Until recently, the Twin Cities collective now known as Astralblak fused together funk, soul, and hip-hop in fresh ways—under a different name. Initially performing as Zuluzuluu, inspired by the Zulu tribe of South Africa, they won City Pages’ Picked to Click, an annual poll of best new Twin Cities musical acts, in 2016. They toured last summer with local rap royalty Atmosphere, and were chosen by Minneapolis music legends Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to perform at this year’s Super Bowl Live.
So why change their identity with so much going right? “The name change really came out of us wanting to be respectful to the Zulu culture and Zulu tribe,” says vocalist and multi-instrumentalist MMYYKK. “We’re not directly connected to the Zulu tribe, so we wanted to have a name that was more encompassing in its narrative of blackness. Astralblak comes from an idea of the universal black experience, so it leaves room for other narratives.”
The group—which consists of MMYYKK, Proper-T, Greg Grease, DJ Just Nine, Art Parte, and Trelly Mo, each of whom is a producer and multi-instrumentalist—has roots that run back to childhood friendships. Through a mixtape, called The Cover Up, and a full-length album, What’s the Price?, Zuluzuluu articulated a powerful message mixing ruminations on the African-American experience with dreamy, philosophical visions.