Steve Lacy's Apollo XXl is Unadulterated Creativity & Self-Expression
Evan Dale // May 25, 2019
Pure, unadulterated creativity is, after thousands of years of human art, a difficult thing to come by. With so much happening around us all the time, it’s hard to truly look inward into what makes us us in the first place, and how to express it uniquely in the second. But take a second, or 2580 of them to listen to Steve Lacy’s debut album and openly expressive individual introduction to this world, Apollo XXl. It has as much to teach you about yourself as it does to teach us about the to-this-point elusive and mysterious figure of funk and finesse.
Individuality aside for a moment, Lacy has spent the better half of the last decade selflessly creating for others what no one else has been able to. A self-taught student of music and undeniable cool, at such a young age, Lacy’s resume includes cosigns from some of music’s most important modern names: Kali Uchis, Kendrick Lamar, Isaiah Rashad, Solange, J. Cole, Ravyn Lenae, Vampire Weekend, and the late Mac Miller. It also includes the blockbusting growth of Odd Future spinoff turned experimental, award-winning conglomerate, The Internet for whom Lacy instrumentalizes, produces, and sings.
Needless to say, after six years of collaboration and aiding others in their pursuit of unique expressionism, it’s about time Steve Lacy focus on himself and his own art. Apollo XXI doesn’t disappoint in that regard. Apollo XXI doesn’t disappoint in any regard. The project is nearly an hour of self-exploration, battles with personal identity, and acceptance. It flourishes musically and nourishes emotionally to points few other albums, from either angle, have ever been able to. And it gets there by drawing inspiration from such a wide-ranging swatch of epoch-spanning musicality in equal breath that it draws inspiration from Lacy’s innermost soul.
Funk is the clear textural influence behind everything Lacy has ever done. Slappy basslines, quick cadence, and experimental vocals draw the ear and draw the crowd to the dancefloor. But soul, R&B, hip-hop, and rock are ever-present as well. Instrumentally, whether putting on an exhibition of guitar or bass, Lacy has become one of the most unique takes on current organic instrumentation, and his growth, with each release from The Internet, has been obvious. With Apollo XXI, all of his skills – instrumentation, production, and vocals – are vibrant, rich, and unapologetically unique.
Unapologetically himself, Lacy’s strongest trait may in fact be thematic exploration, poeticism, and relatability through it all. Our innermost freaks sprung by his vocals and his explorations of sex and sensuality; our innermost wrecks emotionally entranced by his own search for himself, battling with the challenges of his own life and sexuality; our innermost selves attached to the normality and lack of try-hardedness that so much of the modern scene is subjected to. Lacy emerges from Apollo XXI bold, courageous, and aside from his absurdly and constantly expanding talent, kind of normal.
The music itself never loses grip on Lacy’s affinity for a certain 60’s / 70’s aesthetic, defined by raw instrumentation, raw vocals, and raw, sexual emotion. Thanks in large part to Lacy himself and his contributions to the last six years of music, Apollo XXI is released at the perfect time: amidst an exploding myriad of neo-soul and modern funk scenes that pride the old ways musically and the new mindset socially.
It’s timeless in both manners.
Bursting with instrumental solos, balanced by spoken, introspective breaks, and ever-attached to the quest for self-love, Apollo XXI is not just the keystone release of Lacy’s very young albeit very important career, it’s also one of the most important albums musically and socially of the current era. And thanks to its timeless sound and its important, relatable direction, Apollo XII renders Lacy immortal.