Most of the time when we talk about what it takes to be a great musician we focus heavily on the actual creation of the music. Sure, we may get more specific; differentiating between production, recording, and sound engineering—but we typically focus on moving forward and creating that masterpiece waiting to happen. This ignores a critical facet of music making: sharing it with the world.
If there’s anyone who understands the art of the release, it’s the enigmatic figure known as Zhero. He avoids the usual trappings of online self-promotion in favor of an impossibly original concept that has set his persona apart. The truly genius idea behind his online presence is that Zhero doesn’t tweet from his own Twitter account, passing this responsibility off to his equally mysterious handlers. This team of handlers conduct interviews and post music in Zhero’s name. They act as his guardians as well as his message-bearers.
In anticipation of his first full-length project, Zhero released three singles, each tagged as a part of a series of ‘private files.’ These tracks are full of the kind of dense, dexterous rhymes that live up to such an interesting public image. Complementing the skilled rapping are memorable choruses that show off an impressive ear for melody and production that only enhances the significance of the rest.
Along with the singles, Zhero has uploaded three promotional videos of uniformly somber tone. The first in the series is presented as a personal confession; divulging his innermost thoughts to the viewer. The second makes the viewer privy to a private phone call between Zhero and an unnamed recipient in which he reveals his intentions to run away in hopes of finding this person. The third is a tense visual that has him first running away and then being found and taken back into the custody of his handlers, face obscured.
All of his handlers’ efforts so far have been in support of the release of his debut Growing Pains EP, a thoroughly despondent project that showcases even more of the nuanced mastery of sound and subject matter than was apparent on previous releases. Every track works towards the overall intended effect—with January 10th serving to greatly clarify the storyline behind the project and Prayers featuring some of the most accomplished rapping on the EP. The instrumental song Lonely Daze does as much to establish the mood of the project as the trio of compelling skits do. It’s rare that a debut release proves to be so cohesive and assured, but it’s clear that Zhero and his handlers know just what they’re doing.