Steve Lacy Is a New Kind of Guitar Hero

GQ Hype: It’s the big story of right now.

Steve Lacy is not about to be caught slipping, no matter how hard I try. Whenever I ask a question that he doesn’t quite want to answer, he squints a bit and looks to the side; his lip curls into a coy smile, the kind that says I know exactly what you want, but sorry, it’s my secret. He doesn’t subtly overlook the question, or plead ignorance; he makes it clear he’s keeping me at arm’s length, but in a polite way. (He almost always apologizes for concealing the truth.) For example: his new record Gemini Rights is a breakup album that begins with Lacy bitterly spitting “Looking for a bitch, ‘cause I’m over boys” and ends with him singing “I don’t want hate, instead I’m gonna love you like it was new.” But while Lacy made an entire album about the unnamed ex-boyfriend who inspired these push-and-pull emotions, he doesn’t want to go on the record about what’s up with them now. His face transparently broadcasts the snapshot mental process of wondering exactly how much to say, before ultimately deciding that, on this matter, he’ll let the album do the talking for him.

This type of conscientious poise — the ongoing awareness of who he is, and what the moment requires from him — is what many associate with Lacy. Lacy is cool. He’s collected. He’s uncommonly mature, preternaturally calm, wise beyond his years, etc. He takes our Zoom call in his kitchen, where he’s wearing a simple black t-shirt with a logo I can’t make out; it’s 2 p.m. in Los Angeles but he’s eating his first meal of the day, which he apologizes for doing on camera. It makes sense. Lacy was barely out of puberty when he started playing with the Internet, the polymathic R&B collective. Just 18 when he started producing for Kendrick. By the time he was old enough to legally purchase a beer, he’d already worked with zeitgeist-jamming artists like Tyler, the Creator, Solange, J. Cole, Blood Orange, Mac Miller, Vampire Weekend, Isaiah Rashad — the list goes on and on. Your average teenager — over-eager and dweeby, or intense and standoffish— wouldn’t be invited into those rooms. Going through all this was like coming-of-age boot camp for how to be a hip, contemporary musician.

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