This isn’t the first time a Canadian artist has documented their immigrant experience. Ottawa-based rapper Belly put out an album called Immigrant in 2018. These experiences are worthy of showcasing, as most of Canada is made up of families from different countries.
According to Statistics Canada, just over a million out-of-country persons have landed in Canada and applied for either permanent residency or citizenship between 2011 and 2016. That was half a decade ago. It’s safe to say that this number has drastically increased since then.
Born Lazarous Taban, Laz had a challenging childhood. During our interview, he touched on the trials and tribulations he had faced due to growing up as an immigrant child: “Growing up as an African, I felt embarrassed. Kids would tease me for being African.”
Most immigrants, regardless of background, will understand what this discrimination feels like. Western stereotypes and misconceptions see migrants as less educated and as having a lower skill set than its own citizens. Cultural attitudes like this are not only false, but they have been proven harmful to the mindset of immigrants. This is where our next portion of my interview with Laz lands.
“Is assimilation a necessary requirement to achieving success in the West? Or is it a hindrance to cultural exchange?”
Laz answered with yes and no for this question.
“The truth of the matter is, assimilation means dropping some, if not all parts of your culture and replacing it with new parts. It can also be seen as cult-switching. You’re kind of living a double life at that point”, says Laz. However, he sympathizes with individuals who have felt the need to induct themselves into Western living. “If you’re coming from a different place and you want to survive in the new society that you’re now in, it’s only practical that you try to fit in.”
Two fellow Canadian creatives named Aba and Preach recently uploaded a video on YouTube discussing this same matter. The video also happens to be one of Laz’s influences for his new song.
Laz concludes our interview with the most significant aspect of “Afrikan Child” – the why. He felt the need to create a body of work that could speak to the Black population of British Columbia. It may be small, but it is still a community, and every community needs an anthem. Something to bring them together and rejoice in their cultural practices. Laz is hoping that this song will do just that.