Exclusive MC Lazarus interview

I discovered emcee Lazarus back in 2004 while investigating about the Detroit underground hip hop scene. Lazarus is far from being your average emcee. If you like the battle scene, Lazarus will ignite your passion with his astute wordplays. He allies a very good flow, a fantastic rapping technique, a good dose of verbal tornado towards his opponents. Mc Lazarus knows how to rap. Did you know? Kamran Rashid Khan is also a doctor.

Let me introduce you to the extraordinary rapper-doctor.

-What motivated you to become a rapper?

The biggest motivation for me was that I loved hip hop as form of expression. Hip hop is a vessel between an artist and the rest of the world. It’s also a vessel between the artist and himself. Through the use of this art, one can express their deepest feelings in thought and translate them onto a canvas that can be interpreted by others. When I was in high school, I found myself connecting with certain rappers that were asking to be heard and understood. Their music was built off of their personal story and struggle. With everything I had been going through in my own life, I wanted to tap into that medium. I wanted to spit my story out the world as well. I became fascinated with the way words played with each other to create a rhythmic pattern. Hip hop is a medium where the words you write on your pad become another instrument in the music. I used to put on instrumentals with my boys in high school and just start freestyling to the beat. Over time, this became my personal addiction. And then it just grew bigger and bigger.

-Why did you choose Lazarus, the Biblical character as your nickname?

I was without a stage name for the first year or two that I was rapping. My boys just called me Kamran. In the process of searching for a name that fit what I represented, one of the names that was brought to my attention was Lazarus. Lazarus, being a character that rose up from the dead, instantly connected with the idea that I stood for which was to rise from silence. Freedom of speech is very important to me. Living in a society where so much of what is experienced by a Muslim minoritiy is underrepresented and misconstrued, I felt that my presence would be one to enlighten and broadcast the tale of somebody who otherwise had no voice in the media. Even members of my own race and community discouraged me to pursue a career in music; there just wasn’t any place in that field for someone of Pakistani descent. At one point, all hope in my mind had died. Particularly after 9/11, I truly felt that my chances of making it as a rapper were finished. But then I started rising. I used the “Terrorist” stereotype against itself and started taking other rappers’ racial slurs in battle raps and deflected them back with triple the intensity. I wasn’t going to be silent anyomore. Lazarus rose from the dead.

-What is your outlook on the current state of hip hop?

It is devoid of stubstance. Hip hop used to be about passion, poetry and art. Look at KRS-One. Look at Rakim. Look at 2pac. These people put their soul into the music they put out. Their music represented something and was a way for them to express themselves. Today, music doesn’t represent anything except money, sex, drugs and clothes. I look at mainstream hip hop as the endpoint of a corporate machine. If you fit the stereotype that is projected to keep the masses dumbed down, then you get promoted and endorsed. You are essentially the outcome of picking randomly out of a box of millions to determine who the next generic street rapper is going to be. These artists get popular by way of forced promotion and as time passes, they get forgotten and so the cycle repeats itself. If an artist through this machine happens to come out and start rapping about something meaningful or relevant, they slowly start seeping back through the cracks and are trapped back underground. This is not to say that there aren’t any creative artists who are making names for themeselves, they are just managing themselves independently and building themselves without that commercial engine.

-What inspires you to write your songs?

Lazarus is an alter-ego for me. He is the Superman to my Clark Kent. When Clark Kent sees something troubling occur in his environment, he runs to the phone booth to transform into Superman who then comes to save the day. That’s Lazarus. Whenever I see something going on in my surroundings, whether that be in music, something personal, political, or if I feel that a certain issue fails to be addressed, then Lazarus will arrive at the scene and do that which others are either incapable of or too afraid to do. He’s the side of me that says, “Never say never,” or “Do or die.” He raises my confidence sky-high and allows me to be my own savior. A real life superhero. So when I feel there’s a need for that person, I call him out.

-What is the common point between being a doctor and a rapper?

There isn’t a common point between being a doctor and a rapper, but I make one. Both fields, in their own respective ways, require an unbelievable amount of perseverance and persistence. They just so happen to be polar opposites in terms of career choice. When I am practicing medicine, my focus is entirely on the patient in front of me. Likewise, when I’m in the studio, my focus is solely on making the best music I can make. The initial
presumption was that I was going to have to be pick one over the other. That was something I could never do. I was passionate to pursue both fields. So many people said, even using very humble and respectable approaches, that I would never make it past medical school with a career in music riding along with it. I did that. Then they said I wouldn’t be able to do it during residency, whilst working 80 hours a week in the hospital. I’m doing that. Now I am able to provide therapy to people with both my medicine and my music.

-What is the biggest challenge you ever faced as an emcee?

Initially, the biggest challenge for me as an emcee was to gain respect. In my early days, I felt that I had to do whatever I could do to separate myself from every other kid claiming to be able to spit. Everybody called themselves a skilled rapper the same way everybody thinks they’re Jordan playing ball. I realized early that there was a life force in me that made me feel invincible when I was on the mic. I trained it.
I mastered it. I would practice freestyling whenever I wasn’t studying. So that would mean being in the anatomy lab for four hours, then going outside on campus at Wayne State University and finding rappers to battle. This led me to competitions around Detroit and on various radio stations where I continued to battle and win. The big challenge after that, however, was to show that I wasn’t just a battle emcee. Most battle rappers can’t write songs. And to transcend from battling to song writing was necessary if I wanted to truly make an impact as an artist. I began to develop the art of putting narratives into songs. I wanted to tell stories about my life and my experiences. This is what started giving meaning to my presence as a rapper. My story being one that was distinct from the rest, I started to fill a void that was never tapped before in hip hop.

-Which artists have you collaborated with on the Detroit scene and nationwide?

I’ve collaborated with Stretch Money, Quest M.C.O.D.Y., Proof of D12 and Royce Da 5’9.” They were all great experiences. It was great to work with Royce on the song “Born To Die” and the late Proof on Helluva’s “I Dare You.” Recording with hip hop veterans definitely keeps my game sharp. I’ve also had the opportunity to open up for P. Diddy, D12 and G-Unit.

-Besides hip hop, what kind of music do you listen to?

I love anything that has a heart and a soul and feels good. I’m a fan of various different genres of music. I can listen to anything from Wu-Tang, N.W.A. and Biggie to Queen, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson and Al Green. Outside of that, I’m a big fan of good bhangra and reggae. If it’s good music, it’s good music. I love quality music.

-How have you promoted your music to get to where you are?

The internet has been a great vessel for me to expand my audience. I’ve gotten fans from various countries around the world who check up on me and support the music that I put out. Both “Let The Game Know” which was directed by MTV VMA director Anthony Garth and “Drug of Choice” which was filmed in Pakistan, both received over 1 million views on YouTube. Prior to that, you would’ve caught me putting flyers on people’s cars, going from club to club, battle to battle and selling mixtapes out of my pocket. I sell my music on iTunes and am in the process of starting my own independent company. Radio stations have been helpful in getting my music out. FM 98 WJLB in Detroit, the various college radio stations in Detroit, stations in Canada, India, Pakistan, and the UK have been putting a lot of my records on blast. BBC ranked “Drug of Choice” amongst their most popular songs. The Discovery Channel and Voice of America both shot documentaries about me and FOX Sports featured my theme song for the Detroit Red Wings hockey team which I composed a couple of years back. Those have been great avenues to get my music and story more exposed. Lastly, doing shows has been a great way to gain new fans. As hard as it is during residency, I still try to get on venues whenever I get the chance.

-What are your music plans for 2013?

I’m in the process of putting together a new mixtape to follow the last one I dropped which was called “Lazarus Story.” I also plan on dropping at least a couple new videos this year. In addition to that, I have plans to do some soundtrack work in Hollywood and possibly getting an overseas tour going. I look forward to getting a lot done this year.

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