Rapper L.A.Z is a member of the acclaimed Detroit hip hop collective, Clear Soul Forces.
With their blistering delivery, socially conscious topics, and admiration of popular culture, the group has done an admirable job of representing the thriving Detroit underground. The quartet (consisting of L.A.Z, Noveliss, E-Fav, and Ilajide) has parlayed their impressive range and harmony into a unique sound and dedicated fanbase.
Despite being a Michigander myself (born and raised in Flint), I wasn't familiar with CSF until I was introduced to their work by way of another artist that I had previously interviewed. After perusing the group's catalogue, I was quickly enamored with the sound, cadence, and diverse array of topics and references found within each track. After getting in touch with L.A.Z, I was able to speak with him about his inspirations, the group, and some of the current issues facing black communities.
Prox: Let’s hear more about yourself. How did you get into music and what made you decide that it was your passion? Do you remember some of your earliest days as a Hip Hop fan?
LAZ: I've pretty much been into it my whole life. My step-daddy was a DJ and my mom was always a huge hip hop head so ever since I can remember, I've been listening to rap music. I didn’t come up on pop music, like Mike and all that lol. Me and my big sister were always watching "Wild Wild West" by Kool Moe Dee and "Buttermilk Biscuits" by Sir Mix A Lot when we were like 4 or 5 years old.
I knew it was my passion, it became like an anchor. I was in school on some passing the time shit doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing. My man E-fav pushed me to rap on some recordings and performing at first when I met him. Before that, when I was growing up in Colorado, I always wrote shit, I just never spit before that. I didn’t feel like you could make it out the southside rapping.
Prox: What was the first album that really impacted your style? Why was this album so influential for you?
LAZ: "Lord Willin" by the Clipse without question. I was into a bunch of stuff growing up and I was on 3-6 Mafia and Hypnotize Minds heavy as hell before that album came out. Pusha T’s verse on the intro just took me, it made me wanna RAP & really put words together.
Prox: Could you talk about what each individual member of the group brings to table to make CSF such a powerful collective?
LAZ: Everybody adds their piece to the puzzle, I feel like I realize that more and more as time goes by.
Noveliss is like a dreamer, make niggaz wanna reach for more and think performing at Coachella is possible by staying you.
E-Fav is the will to win, he’s determined to win and he’s a model of consistency from the work ethic on your pen game. He’s effortless with the pen and makes rap thought provoking, but easy to understand at the same time.
Ilajide is like the heart and the ears for us, he’s relentless. He’s the engine, the driving force behind Clear Soul Forces.
Prox: Were you ever nervous about how your lyrics would be received by the listeners due to the left field things you incorporate into your songs (anime, obscure film references, etc)?
LAZ: Naw, especially not at first. These are just records i’m cutting with my people. Our zone doesn’t involve other folk’s perception, especially at that time when the records were dropping.
Prox: The Detroit Hip-Hop scene seems to have taken on a more mainstream sound (the underground is sill thriving thanks to artists like Black Milk and Elzhi, to name a few) in recent years (drawing parallels to Chicago’s Drill Music), why did the group decide to stray away from this style despite it being more popular?
LAZ: I think that's the thing about us, we're focused on our journey. Everybody's shit different. You’re you, i’m me you know?
Prox: Another huge topic that you guys discuss in your music are the injustices that we see within the black community. In your opinion, what can we do as black men to better our situation and make this a better place for our people?
LAZ: Man everybody just has to do their best to be a light for their families. Families make up the community, you get stuff like that smooth then you can make the people around you and them better, that’s what I honestly think.
Prox: Do you feel that celebrities and musicians are obligated to use their platform to speak out on these issues?
LAZ: I think people with a platform should speak on the issues they’re passionate about changing long term and that they're knowledgeable about. Don’t talk just to talk and rally people if you're not coming to the meetings with them to put shit in motion.
Prox: Favorite hobbies?
LAZ: Chillin and listening to beats, I whip ass in 2K. Blowin trees n shit. Living is my hobby.
Prox: Who are some of your favorite contemporary artists?
LAZ: Tame Impala, JR JR (Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr), Brainfreeze, Gnarls Barkley.
Prox: Information on upcoming releases and projects?
LAZ: My 1st project, No Paperwork EP coming soon, just be on the lookout for videos and more visuals from me.
Prox: Tips for aspiring artists?
LAZ: Same thing everybody always tells me, keep working.
Prox: Final Thoughts?
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