‘Gemini Rights’ Opens New Door for Lacy

Gemini Rights Graphic

GRAPHIC | Tara Espinoza

Some feelings are entirely universal. Everyone knows the pain of stubbing a toe, or the embarrassment of stumbling over your words during a presentation. Still, even more, heartbreaking experiences we can all relate to are the feelings of longing and regret. On his second full-length album, “Gemini Rights,” Steve Lacy dives deep into heartache on a project highlighting Lacy’s honed storytelling and confident production performance. The lyrics “I wish I knew / I wish I knew you wanted me” speak that heaviness in simple, haunting words.

Lacy is a funk-and-indie-rock-inspired artist known to most for his DIY production skills (his hugely popular TED Talk details how he created most of his first songs on a jailbroken iPhone), being openly bisexual, and his presence in a band called the Internet. In 2013 he started producing the Internet’s third album, “Ego Death,” which was nominated for a Grammy award. Lacy and his bandmates also began working on solo projects, which led to him producing for names like Denzel Curry, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole. In 2017, Lacy released “Steve Lacy’s Demos,” a collection of his early iPhone-created songs with vocals recorded right into the phone’s mic.

There was a pause in his introduction to say that I first listened to Steve Lacy through his “Demos” collection when it was released, and I was still a junior in high school. His song “Deep Red” was significant to me that year as I navigated the pressures of my first relationship and budding general anxiety disorder. Ah, those were the days.

In 2018 Lacy produced for other prominent artists like Solange, Kali Uchis, and even the late Mac Miller on his final (living) project, “Swimming.” This was also the year that Lacy revealed that he had broadened his production equipment to include devices other than his cell phone. In May 2019, his debut album, “Apollo XXI,” was released and went on to receive a Grammy nomination. In 2020 he released “The Lo-Fis,” a compilation album of his early work, but amid the pandemic and, you know, the other world-collapsing issues that have gone on since then, Lacy’s presence in the music world fell off.

Cue July 15, 2022, and queue up “Gemini Rights,” popping off on all streaming services and even gaining heavy play time on TikTok. The album is a story that follows Lacy through a breakup that helps him come into his own. It has a 10-song track list and a runtime of nearly 35 minutes.

The album opener, “Static,” is a short intro of fewer than 3 minutes that immediately introduces the theme of longing but also dips into heavy themes of resentment and regret as he croons and tiptoes around cutting one-liners amidst delicate and heartfelt guitar and keyboard melodies.

“Mercury,” which served as the debut single released, is a bossa nova production with a driven beat and somber tone. The story highlights the titular subject of the Gemini experience and how all the planets and their movements are impacting him. Lacy was born on May 23, which places his zodiac sun sign in Gemini. The Gemini sign is represented by the twins, which is generally interpreted as the sign being ‘two-faced,’ and it is ruled by the planet Mercury, which means the principles of communication and reasoning. Through this song, Lacy expresses his Gemini behaviors and how they impact his relationship; he sings a lamentation of “little of heaven / little unpleasant /…/ little of pleasure / little depression….”

The TikTok anthem “Bad Habit” follows later in the track list; it continues to incorporate punchy and driving beats with punchy and driving lyrics. The tone is nearly bleak aside from the beachy guitar; Lacy sings almost in anguish about regret over failing to express his feelings to someone. One of the more interesting lyrical flips on this song is the juxtaposition of “I bite my tongue / it’s a bad habit” in the first chorus to the line, “can I bite your tongue / like my bad habit?” Lacy can’t help but go back and forth between these twin instincts. Woe is the life of the Gemini.

My favorite track is “Cody Freestyle,” a song weighed down heavily with synthesizers and a dream-like reverb and fuzz saturating the instrumental track. The story of this song revolves around a bitter separation of Lacy and an ex-lover, in which he dismisses that they are worth anything more than sex. However, there were intense feelings involved in their partnership. Lacy uses simple language, but he uses it to form sentiments that cut like a knife; “We don’t gotta be / Together, forever / ‘Cause I could / Do better / Why settle for lesser?”

The following three songs, “Amber,” “Sunshine,” and the closer “Give You’re the World,” all show a shift in Lacy’s mindset towards his ex. The lyrics and storytelling show Lacy looking back on old memories fondly, first toward sex and then toward his lover. The instrumentals also follow a shift of lighter instrumentation and jazzy undertones. Lacy sings in higher keys on these tracks to show a change of heart following the heavy tones.

Overall, “Gemini Rights” is an exciting project for Lacy. It seems his focus has shifted to configuring his storytelling skills and learning to centralize themes rather than showcasing his extensive abilities in production. Lacy has so much room to stretch out and manage his creative experimentation following this album. I’m happy to say that this exercise in creative control has only enhanced his abilities so far. I give “Gemini Rights” an 8/10, and I’m keeping my ear to the ground for whatever is to follow.