Photo Credit: David Levene
Steve Lacy had a Grammy nomination before he had even finished high school, so the fact that he released two critically acclaimed albums before turning 25 years old is hardly surprising. Following up his funky, nostalgic coming-out debut Apollo XII with Gemini Rights, Steve here seeks unconditional love as he finds his feet after a breakup, according to the artist himself. Mostly self-produced – Matt Martians (Odd Future, Earl Sweatshirt, The Internet) and DJ Dahi (Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Big Sean) were also involved – Gemini Rights reached number seven on Billboard, promoted by lead single “Bad Habit”‘s No.1 streak on the Hot 100 charts. On Spotify, the 24-year-old from Compton, California is currently ranked as the 85th most streamed artist in the world.
Lacy’s success is indeed well-deserved. His effortless teambuilding with artists as varied as Vampire Weekend (“Sunflower”), Calvin Harris (“Live Without Your Love”), and Tyler, the Creator (911 / Mr. Lonely) is reflected throughout Gemini Rights. Incorporating aspects of indie rock, alternative R&B, funk, jazz, and psychedelic pop while remaining a cohesive and authentic sound, you can dive down anywhere on the record and find gold. “Bad Habit”, with its infectious choruses (“I wish I knew // I wish I knew you wanted me”) resembling Bruno Mars’ and Paak. Anderson’s Silk Sonic project, but sturdier, is the obvious stand-out track.
All the singles are located on the first side of the album, further highlighting the album’s mainstream target. The Latin-inspired “Mercury” is a gauzy horse gait indifferently pleading for forgiveness, while the third and final single, opening “Static” is a crooning anti-drugs statement. The song slowly catches fire as it progresses, with Stevie Wonder-ish choirs and delicate guitar lines building up a piece that abruptly stops just as it’s about to begin. Instead, we’re getting the relaxedly fast-paced “Helmet,” where a head-nogging bassline pushes the breezy song forward over a choir consisting of his sisters Asia and Valerie.
The second side of the 35-minute album is less enthralling. After a dazed interlude and the viscid “Cody Freestyle,” Lacy’s falsetto turns what could have been an emotionally charged expression into a Prince-parody. At the same time, the Fousheé-featured “Sunshine” meets halfway between Chole x Halle and Mac Miller. It’s lean, harmonizing, and embalming, but next to the previously mentioned artists’ best work, it pales. Ending with “Give You the World,” Lacy presents another slow-burner with pristine acoustic guitar chords and his smoothest vocals to date, ending the album by hypnotizing us until we fall asleep.
Even though it loses much of its sparkle on its second side, Gemini Rights is a big step forward compared to its sprawling debut. Compared to similarly genre-crossing alternative R&B albums such as Genesis Owusu’s charming but chaotic Smiling with No Teeth, Lacy’s second solo effort is more well-behaved and less free-spirited. With Gemini Rights, Steve Lacy has a safe ground to stand on when – or if – he’s taking off to explore new adventures outside of his comfort zone.