but yeah I'll bring pieces.

ZelooperZ performs on Friday, Feb. 19 at the Loving Touch; Doors at 8 p.m.; 22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-820-5596; $10 in advance, $12 day of show, all ages.