Lazarus, who hails from Detroit, releases music on Russell Simmons’ All Def Digital imprint and has recently worked with D12 on their mixtape “Devil’s Night” and Royce Da 5’9” on the single “Underdog.” His verse on this song single handedly represents for the Muslim American struggle and alienation that is felt by the Muslim community due to hate crimes and generalizations.
Jesse Atkinson: What is the significance of the song title “Fearless”?
Lazarus: To me, part of being an emcee is dedicated to speaking out about what’s going on around us. Now in some instances, that’s intrinsic and you speak about personal matters. In other situations, you speak on what is going on in the rest of your society and in the rest of the world. It’s what connected me to groups like Public Enemy, N.W.A. and Black Star. I feel it is the responsibility of a true emcee to address whatever’s on their mind without the fear of whether it’s accepted by the norm or not. On this particular song, I wanted to speak my mind about issues that some may consider controversial topics that shouldn’t be touched on, but I felt I had to stand up and say something. No one else is. Why should I be scared to?
JA: How did the collaboration between you and Crooked I come out?
Laz: I had just finished work with Royce Da 5’9” on the song “Underdog.” Me and Crooked were performing on the same shows in Detroit a week after I shot my video with Royce, and we connected in the studio to make the song. He’s without a doubt one of the most talented emcees in all of hip hop. His passion and energy is felt on every verse he writes. Working with him was an excellent experience for me. And our styles and personalities mesh well together.
JA: On your verse, you mention Donald Trump makes you feel like a mutant? Explain what you mean.
Laz: It’s like the comic book “X-Men.” As silly as it may sound, Muslims are the new mutants of today’s society. Senator Kelly in the “X-Men” and Donald Trump are basically saying the same thing. There is supposed violence taking place by Muslims somewhere, now we must propose a ban on them all. That’s silly to me because that standard isn’t applied to “bad apples” of other religions. No offense to any other community of people, but If you were to look at the crime that takes place in America and make a chart of which community has the highest crime rate in this country, I highly doubt it’s Muslims. Yet we are the ones that have to have action taken against us. You cannot generalize. That’s the problem. There will always be good and bad in every community.
JA: You attack the media’s extensive coverage of victims in France. What do you feel about that?
Laz: I don’t have any problem with coverage of victims in France. My heart goes out to anyone who was hurt or killed over there. The issue I do have is how the whole world is ready to put France’s flag on their profiles for weeks at a time, yet ignore worse tragedies taking place at the same time in countries like Lebanon, Syria and Kenya. If you’re going to sympathize for victims outside of your own country, why would you be so selective? My philosophy has always been to stand with all countries and all humanity. We are all humans and all deserve the same respect and attention.
JA: You have a very powerful voice on this song as well as on your other music. Between rapping about medicine on “Open Heart Surgery” and rapping about what’s going on in politics, what gives you the confidence you rap with?
Laz: I’ve always felt a confidence in what I do from the simple fact that I know I represent my own life. I don’t try to rap about or emulate the life of another person. Rapping about a surgery is something that makes sense for me to do. Representing the struggle that Muslim minorities go through today is something I personally experience. So I know that at the end of the day, I have a voice for many millions of people who don’t have any representation at all. And then to have mentors and moguls like Russell Simmons and Chuck D pushing me forward and empowering my movement makes me all the more eager to continue pursuing my dream to make my mark on hip hop music and culture.