Apollo XXI: Steve Lacy On A Mission To Mars
21-year-old musical prodigy Steve Lacy, best known as a member of the Odd Future spawned R&B fusion band The Internet as well as several high-profile features and production credits for artists ranging from Kali Uchis to Kendrick, has finally released his first full-length album Apollo XXI to the pleasure of many a hipster music lover, myself absolutely included. Far beyond his days of producing would-be blockbuster tracks via the Garage Band app on his iPhone 5, (as was the case with Lamar’s “PRIDE” off his 2017 album DAMN.
That subsequently earned Lacy several Grammy nominations, though even more impressively, not his first string of nominations) the “love child of Pharrell and Frank Ocean” as one YouTube user interestingly concluded in the comments of the “RYD/Dark Red” video, is striving for legend status at a time when most of his peers are freaking out over being able to legally purchase alcohol. Subverting expectations by veering slightly away from the Pharrell/Ocean vibes initially established through his tenure with The Internet and even his self-entitled 2017 demo Lacy instead cues the birthplace of swag by going full funk for his debut statement.
A long-professed Prince “stan,” Lacy channels the Purple One’s sexual suavity on the spunky third track “Playground” and lead single “N Side” that could both easily pass as B-sides straight from 1987’s Sign O’ The Times. But this display of control and confidence cannot be achieved without vulnerability and openness, something that young maverick was clearly aware of when tasked to put out his long-awaited debut. The album opens with the woozy “Only If,” a brisk lamentation of his former self that is immediately followed by the album’s longest track, the 9-minute long “Like Me,” (featuring L.A. based indie jazz group DAISY) that replaces Lacy’s typical elusive confidence with insecurities, social anxieties and borderline fear as the musician seeks the comfort of his peers that have struggled to grapple with their sexuality and the implications that self-acceptance can lead to the dismantlement personal relationships.
The rest of the album is significantly less profound lyrically but is by no means lacking musically. Steve Lacy is an immensely talented multi-instrumentalist whose main focus is to make dope music to vibe to.
Whether that is achieved by displaying an impressive (and criminally under-utilized) falsetto on a track like “Guide” or reminding you that he initially made his name shredding a guitar and creating slick samples as exemplified on the Amandla Steinberg violin jam-sesh “Amandla’s Interlude” or closing track “Outro Freestyle/4ever” (which hardcore R&B fans will be able to quickly recognize parts of Solange’s “Exit Scott” off of her latest LP When I Get Home, which he had a hand in producing, of course) you’ll ultimately leave Apollo XXI feeling as though you truly traveled through several emotional and sonic dimensions, and you’ll be grateful for it.
More than anything, Steve Lacy just wants to “relate to everyone,” so how many of us out there just like him? I’m going to assume most of us are.