Why He’s Interesting: The Cleveland rapper formerly known as Ezzy blew up hip-hop’s corners of the internet in 2015 with his acrobatic, emotional and motivational five-minute freestyle on Shade 45’s Sway In The Morning. Since then, Ezri Walker has signed a record deal with Nas’ label Mass Appeal, headlined the Flats’ Brite Winter music festival and parlayed his magnetism into a successful acting career with a role on Empire.
Morning Shot: Ezri’s 2015 Sway In The Morning freestyle went viral overnight with 3.3 million views on YouTube, but he almost didn’t make it to the show — he missed his flight and had to drive to New York City. “It’s hard to convince your parents to let you drop out of college to pursue music full-time when you’re doing it at such a low-level. The Sway freestyle propelled everything.”
Land Lines: Cleveland-native director Steven Caple Jr., who went on to direct Creed II, scouted Ezri for his movie The Land. “He felt like if I could transfer the charisma I had in the freestyle he saw into acting, I would be able to fit the role in his movie. That film propelled my music career because Nas worked on that soundtrack and subsequently signed me.”
’Hood Drama: While on the set of Cherish the Day, an upcoming Oprah Winfrey Network anthology series that follows a different couple each season, working with creator Ava DuVernay has inspired the budding actor. “Ava is really down to earth and makes you feel like you’re supposed to be there. That really keeps me humble in my own success.”
Big City: Ezri wants his music to be a blueprint for success. “It’s about getting up and getting it. Grinding. Doing what you love to do. The underdog coming out on top. I want to show the starting and finish line. I want to motivate people who have been in less fortunate circumstances in Cleveland, West Side or East Side, and are still struggling to make it day to day.”
Momma’s Boy: Ezri’s mother booked his first studio sessions when he was 11. After she beat breast cancer in 2018, Ezri celebrated with the triumphant track “Bald.” “The song is really about the trials of going through that with my mom and the aggression of dealing with that but coming out successful. She made it easy as a son because she was so strong and confident.”
Three and Out
What’s inspiring you in life right now?
Having a child on the way on April 29 is motivating me to go harder.
What piece of advice would you give your teenage self?
Do what you love and not feel like you have to conform to whatever traditional society makes you feel like you have to do.
What’s the one thing people don’t know about you?
I studied fashion at Kent State University, so I love looking at clothes. My favorite brand is Ralph Lauren because that’s a staple.