Zuluzuluu's Greg Grease on his new solo album, his love for the Mississippi River — and what it means to be a WZRD


Greg Grease is a wizard.

As one-sixth of the Minneapolis nouveau-funk collective Zuluzuluu, the 31-year-old MC and drummer helps concoct heady cauldrons of afro-futurist flavors, drawing from Prince, West Coast synths, and a modern hip-hop sensibility. 

Grease and the Zuluus are all wizards, though he and his compatriots in esoterica spell it “WZRD.” And the meaning isn’t always easy to pin down, even for him. “Man, it can mean a lot of different things, y’know?” Grease said.

“I’m trying to think of a way to explain it without just getting more into that like ‘it’s all about alchemy and science…’” Grease laughs. “But it is, though!” 

A “WZRD,” he says, is someone who can adapt to any surrounding, who can make something out of nothing.

“WZRD” isn’t their only shared vernacular among Zuluzuluu. The word “matrix” gets thrown around a lot, too. It’s also a versatile term. It can be the city of Minneapolis itself or the hyper-connected world.

And when Grease gets too worked into the matrix, the signals can be too much for him to process. So he escapes to the nearest farthest place he can: the Mississippi River. 

“Ever since I was young I’ve always kind of been a loner,” Grease said. “So I would like always hop on my bike and just bike down to the river and walk around there by myself. And then as I got older I found more people that liked to do the same thing. So that’s how I spend most of my time in the summer when I’m not doing music or working.”

Down by the riverside, everything comes to pass – even the headaches caused by the mixed signals and crossed wires of the matrix. On his recent track, “Migraine,” Grease hits out at the people and distractions that would drag him beneath the surface. Over a dense, slogging beat that feels a bit like being underwater, Grease drawls out the last word of each line: “They trying to drag you through the mud/ drown you in a flood/ trying to kick you like rug/ trying to take your plug/ only pretending like you buds/ so they can come up/ claiming to give you a hand up/ only to leave you slumped.”

The time Grease spends by the river might seem like he’s on furlough, but he contends it’s about work. “If I was on vacation all the time I’d have vacation music, or party music,” he said. “I don’t party, though…”

While Grease can make songs that get crowds moving, the majority of the music he makes is designed for slow cars or solo bike rides. It’s introspective headphone music that helps him — and his listeners — to reflect.

full story at MinnPost


This is 40: Muja Messiah on his relentless grind and hip-hop family

Muja Messiah’s rap career began when—well, actually, the veteran Minneapolis rapper has a couple different answers to that question.

His crew Raw Villa came on the scene way back in 2000, and while sitting down with me at his St. Paul studio space, Muja says that if he finds himself arguing with a younger rapper, “I might be like, ‘Young buck, shut up—I’ve been doing this for 20 years.” Really, though, he says he didn’t properly start pursuing his music career until around the time of his 2014 album, God Kissed It, the Devil Missed It, which features what still might be his most essential song, “Northside Nightmares.”

“That’s where I had a plan of attack,” Muja says. “I had a focus. I had a team around me. Prior to then, it was just, ‘Let me go in, look at my notebook, and spit a verse over the beat.’”

Now 40, Muja is working as hard as ever and, with a pair of new EPs coming out soon, produced by New York indie-rap heavyweight Roc Marciano—Saran Rap and MPLS Massacre Vol. 2—he’s making some of the best music of his career. Over the years, Muja has developed a style that distinguishes him from many of his Minneapolis peers, especially introspective rhymers like Slug and conscious MCs like Brother Ali. Muja’s songs tend to be street-oriented and focused on all manner of hustling, but he’s also incisive about race and politics—and wickedly funny too.

full story at City Pages




Greg Grease - Down So Long -stream

The working title for rapper Greg Grease’s third album was So What—as in, that’s how he imagined people might react to music that didn’t serve as an escape from these dark times. But for Grease, “escape” is not the solution. Inspired by artists like Common, Goodie Mob, and even Curtis Mayfield, the forthcoming album, now titled Down So Long is a challenge to Grease himself—and to hip-hop at large—to keep sight of why they might seek that escapism in the first place. It’s also a reminder of why Grease has been a reliable voice in Minneapolis music over the past five years. He continues to embody the underdog perspective, similar to scene king Atmosphere, for whom he will open on tour later this year. Down So Long also features Grease’s bandmates in futuristic funk outfit ZULUZULUU; the end result, which Grease is still tweaking, is ambitious in both its lyrics and instrumentation, another potent salvo from an enlightened artist.