Between 2019 and 2021, Detroit rapper ZelooperZ released six albums — three in 2020 alone. His fans were satiated with his Get WeT.Radio and Might Not Make It tapes, but nonetheless sought out a full-length followup to the stellar Van Gogh’s Ear. Thankfully, ZeelooperZ appeared out of nowhere last week with Microphone Fiend, a 16-track exhibition of excellence.
In an Instagram post about the project, he wrote that it “took a lot from me to create and I felt like I died a couple times.” Cathartic energy permeates the record, but it doesn’t radiate through resilient anthems or morose brooding; it’s hammered home in the intensity of songs like album intro “Climate Change,” where he darts over coronation-ready production crafted by go-to producer Dilip and Chuck Inglish, then churns through their caustic beat switch. Most MCs would be satisfied with riding one of the cadences Zeloopers offers here, but he gets off several in just three minutes.
That ingenuity is what fans have come to expect from the Detroit rapper who first started rapping in 2012 and steadily gained traction across the 2010s after signing to Danny Brown’s Bruiser Brigade. Much like Brown, ZelooperZ embraces leftfield techniques and textures in his expression. His vocal pyrotechnics are on full tilt throughout this latest project; on “Bustin Jieber,” he squeakily riffs through melodic flows and complex pockets with ease. He takes a different approach on “Tweakin N Geekin,” where he furiously stacks up bars on the same rhyme scheme — replete with a reverse bar of Missy Elliott’s “Work It” style that perfectly fits the rest of the verse. On the stilted “Arybyz,” he shows remnants of the landslide-like “DMV flow,” while he sounds downright delirious on “Outta Key(s) lalalalala.”
But beyond just his flow, or his technical prowess, or the boundlessness of his voice, it’s about how he puts it all together; ZelooperZ’s key trait is his ambition. No one song is like the next on Microphone Fiend, which was co-crafted by a cadre of producers who give him a canvas of disparate moods to unfurl his elastic flow over. “Demon N Deities” is a smooth soul sample crafted by Kharri and Dilip, where he goes back and forth with an alter-ego, giving the high-pitched, double-timed rhyming miscreant frenetic percussion before dropping the hi-hats and letting the sample shine unimpeded as he rhymes, “Niggas mad at me, I’m inventive and they late.” It wasn’t enough to rap back and forth with himself; he had to give the “other” voice its own beat.
It’s in these moments that listeners understand the studio as a refuge from the “pain” he discussed in his Instagram post. With every blustering verse and creative flourish, you feel the exertion of a master under duress, embracing pressure as his artistic oasis. One listen to Microphone Fiend, and you ponder how many times he and his collaborators asked, “What if we try X?” over the course of its creation. As Tyler, The Creator recently raved, rappers are many things, but most fans hope that in their hearts, they’re simply Microphone Fiends who love the craft of rapping. ZelooperZ is undoubtedly that.