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France's Ze Gran Zeft teams up with Mopreme Shakur on '#Millennialkids'
The southern French city of Toulon - which sits on the Mediterranean around 40 miles east of Marseilles - is home to a naval base, a tram and a handful of museums. Despite its varied cultural amenities, the city of around 160,000 people has never had much of a music scene.
Toulon-born rock band Ze Gran Zeft emerged from this musical wasteland and has released two EPs, toured Europe, and has worked with some of the biggest names in music such as Mopreme Shakur ("Thug Life: Vol. 1," "Dear Mama, R U Still Down? [Remember Me]") and Charles "Kallaghan" Massabo ("Just Like You").

Shakur - who is the older half-brother of legendary rapper, producer and actor Tupac Shakur ("2Pacalypse Now," "All Eyez on Me," Poetic Justice, Above the Rim) - laid down 16 bars of lyrics on ZGZ's single '#Millennialkids.'

"We would never have thought we could write a song with a Shakur one day," said ZGZ bassist Sideman. "We have a song with one of the most important family members of hip-hop history."

ZGZ, which describes itself as a mix of crunk, hip-hop and rock, consists of Sideman, lead vocalist and guitarist Boots, and drummer The Kid. The group works as a rock band but with a hip-hop approach. The trio creates the beats and instrumentals first before writing hooks and the chorus.

"We create a vibe," Boots said. "We just fool around until we reach the positive vibe to create and record a track."

The band used that vibe when it recorded 10 tracks for the EPs "Watch the Crown" and "Crunked Vizion" in 2012. Massabo produced and mixed both EPs at The Hobby Shop recording studios, which is owned and operated by Scott Gilman (Frank Black, Wires in the Walls, Paramount Pictures) and Andrew Murdrock (Lou Barlow, Jango Bates, The Riverboat Gamblers).

The band magnificently blends 80s-style synths with modern rock and hip hop, which creates the signature sound they've come to be known for over the last five years.

"We like the 80s vibe before grunge came out." Boots said. "But we are also huge fans of 90s music, and that paradox is ZGZ's main direction - the crossover."

The group formed when The Kid met Boots at a band contest in 2009. Soon after, The Kid introduced Sideman to ZGZ. The trio has been seamlessly producing music ever since.

"Have you ever eaten a warm croissant during a trip to France?" Boots said about ZGZ's chemistry. "This is kind of new for you, but then you feel the pleasure and feel instantly that this is the right thing to do at this exact moment."

Charles "Kallaghan" Massabo, a French producer and songwriter currently based in Los Angeles, first began working with ZGZ back in 2010 and he has produced all of ZGZ's albums and EPs since, including their upcoming full-length "JOI," which will be released this year.

Kallaghan has written Billboard-charting music for genre-spanning bands such as post-hardcore rock group Falling in Reverse ("The Drug in Me is You," "Fashionably Late," "Just Like You") and synth-pop band Metro Station ("Metro Station," "Savior"). Falling in Reverse's 'Just Like You' reached 21 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

Kallaghan hooked the band up with former Falling in Reverse guitarist Jacky C. Vincent to collaborate on ZGZ's song 'Spaceman,' which was released last year and features a powerful guitar solo played by the English shredder.

In 2013, ZGZ toured Europe with rockers Dirty Shirt ("Dirtylicious," "Very Dirty," "Same Shirt Different Day"). The Romanian band won "Best Romanian Act: Metal" at the 2014 Maximum Rock Awards and earned second place at the Wacken Metal Battle the same year.

"We love these guys, and we had the greatest time ever over there," Boots said about touring with Dirty Shirt.

With the album "JOI" ready for release, ZGZ plans to showcase their newest album's unique crossover sound, which bridges hip hop and rock with a modern feel, to the world.

"Our first objective is to go on a big tour to introduce people to the next iconic band of the generation," said Boots. "As we use to say in French, l'union fait la force (united we stand)."

While fans across Europe are already fully aware of ZGZ energetic and innovative sound, the band hopes to bring the album to the US in the near future.

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