Published May 27, 2019Since joining the Internet at 16, Steve Lacy has established himself as a quiet force. Unfailingly humble, the coy Compton native has been priming his audience with glimpses of his genius, from the impressive Steve Lacy's Demo EP, to the casual way in which he's racked up illustrious production credits (Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Ravyn Lenae). He's a gracious co-star, happy to share the spotlight with other talents. But on the transcendent Apollo XXI, Lacy blossoms, assuming the mantle of full-fledged rock star.
An intoxicating mix of celestial soul, sprightly funk and glossy, luxurious rock'n'roll, Apollo XXI is a self-assured and sonically robust exploration of love, lust and identity politics. Lacy scatters pearls of post-adolescent wisdom in the lyrics, and drives the album forward with infectious melodies and an angelic falsetto. But Apollo's chewy production is where Lacy makes his mark. However sincere his humble persona, Lacy's cocksure guitar playing betrays any modesty.
Through his instrument, Lacy has developed a commanding voice. His magnetic je ne sais quoi has been peeking through in all of his past collaborations, but on Apollo it stands much taller. "N Side" and "Lay Me Down" follow in the grooving, cosmic tradition of the Internet, while "Playground" and "Guide" harness the spry sensuality that Lacy injected into his work with Lenae. Tucked behind a whirling hip-hip outro is "4ever," a luminous reprise of his collaboration with Solange (When I Get Home's "Exit Scott").
With this album, Steve Lacy exposes himself as the X factor on all of the other songs he's touched. Keep an eye on those quiet ones. (3QTR)