Lazarush (formerly Crow-box One-String of Eshod Ibn Wyza fame) is a rapper who is focused and who has made some sweeping changes in his life. I’ve always known him as the simultaneously optimistic and shadowy character in the sphere of Edmonton’s hip hop scene. With a new name and a refined approach to music-making, he’s moved away from the “jammy bullshit” of his Crow-box moniker. When he’s not spending time with his daughter or rapping, Lazarush is a school teacher on a reserve near Nordeg, Alberta. His new album Pali Ola is the sum of his evolution as an individual and as an emcee, presenting his material with a more “cerebral” approach.
Introduce yourself, your crew and affiliations…
Lazarush (Adrenaline Rush of Resurrection) used to be part of the crew Eshod Ibn Wyza – still am, it’s a family, we’ve known each other since [we were kids], we learned to play music together…
Your life has changed from the Eshod days, how has your life changed since then?
Holy cow man… I’m much more focused and mature in my sensibilities. I guess you could make a comparison to a campfire and a blowtorch; right now I feel like a blowtorch, I weld things together and I have a very focused intent whereas then it was something we could all enjoy, but you can’t start an engine on a campfire. It was really fun, we got to perform lots and it was different. Now I have much more of a message in the music and my life requires more of me and so in that respect, if I want to keep playing music, the music requires more too; I can’t just be throwing words on a beat – that’s passé, everybody’s done that. I want to epitomize what it means to be an emcee, I want to be a teacher.
Have you always felt that way?
No, but I’ve been told that I emulate that. Both my grandparents were teachers, my aunts are teachers…so it’s in my family, but I never aspired to it, but I always felt like I had something to say to people. I like literature, I like reading the living metaphor of life – if you’re open to it you’re always seeing that can teach you a lesson. If you can communicate that…that’s what I think the point of art is. Art that doesn’t speak a message I find it pointless. I think you should have a message and that’s a political statement that I’m making and not one that everyone will agree with. Some people believe in art for art’s sake where now, I want to be vital.
If you started out wanting to make a difference and then started rapping about nothing, maybe it’s an inevitable transformation…
Don’t take me for a pulpit smasher. I don’t have an ideological battle to war with people and I’m not a hater either. I fully embrace everyone’s expression because I can’t be a judge. For me, the focus is beneficial to my life and being able to say something to impact someone means something to me.
You’ve cast your addictions in a somewhat negative light, but I’m curious to know if you think that addiction is inherently bad…
Perhaps I shouldn’t refer to it in a negative context because I think without it, I would not have found the catalyst for my life and perhaps it was that spark that I needed. I didn’t feel real, I felt like life was a dream. I think what addiction is the result of is the need for conviction in people’s life. If you don’t have a reason to pulse and wake up in the morning, then you search for something that reminds you of that feeling. Every moment in your life builds upon the past as opposed to being this new high… if I’m addicted to anything, it’s to conviction. I think there were negative consequences to my actions, but I don’t think it was a negative thing overall, because it put me on a path where I had to choose life or death – I chose life.
Why did you feel it necessary to change your name?
Crow-box was a totally different person – it was immature almost…it hadn’t actualized itself yet. It wanted to be addicted to things, it wanted to need things. The place that I’m at now, I really don’t require anyone…I love people and I love life and I need my daughter more than anyone else.
How has your music changing as you’re teaching (if it has)?
It totally has. I feel much more responsible to my audience. That’s another difference between Crow-box and Lazarush – I had no responsibility as Crow-box, I didn’t care, I was so self-absorbed, it was bullshit to be honest… I can say that now, ‘cause I can see myself – I would say it’s bullshit. I said a lot of good stuff when I was doing that music, but… the integrity – if you’re saying it, then you’re living it, that’s what integrity means and I didn’t have that because I would say shit and totally live a different way. Everyone is a hypocrite, but as a teacher and living on the reserve, I feel much more responsibility to the messages that I say. [With] the music that I make now, I’m much more conscious of what I’m saying… not everything you feel needs to be on stage.
What are your thoughts on restrictions in art; so the more boundaries you have, the more focused that material becomes…
Well that’s what hip hop is. That’s what the blues and jazz was. The history of African American people was repression and restriction… that’s what created this music. You need obstacles to make you stronger – I’m not saying we needed slavery to create this music – but I see history for what it is. I see that the restrictions created this reality, which is an amazing form of communication.
What kind of examples of this could you give from your own life?
I don’t answer all my desires now. If I want to go home with a woman or get drunk in a night – I don’t. I spend a lot more time with myself. I want to be more than my desires, I want to be more than the instantaneous pleasure of ‘drive-thru’ culture, I want to have something meaningful to pass on to my daughter. Being a father changes you. I think we put ourselves into positions where we are needed. I did it with so many things; even with music, you have these high ideals of what you’re doing and you’re like: ‘I really need to do this, the world really needs this’ – no, it doesn’t. What it really needs is for you to be as convicted in your purpose as possible.
The Eshod crew, Hypolite, Madame Wang, Karan Singh, Sparrow and the Hawk, Mirriam, Tzadeka, Andre, Daniel Buxton, L.B.A., Max Prime… Austin, Fractal Pattern, Shad, T.Lo, my brothers, Trevor Brown, First Aid Kit, Augustine, my mom and dad…