Steve Lacy – ‘Gemini Rights’ review: a fearlessly funky follow-up from The Internet guitarist

Lacy's songs remain seriously steamy, and now his musical palette is more refined and vibrant than ever

Last week, Missy Elliott dished out some sage advice to the next generation. An artist’s second album, she said, will “be stressful [to make], but it’s the best album to experiment on”, adding that said record is “crucial” to moving past the success of the first: “Don’t be AFRAID!” Steve Lacy, guitarist and key cog in the cult R&B/funk group The Internet, appears to have taken the message on board: ‘Gemini Rights’, with its bold leaps forward and artistic flourishes, has all the makings of a great second album.

It follows 2019’s ‘Apollo XXI’, the highly-anticipated solo debut from the West Coast guitarist which NME described as “retro-inspired through a modern lens”. Prior to that, Lacy’s solo career started via lo-fi demos that were recorded on his iPhone, and the modern approach taken on his 2017 breakout single ‘Dark Red’ garnered comparisons to Sly and The Family Stone, Stevie Wonder and Prince. Collaborations have since followed with Vampire Weekend, Kali Uchis and Kendrick Lamar – the latter saw Lacy’s signature guitar sound provide the setting for ‘PRIDE’ off the rapper’s fourth album ‘DAMN’.

‘Gemini Rights’ is a more polished and assured work than his debut. Album highlight ‘Sunshine’ is as poppy as anything Lacy’s ever done, as rising R&B star Fousheé’s vocals dance around his sprightly guitar solo, while ‘Mercury’ takes on a bossa nova flavour with shuffling beats and vibrant horns. It’s Lacy’s axe work that propels the whole record, offering up a hypnotic layer beneath his falsetto on ‘Buttons’ and adding some tightly-sprung licks on ‘Helmet’.

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With such a vibrant musical palette at his disposal, it could have been easy for Lacy to phone it in lyrically and let the music do the talking. But ‘Gemini Rights’ recalibrates the story heard on ‘Apollo XXI’: on that record – particularly on ‘Like Me’, ‘N Side’ and ‘Playground’ – Lacy was on a mission to discover himself and prioritise pleasure. On ‘Gemini Rights’, however, he’s beginning to realise that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Opening song ‘Static’ deals with a lover with different priorities (“Baby, you got something in your nose / Sniffing that K, did it feel the hole?”) and resets the parameters for romantic partners, if only for a quick fling (“Looking for a bitch because I’m over boys”). On the woozy ‘Freestyle’, he flits between pining for a past lover who has ​​“a heavy dick, a cannon” (adding “could use your deep throat”) and realising that he shouldn’t settle: “We don’t gotta be together forever / ’Cos I could do better”.

Considering the sometimes-radical experimentation that was heard on his debut (‘Apollo XXI’’s second song ‘Like Me’, for instance, clocked in at nine minutes), Lacy has heeded Missy Elliot’s wisdom on his second LP in his own way. While his solo music and work with The Internet have infiltrated the mainstream in more discreet ways, ‘Gemini Rights’, which feature his most direct compositions yet, will make the ‘cult artist’ tag surrounding Lacy increasingly redundant.

Details

Steve Lacy - 'Gemini Rights'

  • Release date: July 15
  • Record label: L-M Records/RCA Records
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