So the story goes that Benjamin Curtis came into this world and left it shortly after. And, then, he came back. His family still doesnt know how it happened.
They have no idea, he says about the day he was born at Rex Hospital in Raleigh. I was born. I was alive. I died I lost pulse. And fourteen minutes later, I came back to life.
So when Curtis began rapping in his mid-teens, coming up with a name for himself was a no-brainer.
My familys called me Lazarus my whole life, just for that reason, he says, though he replaced one a with a u in the name to make it distinctive. So, when I started to be a rapper, that was just the natural name. I didnt wanna pick some corny name, you know.
Since then, the 26-year-old, Raleigh-born-and-based Lazurus has been one of the Triangles hardest-working MCs, consistently doing shows around the area like the upcoming NC Showtime show this Saturday at the Pinhook in Durham, where hell perform alongside Wreck-N-Crew, Scienze and Bobby James.
Even though he cites artists like Eminem as prime influences, Lazurus has been known to remind listeners of the Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith. Theres good reason for that.
My first CD was a Will Smith CD, he remembers. I had Nas on tape. I had Ras Kass on tape. I had Busta Rhymes. But my first CD and this is from my grandma. She goes, Oh, you like rap? Ima buy you the Will Smith because it had no cursing on it.
Lazurus has been dropping mix tapes and full-lengths over the years on his own label, Lazrso Records, which he started with partner Derrick Rsonist Nicholas. Like most successful, versatile MCs these days, the man can rap and sing. But he insists hes been doing it way before a certain light-skinned Canadian showed up.
Ive been doing it much longer than Ive known Drake even existed, he says. A lot of times, when youre doing the song, well start at, like, 7. By the time we need the hook, its about 3 in the morning and theres no singers around. Thats why I end up singing most of the hooks, because were trying to get it done.
While he was been known to spit some deep-thinking rhymes (he rapped about how were living in a mediocracy on his 2008 release AlieNation), Lazurus went a bit light for his last release, titled Solstice. Released in December of last year (like most of his releases, it can be found on his Bandcamp page), he wanted to record a holiday-themed rap album.
I wanted to make something that my grandma could play, he says. I wanted to have something ... that the family could listen to. Its still me Im not sacrificing my core values or my rhyming ability.
Whats more, Lazurus is hoping for Solstice to become a holiday standard. To insure this, hes re-releasing the album again this season with two more songs. You hear the same Christmas songs every Christmas. Im trying to make it so maybe 20 years from now, people start singing maybe one or two songs off of this.
Oh, by the way, did his grandmama, the woman who gave him the inspiration to be an MC in the first place, ever listen to the album?
Solstice is probably the first album my grandma ever listened to, he proudly says. I put out probably six or seven and thats the first not just mine rap album shes ever listened all the way through. And that means a lot to me, you know. She was like, I heard your album. (I said) Whatcha mean you heard the album?!