Steve Lacy keeps it stylish and sexy on his new album, ‘Gemini Rights’

WORDS BY August billy

Steve Lacy’s new solo album, Gemini Rights, is the most persuasive example of the LA creator’s off-centre personality to date.

You could easily compile an hour-length playlist of Steve Lacy’s greatest hits without tapping into the LA musician’s solo catalogue or that of his band The Internet. Lacy, who recently turned 24, has churned out some of the more singular alt-R&B, psychedelic pop and hip-hop productions of the past half-decade. 

Before releasing his official solo debut, 2019’s Apollo XXI, Lacy had worked with Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, the Creator, Blood Orange, Mac Miller and Solange. He co-wrote and produced Ravyn Lenae’s breakout EP, Crush, including the lead single, ‘Sticky’, one of 2018’s most irresistible pop songs.

Get better acquainted with our favourite artists at FJ’s Music section.

Ezra Koenig recruited Lacy for two tracks on Vampire Weekend’s 2019 comeback album, Father of the Bride, letting Lacy flex his fretboard muscle on the album’s jam-influenced single ‘Sunflower’. Lacy was born and raised in Compton, California, and made his name as a member of The Internet, the LA freak-funk collective led by the similarly precocious Syd.

Lacy joined the band as a guitar-obsessed teenager in the early 2010s. He’d recently been introduced to the wonders of digital music production and proceeded to make his mark on The Internet’s Grammy-nominated third album, Ego Death, from 2015.

Despite doing most of his producing on his smartphone – including the beats behind ‘Sticky’ and Lamar’s ‘Pride’ (from Damn.) – Lacy quickly established a signature sound. He doesn’t force his sonic thumbprint on his collaborators so much as he lets them stretch out and relax in the crevices between the slacker-jazz guitar chords played on his signature Fender Stratocaster. 

As a solo artist, Lacy has frequently been compared to Black American wunderkinds Stevie Wonder and Prince. He’s prodigiously talented, stylish to a fault, and routinely subverts the gender binary. But Lacy’s solo work is impressive for how off-the-cuff and unfiltered it can seem, at times recalling artists like Mac Demarco and Connan Mockasin. 

Lacy gets it right on Gemini Rights

On his new album, Gemini Rights, Lacy channels the frustration and irresolution of a relationship breakup into a suite of indie-soul and neo-funk tunes that never take themselves too seriously. True to form, Gemini Rights contains plenty of overt sexual references. On the single ‘Bad Habit’ Lacy sings, “Let’s fuck in the back of the mall / Lose control”. A few tracks later, on ‘Cody Freestyle’, he reflects, “You had a heavy dick, a cannon”.

Even on the album’s emotionally exposed ballad, ‘Sunshine’ – featuring Lacy’s Gemini Rights collaborator Brittany Fousheé – he includes the reluctant admission, “Still, I’ll give you dick anytime you need”. But for Lacy, who’s proudly bisexual, such graphic sexual references arrive unaccompanied by implications of conquest or domination. 

Core to Lacy’s appeal as both a lead artist and a producer is the eminent likability of everything he touches. In this respect, Gemini Rights is the artist’s most persuasive calling card yet. It’s a friendly record, where angst gets sublimated into lyrical candour and melodic bewitchment. But it’s also a wonderfully off-centre collection of songs.  

Steve Lacy can write pop songs of timeless import, but as a solo artist, he grants himself permission to roam free, following inspiration wherever it leads. Gemini Rights includes collaborations with Solange collaborator and neo-jazz pianist John Carroll Kirby and Drake and Kendrick Lamar producer DJ Dahi.

You get the impression that Lacy sees the collaborative process as an opportunity to depart from course. And so, while songs like ‘Bad Habit’ and ‘Sunshine’ will no doubt get plenty of radio spins and playlist adds, at no point is Lacy trying to hack the pop song algorithm. For that, we can be grateful. Gemini Rights is the sound of an artist at the top of their game, who has nothing to prove.

Listen to the new album here.

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