When John Sievers put out the call to area musicians for a photo op, the turnout was great. One new face showed up that we wondered about, though – Zaire Huruku, a Minneapolis-dwelling rapper and singer with plans to take over the state’s music scene, starting with Rochester. We chopped it up with Hurkuku over e-mail and came away with some wisdom.
-How should people be pronouncing your name and what does it mean?
It’s very simple. Zaire is pronounced zah-eer. Zaire is the Portuguese interpretation of the Kikongo word “nzere,” which means river that swallows all rivers. Zaire is also the former name of my country, now called Republic Democratic of Congo (RDC). To me, Zaire is a reminder of my roots and where I come from. I was born Zairois before the war and name change. Since I haven’t been to my country in such a long time I decided to take Zaire as my name, even though I knew it was going to cause some controversy. At first people didn’t approve of the name because it was associated with a dictator president. But I didn’t see it that way. I wanted to bring back that fiesta that my country was known for, when Muhammad Ali fought against George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle, and James Brown performed in Kinshasa, which were legendary moments in history.
The name is my way of embracing my country and the identity that I long lost. I was attracted to the meaning of it, because I see my sound flooding the scene like a river.
Huruku is a word I created myself by combining the land of my grandparents, Rutshuru, and the last name my parents passed on to me. Now I’m known as Zaire Huruku, that good fella, or simply Rafiki (friendly in Swahili).
-How would you describe your music to someone?
My music draws on influences from my past in Africa and my present in America, translated into my own style and lingo, with that Zairois swag. If I had to describe my music to someone, I would call it Afro Trap R&B. It doesn’t fit into any one genre, so I had to create my own. I speak the language of the streets, and of wise men and storytellers.
-What has it been like as a new artist coming into the Rochester music scene?
It’s very challenging to be an upcoming artist trying to break into the scene. You get a lot of people telling you a lot of different things. Quite often you’re not sure if they’re guiding you in the right direction.
I’ve mostly been working with artists in the Saint Paul/Minneapolis area as well as overseas, but I’m looking to break into the Rochester scene, because that’s where my family is, and I lived there for many years.
-Who do you hope to collaborate with from Rochester?
I will collaborate with whoever doesn’t feel threatened by my talent. I truly believe I’m one of Minnesota’s finest upcoming artists. I always enjoy creating with other artists who have as much passion and drive for music as I do. So if anyone wants collaborate or share a stage with me, I’m open. I’m looking forward to learning beautiful things that involve music. I’m ready to take Minnesota by storm.
-What motivates you to write something new?
I freestyle every day, and I play with words a lot. Music just takes over me all the time. I can’t seem to stop. It’s like I’m obsessed with it. Sometimes I dream about tunes and wake up and record them before I forget. I’ve always been inspired by a lot of Reggae, Zouk, and Afrobeat artists, and some UK and French hip-hop has really moved me to write more. When I listen to a beat, I get into this zone and just go for it.
-What are five songs you are really into at the moment by artists other than yourself?
Mad Over You by Runtown
Successful by Runtown
Bo Tia Na Se by Marshall Dixon
Coolest Kid in Africa by Davido
Ready or Not by The Fugees
-What five songs of yours should people be listening to first?
People should listen to my song “Anywhere” because it’s very special to me. It was featured on the site AfricanWorldStar.
I have a new song called “Born to Do It” that I’ll be releasing soon, featuring DJ, aka Dylan, who is a local Saint Paul rapper, produced by MO:SUNN.