The hot new Hip Hop producer that does everything on his iPhone

Wired, talking about Steve Lacy:

Last year, he was nominated for a Grammy for executive-producing and performing on the 2015 funk-R&B-soul album Ego Death, the third release from The Internet and Lacy’s first with the band. He’s a sought-after producer, featured on albums like J. Cole’s “4 Your Eyez Only” and Kendrick Lamar’s new “Damn.” Earlier in 2017, he released his first solo material, which he’s playing as part of the setlist for The Internet’s worldwide tour. (Somewhere in there he also graduated high school.) The only connection between his many projects? All that music is stored on his iPhone.

And on his process:

He paged through the drum presets in GarageBand for a while before picking a messy-sounding kit. With two thumbs, he tapped out a simple beat, maybe 30 seconds long. Then he went back to the Rickenbacker. He played a riff he’d stumbled on while tuning, recording it on a separate GarageBand track over top of the drums. Without even playing it back, Lacy then reached down and deleted it. It took three taps: stop, delete, back to the beginning. He played the riff again, subtly differently. Deleted it again. For the next half hour, that’s all Lacy did: play, tap-tap-tap, play again. He experimented wildly for a while, then settled on a loose structure and began subtly tweaking it. Eventually satisfied with that bit, he plugged in his Fender bass and started improvising a bassline. A few hours later, he began laying vocals, a breathy, wordless melody he sang directly into the iPhone’s microphone. He didn’t know quite what he was making, but he was feeling it.

All night, Lacy goofed around. He found a sword in the studio, and made up a shockingly catchy song called “Sword in the Studio” that’s still rattling around in my brain.

This really resonated with me, a terrific read. Steve Lacy sounds like a bunch of people I know, kicking around in GarageBand, laying down a base track, then layering in guitar, vocals, what have you. But while most of this work ends up in a far corner of some hard drive or SoundCloud, Lacy’s efforts got him nominated for a Grammy and a bunch of high profile gigs.

And much of it done on an iPhone. Amazing.



  • Mo

    I saw the name and thought “Wait a minute. That jazz guy died over ten years ago.”

  • I’m not saying the story shouldn’t be posted, because no doubt it’s interesting to others.

    But tool choice is becoming boring to me, and I think that’s probably a good sign. 🙂

    • Mo

      I still like to keep up with how such tasks are simplified by the new gear.