Review: Steve Lacy – Apollo XXI


A raw and unique sound bringing jazz and funk back to mainstream music. At 21 he has created a masterpiece of an album and shows his true musciality.

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Steve Lacy’s Apollo XXI is a truly fascinating debut offering a blend of soulful funk, jazz and hip-hop. This gives us an insight into Lacy’s musical aesthetic. At only 21, Lacy has contributed to tracks by Kendrick Lamar and Vampire Weekend and is a member of Grammy nominated band The Internet. It was only two years ago he released Steve Lacy’s Demo with the song-series being created on his iPhone, producing guitar and bass arrangements and singing his vocals into the phone’s microphone. He yet again does this in Apollo XXI showing his true creativity and the ability to create a raw and unique sound that has become a feature of Lacy’s music. This raw sound is further exemplified as he recorded the album in his younger sisters bedroom while she went off to college giving the album a more personal touch compared to studio albums. Apollo XXI is dominated by lead guitar and bass with gentle synths. Throughout the album Lacy experiments his vocal range going from high pitched vocals (‘Playground’ and ‘Guide’) to laid back speech/rap (‘Basement Jack’ and N Side’).

The second track ‘Like Me’ is the clear centrepiece of the record. It is also the longest song on the album which can be spilt into three sections demonstrating his originality. The first section of the album Lacy discusses his sexuality, his worries about coming out as a bisexual man, also his concern for what others think and if others feel the same. It is one of his first songs were he openly identifies as a bisexual men proclaiming “I only feel energy/ I see no gender”. ‘Like Me’ opens with “Hello / This is about me / And what I am”, it not only introduces Lacy and his acceptance for his sexuality but his sound and his musical influences. Artist DAISY features on ‘Like Me’ who is also bisexual and expresses the same insecurities as Lacy. In the second section of the track we can hear Thundercat’s influence (Lacy’s musical inspiration) especially with the rhythmic bass.

Artists like Thundercat, Prince and the Neptunes Lacy has said are his musical influences, this is demonstrated throughout Apollo XXI. Especially in ‘Playground’ shown in the one chord rhythm guitar and the chilled laid back funk tunes. While songs like ‘N Side’ and ‘Lay Me Down’ is both as sensual and erotic like Prince. ‘Amandla’s interlude’ takes a different sound compared to other tracks. It is an instrumental truck featuring Hunger Games Amandla Stenberg who plays the violin on the track. ‘Outro Freestyle/4ever’ closes the album perfectly and is straight up hip-hop.

Apollo XXI is an amazing piece and truly embodies Steve Lacy and his creativity, he leaves us wanting more and is definitely as artist to watch out for.

Steve Lacey’s Apollo XXI is available now via AWAL Recordings.


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Editor 2020/21 and a History student with a Britney Spears addiction.

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