Redbrick’s Kieren Williams attempts to catch us up with the sky-rocketing career of Steve Lacy
Steve Lacy, at the intimidatingly young age of only 20, has co-produced for Grammy-nominated and -winning albums, worked with the likes of J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar and is well on his way to becoming a legend in his own right. As a member of The Internet he has worked with them on their last two albums; Ego Death (2015) was grammy nominated and it wouldn’t be surprising if this year’s Hive Mind went the same way.
As an individual, he’s a fantastic talent with a distinctive quality to his work. Neo-funk, soul, and southern Californian guitar riffs (listen to ‘Come Over’, his riff on that is one of the best of the decade) are mixed with smooth drums and beats as he croons and sings over his own production. He creates a sound which feels like it should come from a large band all working perfectly in sync, not from one man just barely out of his teenage years. There’s a maturity to his work and his sound, how his songs twist and dance along like he’s been around the block a few times already and seen all there is to see.
Despite this, he’s only recently stopped making songs on his phone. Up until Hive Mind, Lacy worked on his phone with apps like Garage Band alongside his guitar to create his music. While his peers sit in multi-million dollar studios, Lacy kicks back with his phone, guitar and a few adapters to connect it all, and creates music that far surpasses most other musicians, his age or not.
Let’s take a step back to 2015, when, in between his lessons at high school, he co-produced the Internet’s third album Hive Mind. A Grammy-nominated album, whilst still at school. Just from listening to The Internet’s second and third albums you can hear the massive impact Lacy had on their sound and the help he provided in improving it, and from here he only got better. He has barely released a dozen solo songs, but six of those come from the EP Steve Lacy’s Demo.
Thirteen wonderful minutes, where, in such a short time, Lacy sculpts and carves out his own sound and groove into something wonderful, from the intro of ‘Looks’, which makes you want to dance and move with the funk and guitar to the positively perfect and erratic production on ‘Haterlovin’. All the way through this and right up to the oozing production and chilled finale of ‘Some’, it’s a fantastic project, despite – or possibly due to – its length. In such a short time, he does more than many artists manage on a project twice or three times the length: he comprehensively captures his entire sound. Through this tape he croons about love and life and his own experiences of both, never coming close to letting himself down because his voice works so perfectly with his production.
As well as this, he has released a handful of singles, such as ‘C U Girl’, and featured on songs including ‘Out of Your League’ from Blood Orange’s Negro Swan. He’s said himself in a recent interview with SSENSE mag that when working with other artists he tries to make his work fit to them, and in singles like ‘Out of Your League’ he achieves this blending of his own sound with that of others amazingly. The song fits right in to Blood Orange’s wider sound but also stands out in its own way with Lacy’s help.
His peers have recognised his work, being pulled in to work on Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. and co-producing ‘Foldin’ Clothes’ with J. Cole, as well as working with Kalis Uchis, Big Sean, Jhené Aiko, Tyler the Creator and Isaiah Rashad, a true testament to his ability. An ability he is honing day in, day out and only improving. He recently said he’s giving to the world, working with other artists before taking some time to himself for his own project. Hive Mind was an amazing album, Steve Lacy’s Demo killed it, and we can only look forward excitedly to what’s to come from this young man, when he’s not walking in one of the most important fashion shows of the year or producing for Kendrick Lamar that is. Lacy is a rare artist who doesn’t come around often, a true musical talent, and if his blossoming career is any indication, there are big things to come from him.