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Shomari Daniels, AKA Zeetus Lapetus, Is Chicago’s Intergalactic Funk DJ

Written by on July 27, 2023

Shomari “Sho” Daniels, better known as DJ Zeetus Lapetus, captivates audiences with their intergalactic funk DJ sets and infectiously positive energy. A true jack of all trades, Daniels has carved a niche for themself in the local entertainment scene with a mix of sounds they call “space disco.”

Daniels’ journey into the world of music began in their childhood, when they were entranced by the euphoric beats of house music. Those early experiences left a lasting impact on them; as they grew older, Daniels found solace in music, appreciating its ability to raise spirits and inspire movement.

“I’ve always loved the feeling house music gives you,” they expressed. “It’s very … you know? Makes you want to dance, but it’s also uplifting and fun!”

Shomari Daniels by Ari Mejia/Vocalo Radio

Hailing from Richton Park, Illinois, just outside Chicago, Daniels moved to the bustling city in 2019 seeking more opportunities for artistic expression. They immersed themselves in Chicago’s vibrant DIY music scene, drawing inspiration from seasoned DJs like Casper Mcfadden and Ariel Zetina. When the pandemic hit and isolation took a toll on Daniels’ mental well-being, they sought refuge in music and discovered a new passion for DJing.

Teaching themself the craft through online tutorials, Daniels’ determination and creativity paid off as they emerged an intergalactic funk DJ. Fusing elements of sci-fi and disco, they craft an experience to take their audiences on a cosmic journey. Daniels’ sets are designed to make listeners feel as if they are dancing aboard a spaceship headed to the moon, and returning to Earth with renewed energy and joy.

“I like making a crowd feel good, and making you feel like you’re going into outer space, to a space disco, and then bringing you back down,” they described.

Daniels’ deep-rooted fascination with space serves as a profound metaphor for their own journey. As a Black, non-binary and indigenous individual, they have often felt like an outsider akin to an alien. Space symbolizes an ultimate exploration, a boundless expanse where endless possibilities and diverse cultures coexist. It is a reminder of the vastness of the world, both on Earth and beyond, and the interconnectedness of humanity across the cosmos.

 “Especially seeing movies where people from outer space are like, ‘This is all so foreign,’ and they’re re-learning things,” they explained. “That’s how I felt learning music again, or hearing sounds for the first time.”

In this segment of This is What Chicago Sounds Like, Shomari “Sho” Daniels discusses how they got started DJing in Chicago, the influence of house music and what the idea of the universe represents to them.

Introduce yourself, and describe your work in a few words.

My name is Shomari Daniels. People call me Sho. You may know me as Zeetus Lapetus, I’m an entertainer, Chicago entertainer, a holicist, a DJ, a jack of all trades, master of none, if you will. And this is what Chicago sounds like.

How did you get introduced to house music?

My introduction to house music was like, being a kid and hearing, “Another night, another dream, but always you …” Or like, “Like the deserts miss the rain.” I’ve always loved the feeling house music gives you it’s very … you know? Makes you want to dance, but it’s also uplifting and fun! Being able to be a part of Chicago culture like this, it’s very rewarding because I get to interact with people that I’ve held in high regard. You’re literally changing somebody’s nightlife, you’re curating their movie moments. 

Where are you from?

I’m from Richton Park, Illinois, which is like 45 minutes outside of the city. My church family was always out here, my mom was raised out here, I’ve been in Chicago my whole life, basically. But I moved out here by myself in 2019. And I lived with, like, seven people. I wanted to get out of the suburbs, because there was nothing really to do, and I wanted to be up and out, “Hollywood, baby! Jazz and liquor.” No, I wanted to be able to do more and be around more like young people getting to do things outside. I started doing DIY shows with friends and things like that, and tried to build my career in the city, the Big Apple. I mean, you know, “The Big Windy Apple, Chicago!” When I first moved to the city, I lived in Avondale. And then I moved eventually to Humboldt Park, where I am now. I live like right across from the park so I’m like, “Yes!” And that’s my one of my favorite parks out here, because it’s huge. And there’s a lot of brown people, which I love. 

How did you get into DJing?

As a kid, I was a child actor. I went to like auditions for like, “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” “Zach and Cody” and all that stuff. I had always loved music and things like that, I would always keep my music taste to myself, because it’s a very intimate thing. But when I would play for people they’re like, “Ooh, you’ve got a vibe going on!” I’m like, “Okay.” So when I moved out here and did DIY shows, I would be inspired by DJs like Casper Mcfadden, Cid Ikarus, or Miss Twink USA and Ariel Zetina. 

During peak COVID, everybody was mentally unwell and I needed something to be an outlet, because I lived alone. And I was like, “Well, I can teach myself how to DJ.” So I taught myself on YouTube for, like, a week and a half. And then I would start making my own little beats, and making my own music videos and things like that, when I’m just home alone with a green screen. And then once things started opening up, my friend who worked at a place called Dreamhouse, she did a lot of virtual shows. So that’s how I first started getting my little style out there as an intergalactic funk DJ. 

I love sci-fi, like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Galaxy Quest, but I also love disco music. Anything that makes you feel like you’re getting on a spaceship, your destination is friggin’ the moon, let’s say the moon, and you want to shake your booty on the moon. So I’m like, “Okay, let’s gradually ascend to the heavens!” I like making a crowd feel good, and making you feel like you’re going into outer space, to a space disco, and then bringing you back down. 

Ari Mejia/Vocalo Radio

In addition to DJing, what else do you do?

I had to move around from school to school a lot as a child. So I would always try to make people laugh first, so I still have a habit of trying to make people laugh. Around this time last year, I did a talk show called “Enjoy the Show,” where I would have different musicians come on, organizers, or artists come down. We’d do arts and crafts together, while interviewing them, and then at the end they would show us their talent or whatever. I’ve always liked hosting, talk show hosting and things like that. Currently, I love Chicago nightlife scene, period, right? I love seeing different bands or DJs, and things like that. 

I have this new show at Schubas, called Zeetus Lapetus’ Art Haus, and it’s basically … I love putting movies, music and goofiness together. Our first one was based off the Breakfast Club, and so each performer, whether it’s a rapper or a band or anything, we all sit down and watch the movie together. And I put names in a hat, and you have to pull out a name. And whoever you choose is the person you have to play from the perspective of, and I’m always a character. So like the first one, I was the principal. Our next one was ‘Willy Wonka,’ so I’m gonna be Willy Wonka and all the people are gonna be the kids in the Chocolate Factory. But I love the intersection of entertainment and showing people different voices in the city. It’s very childlike, just rediscovering people, especially in your own city. And you get to explore different genres of music, which I love. 

Ari Mejia/Vocalo Radio

I was really depressed at one point. And I was like, you know how there’s black holes out there and stuff? And it says that it’ll either rip you, atom from atom, turn up, or you’ll go to another universe or something. So I was like, “Well, it’s really hard for them to put people in space anyway. So … put a depressed person like me in space, and just explore. The ultimate exploration. And also, it’s reminding us, on Earth, that we are so small. That’s another reason I don’t take myself too seriously, because there’s probably another copy of me, like, 300 light years away thinking the same thing, or thinking the opposite thought. The endless pulse of possibilities of things like, we’re living in multiverses in movies and things like that. It’s like, okay, yeah, there’s that. 

As a Black, non-binary, indigenous kid, I felt very alien. Especially seeing movies where people from outer space are like, “This is all so foreign.” And they’re re-learning things. That’s how I felt learning music again, or hearing sounds for the first time. And that’s what brings me to space. It’s like, you feel limitless in space. And you also feel like, there’s so many different things that you get to see in space. Plus, it’s pretty! Seeing like a nebula and things like that. I’m like, wow. Right? Like, I wish my hair could be those colors. That’s why I dye my hair so much! Just different gasses in space and things like that. It reminds me of how, meeting different types of people already on Earth, getting to know different cultures and things like that. It’s like, “Well, space has so many other cultures, too.” Like, space is so vast, anything could happen in space. It feels like the ultimate adventure. And I’ve always loved adventure!

What keeps you in Chicago?

Chicago is its own beautiful gem in this world. Chicago has given me the space to be the intergalactic funk DJ, because … there’s no one like me in these other hip, happenin’ spaces. And I felt very accepted, enough to just keep moving forward over here. Chicago has changed my life and I love this city. 

Since 2016, we have been profiling people who give their all to Chicago and enrich us socially and culturally by virtue of their artistry, social justice work and community-building. Take a listen. Read their words. Become inspired.

Interview and audio production by Ari Mejia

Music by Shomari Daneils

Photos by Ari Mejia, edited by Omi Salisbury

Introduction written by Omi Salisbury

Transcription and editing for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

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