Steve Lacy’s ‘Gemini Rights’ Is Brilliantly Mercurial

·3 min read
SL-3-by-Alan-Lear-x - Credit: Alan Lear*
SL-3-by-Alan-Lear-x - Credit: Alan Lear*

Gemini Rights feels like the product of a grand jam session, and is, in fact, Steve Lacy’s most collaborative solo effort to date. Lacy is, as a guitarist and producer, one of the driving forces behind R&B outfit the Internet. He’s also a highly sought-after musical thought partner to several stars, having worked on Kendrick Lamar’s Damn., Solange’s When I Get Home, and Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride

Naturally, Lacy has looked at his solo endeavors as chances to spend quality time with himself. He made his debut release, the six-song Steve Lacy’s Demo, alone on his iPhone (its single “Dark Red” went platinum in February). He cooked up his first proper album, Apollo XXI, on his laptop. Gemini Rights, however, is the delightfully cacophonous brainchild of co-writers and outside producers and musicians under Lacy’s leadership in a proper studio. This new approach has proven wildly successful, as Gemini Rights is a 10-song tight collection of rock and R&B, funk and jazz, psych and hip-hop that’s as warm and airy as the cusp of summer, when Geminis are born.

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On the album’s surface and in its intention, Gemini Rights is an exploration of Lacy’s first true heartbreak. “You took me all around/Then treat me like a dog/And made me walk for miles/And then you help me up/I will never not love you,” he proclaims on the funky and ominous “Buttons.” Yet, the perils of romance he describes also sound like those of the bond between artist and fan. “​​Do you even really like this track?/Take away the drugs, would you feel the noise?” he asks bluntly on the sparse album opener, “Static.” He goes on to sing, “I been consumed/I’m not for sale/Man what the hell,” on the next track, “Helmet.” This look at different relationships, and at those relationships from different vantage points, gives depth to the album’s songwriting. 

When guest vocalist, singer-songwriter Fousheé appears on “Sunshine,” she helps Lacy build his identity on the project as both the heartbroken lover and the transgressing partner. The song sees two hurt exes bucking at each other, like Fousheé’s barb “You ran through everyone/Is it still that special/If the whole world had some?” The album leans into its title, advocating respect for the third sign in the zodiac, by showing how multifaceted the end of a relationship can be. Geminis are an oft-maligned bunch, in part for their assumed sinister duality, an idea Lacy disrupts when he says, “You think I’m two-faced/I can name 23/My layers, all these sides,” in a quick rap that transitions to impassioned crooning on “Mercury.” 

As essentially the only directly astrological song on the project, “Mercury” boosts its theme without the album feeling too on the nose. “Little of heaven/Little unpleasant/I don’t know/Little of pleasure/Little depression/I don’t know,” Lacy sings of multiplicity. In calling the album Gemini Rights, he cleverly aligns his star sign with a slogan reminiscent of the struggle for sexual or racial progress, gently nodding to his queer and Black identities. Mostly, though, he’s asking us to honor multidimensionality in any form we find it.

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