In his video for “Plateau,” a song produced by Bruiser Brigade bredrin’ Matrax and made to pummel you into musical submission through blaring-horned gravity, there belies a clever musicality. Within the chaos of sounds he makes you look for it. But it winds its way through concepts as dense as urban decay and the false promise of American middle class security. No wonder, as hailing from Detroit gave him a front row view on the air being slowly sucked out of a once great metropolis. Similar, in that way, to any city that serves as an American version of The Land That Time Forgot. As such, Help is itself a passionate rebuff to the crumbling infrastructure of his hometown while simultaneously encapsulating the depressing wildness of it. And if 70s New York has anything to say about it, it’s that wildness wherein creativity manifests itself. It uses a mashup of influences to accomplish this. Louisiana “bounce,” and ounces of “Drill” and “Trap” and “Dancehall,” references to Radiohead, nods to the Blues, and the Santeria of ZelooperZ himself. But it is not without its challenges. At the front of that is its manic nature.
The 17-track project runs the gamut on industro-hop, if that were ever to be a thing. It’s jarring and maladaptive, running concrete where one typically expects velvet. The instrumentation is sparse and destructive. Tracks like “Blackberry,” and “Isolation” purposely give off an air of menace. And that voice. High pitched isn’t quite the word for it. He wields it as both an eraser and enhancer of the sounds jaggedly encircling you like Darkseid’s Omega Beams. It makes the spaces when he is not experimenting with his register a “Turn-Down-For-What” sort of moment. But it brings the feeling of his movement to a succinct repackaging for the nether regions of the tape. Speaking of movement, that’s precisely how this project behaves. It has been constructed so tightly, at times, that you can feel your throat squeeze from claustrophobia as the choked vibrato twirls above you. And it has genuine standouts in “El Chupacabruh,” which deftly weaves “In It’s Right Place” through back alleyways of malfunctioning two way radios, the aforementioned “Plateau,” “Thunda Cats” featuring Danny Brown — one of the few features on the entire project, as well as “Dungeon Alive,” and “I’m So Sad” where he makes the transition from Rap futurist to a lonely young urbanist who’s experienced much-too-much for a 21 year old.
This is where the tape shows cracks it did not itself create, however. Both the first half and second half of the 17 productions does what it sets out to do quite well, but it is as an entire stark storyboard that it stumbles a bit. It is a cacophony of imagery that never quite settles into a complete picture. Maybe this is the point of the almost flawless production, where Matrax handles almost half the songs, or maybe this is where Ze’s youth comes back to haunt him. Whatever the case, it is a standout debut from the young song-maker. And although songs like “Blackberry,” “Mosquitos,” (where he tries the Migos flow) “Statue,” and “Isolation” fall short of their intended destination, Help evokes both the youth of “Tonight Shows,” “your bitch gon’ let me fuck tonight” and despondence of “Hit A Lick” shawled in the turn-up generations optimistic dismay.