Johannesburg-based spoken-word artist Lazarus Mathebula, better known by his stage name The Lazarusman, has been releasing music since 2010, making his debut alongside Martin Stimming. First introduced to poetry in school, it was his teachers who encouraged him to pursue writing and performing, as they noticed he had a talent for the art. “[My teachers] pushed me to enter competitions, to write more, after that it was just a natural progression into [poetry], I didn’t know I could do it until we studied it as a subject.”
Inspired heavily by underground hip hop acts such as Copywrite, The MHz crew and Jakki tha Motamouth, The Lazarusman didn’t enjoy house music at first due to its lack of lyrics. It wasn’t until he heard vocal house on one of Oskido’s ‘Church Grooves’ compilations that his love for the genre developed. “I heard Roland Clark for the first time. Hearing “Resist” and realising that it is quite possible. You can quite closely manage put[ting] lyrics into [this] music.”
His collaboration with Martin Stimming came about after The Lazarusman became obsessed with his music, connected with him online and sparked up a conversation. “I just took a gamble and said I’m a poet and it would be so cool if I could send you some poems. He essentially was like okay let’s see what you got. And that led to the first track.” After some more conversations and being encouraged to challenge himself more they released ‘Change’ followed by ‘The Song’. “We don’t work very often but we work when it feels right.”
This approach of reaching out to artists he wants to work with has served The Lazarusman well, having worked with the likes of Tigerskin, The Djuma Soundsystem, Soul Clap and Andre Lodemann and releases on labels such as Noir Music, Get Physical Records and Diynamic. “I always reach out to artists. It happens that they come to me, that’s been happening more in the last two or three years. A lot of the times I’m sitting on Soundcloud listening to various different artists and trying to find artists that I really enjoy. I approach them and say here are the vocals, do what you do, see if you like it, if you do, write back to me.”
Both his performances and tracks are grounded in freestyling. As a young poet, he would pour hours into writing poetry until it reached the point that he was thinking of poetry quicker than he could write it and he had to develop a new system of retaining and performing his ideas. “I would come up with a concept for a particular poem, usually a verse. From that verse, I would build around it for every performance. I might see something during the week or experience something or have a thought while at work, I’d hold on to that. Once that thing is locked in I can add and embellish as much as I want.”
Currently completing his debut album titled ‘Verbatim’, The Lazarusman has spent the last 2 years refining the offering which sees him able to explore his poetry more fully than has been the case on other people’s productions. “I had [free] reign to do full pieces. Express myself and also try different techniques in terms of doing raga tone verses and spitting at times.”
With performances in Zimbabwe and at ADE in Amsterdam lined up, as well as a collaboration in Zurich, there will be other releases featuring The Lazarusman before the release of his album early next year.