Cleveland Native Ezri Rises in Hip-Hop, Headlines Brite Winter
Ezri Walker grew up in Cleveland and began rapping at an early age. By 11, his family realized he had talent and encouraged him to take music seriously, like a job. His mom even began arranging him studio time to work on his craft.
“She started booking me sessions,” Ezri said. “Knowing they were coming up… pressured me to like make more music, that way I had stuff to record when I went there.”
Then Ezri started catching some breaks. As a teenager, he performed at a Drake concert. At that time, he went by Ezzy.
“When you start off small every little thing feels like a big break,” he said.
Ezri also caught viral attention with a freestyle on the satellite radio show, “Sway in the Morning.” The video of his performance has millions of views on YouTube.
Now 22 years old, Ezri is part of Nas’ record label, Mass Appeal, and playing shows around the country. His growing resume holds acting credits, too, for the TV show “Empire” and the film “The Land,” a Cleveland story. He is pursuing both career paths, going on acting auditions and releasing new songs this spring.
“I’ve probably like written the majority of my songs about living on Detroit Avenue in Cleveland on the West Side," he said.
His home base is now Los Angeles, but Ezri lets people know he is from Cleveland as that is an important part of who he is.
Ezri's latest music is about the “ups and downs of life,” he said.
Ezri returns to Cleveland on Saturday to play Brite Winter, which features 40 bands of various genres for a day of outdoor music on the west bank of the Flats. As the free festival marks its 10th anniversary, Ezri is the first hip-hop headliner to date.
View from a previous Brite Winter music festival in Cleveland. [Brite Winter]
“Ezri is the perfect combination of homegrown talent and a national artist,” said Emily Hornack, a co-founder of Brite Winter. While she knows Ezri has a core local fan base, she said Brite also tries to expose people to music outside of their comfort zones.
“We really want people who might not get those hip-hop recommendations through Spotify or whatever, we want them to see the talent and hear the talent coming out of that genre, and especially out of the genre in Cleveland,” Hornack said.