Brain Racked: Steve Lacy’s Apollo XXI and Caesar’s “FRONTAL LOBE MUZIK”
A closer look at the songs on my playlist that have been racking my brain and my busted speakers.
My listening experience this week has been dulled by the repetitive sounds of Pandora. Lately, I’ve been flipping between the Summer Walker and Ari Lennox stations, both rotations of music that originally gave me life. Thanks to my series of thumbs ups and thumbs downs though, the station has settled into a pattern that has left me itching for something new.
All I can say, is thank God for Steve Lacy and his lo-fi, funky ass sounds that have carried me through the past few months, usually whenever I need a serious pick-me-up, which unfortunately, has been often. Apollo XXI has me riding a wave of thrill every time I hit up Apple Music in this period of feeling stuck and feeling stranded.
The young guitarist gives me all types of feels with his debut album sounding like something taken from a vault, nothing but a testimony of his old soul.
My favorite cut off the album is “N side,” where the 21-year-old croons, “N side, N side, tell me, is it N side, my darling,” with the guitar as his alluring wing man.
I’m also feeling his vocals on “Only If”, a one minute 40 something intro that embodies the whole ‘hindsight is 20/20’ bit. He imagines consoling an even younger self about past woes. He starts Apollo XXI off with the type of cut that’s reassuring, gearing listeners up for an album that is introspective and insightful.
“Outro Freestyle/4ever,” picks up at the album’s end as Steve gets in his bag and rightfully so. The whole album was a banger, and so now he can create the space for himself to righteously stunt. The beat is hard to say the least, with a bounce that has me nodding my head from the time it drops into this eerie, cool ass, sci-fi sound. Gripping shit.
The kid from Compton rhymes, “Rolex on a wrist watch, bitch, I’m Chris Rock / And these niggas always hatin’ me, but they binge watch.”
After he’s satisfied with boasting on his accomplishments, the song transitions into “4ever”, where he samples his own production off Solange’s album, When I Get Home, “Exit Scott (interlude),” which also samples “I Hope You Really Love Me” by Family Circle and Pat Parker and Judy Grahn’s “Poem to Ann #2”.
My interpretation of an inception of songs is when an artist injects an already-sampled song into a sampled song. My mind is constantly blown by the way producers build onto their songs using mostly classic soul and R&B cuts.
This inception of samples creates some of the best songs, and I literally can’t get enough of that shit.
I swear I initially thought the vocals on “4ever” was a sample as well, and so I scoured the internet for something that would attest to my theory, but I came up (very) empty handed. On “Exit Scott (interlude),” you can clearly hear the interweaving of Family Circle’s track and “Poem to Ann #2,” both very obvious vocal samples, but then the song — as does, Lacy’s “Outro Freestyle/4ever,” — eases into what sounds like a chorus which bellows,
“Please take the wheel forever / With you, I feel forever / Show me the way to never / Live where you stay forever.”
Solange’s version ends there, while Lacy lets his guitar take it a step further. Along with some bomb drums, the beat takes on a life of its own, and I’m very grateful that the Internet’s guitarist had the sight to extend it, as the beat laced with the chorus is extremely satisfying. I always hit up “Outro Freestyle/4ever,” just for his perfect conclusion to a nicely executed project.
I also can’t seem to get enough of Daniel Caesar’s “FRONTAL LOBE MUZIK,” which features Pharrell. His album CASE STUDY 01 deserves another listen from me, this I have to confess. I gave it a good run through, but my issue is that the only song on the album that I want on repeat is “FRONTAL LOBE MUZIK,” and no, I can’t wait until it spins back around. Kanye shrug.
Of course, it has Pharrell’s fingerprints all over it, and man, am I feeling that shit.
When the song comes on, it’s like a cue to fucking groove. Plus Caesar’s lyrics over the smooth beat enhance the track. Caesar raps a bit about his come up, how he went from the guy no one was checking for to the melodic serenader who enjoys his pussy like he likes his music.
He affirms that, “A nigga got rhythm, I like to hear that shit clap / I like to hear that shit back, I like to hear that shit.”
The song is about the most upbeat record on the entire project, and it has a vibe that is motivating to say the least. We’ve all been there, hated on and shit, but for Caesar, he’s now moved on to a period of his life where his pockets are padded, and he’s put himself on the map on his own accord. But he’s honest, as he admits that loneliness was more of a companion back in the day before he was the artist officially known as Daniel Ceasar. Interestingly enough, he still confirms his humanity by confessing his hesitance towards always being on someone’s radar.
I love how he commences every verse with, “Wanna feel it ,something I can feel / I know the things that I been feeling ain’t real.”
It’s a very premeditated song in which the songster is hyper-aware of his contrasting emotions, giving proof that they are temporary and never enduring.
Hence, a perfect song title for a perfectly harmonious cut as the frontal lobe of the brain is the control board of the brain, the command post for expression, thinking, and making decisions. Ashton Simmonds and Pharrell mapped out the blueprint for a meditative and deliberative track, and it’ll forever be on my ‘Run that Shit Back’ playlist.