The mothership connection

ZuluZuluu takes listeners on an intergalactic journey to the planet of funk

Members of local funk and hip-hop group ZuluZuluu rehearse in a basement practice space on Monday night.

Lisa Persson

Members of local funk and hip-hop group ZuluZuluu rehearse in a basement practice space on Monday night.

Grant Tillery

Rising Minneapolis rapper Greg Grease said he communes with extraterrestrial buddies and they told him to form ZuluZuluu.

“These aliens came from outer space, and they were like, ‘Yo, ZuluZuluu is the future,’” Grease said.

Grease is the frontman of ZuluZuluu, and the rest of the group is comprised of a mix of Minneapolis DJs and beatmakers. DJ Just Nine, MPC maven Trelly Mo, producer Mychal Fisher, bassist Elliot Surber and keyboardist Taylor Johnson make up the crew that is embarking on an interplanetary musical excursion.

The group’s discography is next to nonexistent. They’ve dropped one track on SoundCloud, the slow burner “Let It Go.” It’s cerebral with lush keys and a booming bass that parallel the futurism of Digable Planets and OutKast. A funky synthesizer solo serves as the tune’s outro, and its plaintive wah-wah’s are straight from Funkadelic’s guitar playbook. The similarity is striking enough for Eddie Hazel to smile from his grave.

The group’s sound is peppered with everything from gospel testimonies — Grease and Johnson both grew up playing gospel — to Japanese musical influences.

“I was born and raised [in Japan] until I was about 9,” DJ Just Nine said. “I wasn’t into music a whole lot when I was that young.”

DJ Just Nine’s father, however, was a professional musician. And Grease, Trelly Mo and Fisher all have family members who gigged. Trelly Mo’s uncle was Prince’s longtime drummer, and his aunt is a singer.

ZuluZuluu grew up listening to the Minneapolis Sound, and Mo said the group is a natural evolution.

“It’s a blessing to be a part [of] and witness from a young age the Minneapolis Sound develop,” Mo said. “It’s a melting pot … [and] people’s minds can always go back to a good picture and notice how [they] felt in that time. That’s what ZuluZuluu’s about, man. It’s time to paint the picture and capture this moment of creativity.”

At the heart of ZuluZuluu’s sound is blackness, Grease said. And the crew doesn’t shy away from describing their sound as that. For them, blackness connotes a richness of sound, soul and a celebration of the musicians’ roots.

“There’s so many different emulations of black excellence that [the color] doesn’t give any true representation or respect to the arbiters or originators of it,” Grease said. “I’m trying to pay homage to the ancestors, as well as carry the torch and inspire younger kids and my peers to be happy about who [they] are and go hard.”

The belief in blackness rubbed off onto ZuluZuluu’s name. Grease latched onto a play between the words “black” and “Zulu” because of their loaded nature.

“When I [thought] of Zulu growing up, I thought of powerful black imagery,” Grease said. “Saying the word ‘black’ is so cool right now. It’s edgy; there’s lots of power in [it]. A lot of people like to talk about it; a lot of people don’t like to talk about it.”

What ZuluZuluu keeps mum about is their upcoming album. While the band alluded to an abundance of possible tracks, there’s no track list written out and no release date set — that’ll happen when the proper cosmic forces align.

“It depends on what the aliens tell us to do,” Grease said. “We don’t like to define anything. We’re just waiting for the elements to communicate and see what happens.”

 

ZuluZuluu with “D.O.A.”
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Loring Park, Minneapolis
Cost: Free