A native of Wake Forest, North Carolina, Russell Lacy started playing percussion when he was nine years old and began learning drum set at age eleven. In high school, Lacy studied classical percussion under the noted percussionist and composer Christopher Deane; he completed high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where he majored in classical percussion but developed his long-standing interest in jazz. Lacy continued his studies at North Carolina Central University, graduating with a concentration in jazz studies. Upon graduation, he spent two years as a professional musician, performing with Branford Marsalis, Joey Calderazzo, Eric Reed, Delfayo Marsalis, Ellis Marsalis, Pete McCann, and Gregory Tardy and as a founding member of the John Brown Quintet. During this period, Lacy also studied with Joe Morrello, Billy Hart, John Riley, and Jeff "Tain" Watts and was selected to participate in the Lake Placid Institute for the Arts Jazz Improvisation Workshop (2002) as well as the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Workshop (2006).
In 2006, Lacy relocated to New York City to pursue a master's degree at Queens College, dedicating himself to the study of jazz, Afro-Cuban music with Vince Cherico, and composition and arranging with Michael Phillip Mossman. Since moving to New York, Lacy has shared the stage with John Hart, John Bailey, Frank Kimbrough, Steve Cardenas, Bobby Porcelli, and David Berkman as well as joining the Michael Blake Band. He also teaches on the faculty of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.