The 21-year-old songwriter’s Apollo XXI track is a candid address to anyone else struggling to come to terms with their sexuality
At just 21 years old, Steve Lacy has experienced the sort of success than many people spend their entire lives dreaming about. In the two years since the Compton native released his debut EP, Steve Lacy’s Demo, he’s modelled for Louis Vuitton, worked with Solange, Dev Hynes, and Vampire Weekend, taken home a Grammy, and put out another album with his group The Internet.
Still, for all his creative triumphs, Lacy remains a relatively private person, only occasionally posting on social media, so fans weren’t exactly sure what to expect from his debut solo album, Apollo XXI. It was surprising, then, that less than two minutes into the album, Lacy launches into a nine-minute, three-part song, addressed directly to the listener, in which he candidly and frankly discusses about his sexuality and mental health.
“This is about me, what I am. I didn’t wanna make it a big deal, but I did wanna make a song, I’ll admit,” Lacy says on “Like Me”, which features the Los Angeles band DAISY. “I don’t know if you can still relate, and that’s what I’m afraid of. I just wanna relate to everyone.” It’s something like a personal essay in song form, reflecting on Lacy’s anxieties and his loneliness. In its chorus, Lacy calls out to anyone else struggling to come to terms with their sexuality, singing, “How many out there just like me? How many work on self-acceptance like me? How many face a situation like me? I wonder, oh, how many out there just like me? How many others not gon’ tell their family? How many scared to lose their friends like me?”
Before many people come out and are able to cultivate communities and friendships full of love and honesty, much of that time is spent in a state of existential dread. You wonder if you’re the only one feeling these feelings. You wonder if you’ll ever be able to live as freely as the people around you, or if things are really better once you’re out. You wonder if your friends will accept you for who you are, or if you’ll have to start over. You wonder if, just maybe, there is someone who feels just exactly the way you do. As a young queer person who isn’t out, you spend more time idling with these thoughts instead of being able to exist.
One of the reasons “Like Me” holds so much weight is due to the public fascination with Lacy’s sexuality. Lacy first came out in the summer of 2017, sort of. He opened up about his sexuality and dating preferences in several Tumblr posts that have since been deleted. The posts eventually recirculated on the internet, where Lacy was criticised for what he’d written as a 19-year-old, including that he wouldn’t date black men. Lacy retreated from the internet, deleted his Twitter, and stuck to occasionally posting pictures on Instagram, but it only ever led to his sexuality becoming an even bigger topic of conversation. He discussed it with Fantastic Man magazine last summer, in a recent i-D profile, and spoke specifically about “Like Me” in a recent interview with Zane Lowe, revealing that it was written around the time of the Tumblr controversy. “That song was a really hard one to write down. I think at the time I wrote that it was around July of 2017, and I think that’s when I started exploring sexuality, and I can only be honest and transparent in my art.”
Lacy might not be so transparent in his public life anymore, but it’s what he puts into his art that has earned him such a dedicated audience, many of those fans barely much younger than the musician himself. “Like Me” shows why so many people fell in love with him: it’s an honest song that helps people who may have felt how he felt, feel all the more loved, accepted, heard, and less alone.