Steve Lacy is one of the newest—and most exciting—names on Kendrick Lamar's new album DAMN. The 18-year-old singer, producer and guitarist co-produced the soothing and soulful "PRIDE.," which also features his and Anna Wise's backing vocals.
So how does a teenager who just graduated high school a few months ago end up on one of the biggest albums of the year? Obviously, it helps that he's a member of The Internet and a budding solo star in his own right. But in a new interview with Beats 1's Matt Wilkinson, Lacy explained exactly how his collaboration with Kendrick Lamar came about.
"Through my good friend DJ Dahi. Dahi's one of Kendrick's house producers. We've been making music together, Dahi and I. We linked up through another friend that I'm writing with—I won't say, because I'll let the surprise be the surprise. We were making tracks and I had wrote something for his album he's working on. One day he calls me like, 'yo dude, I gotta get you in the studio with Kendrick.' I'm hype, but I don't dwell on it too much 'cause I don't like to look forward to stuff and then it doesn't happen.
"A month or so goes by, [Dahi and I] link up on Halloween and we pull an all-nighter, we're making beats the whole time. He asks me, 'yo, what you doing tomorrow?' I'm like, 'oh nothing, I'm chilling. Why, what's up?' He's like, 'oh Kendrick has a session tomorrow, you down to roll through?' I'm playing it cool like, 'yeah dude, for sure. What time yo? Okay cool.'"
If that doesn't sound like something straight out of a young artist's dreams, Steve's first meeting with Kendrick couldn't have gone any better.
"I go to the studio the next day, Kendrick's there, whole gang's there. When I walk in the room, the first thing Kendrick says to me, he says, 'I seen your face in some music videos!' Then I was like, 'yeah, yours too, man!' And the whole room started cracking up laughing. I just broke the ice. Initially, I was there as Dahi's little homie. We were just jamming out, making stuff from scratch. Dahi's programming drums live and I'm playing guitar and Kendrick's freestyling."
As for the song itself, Steve reveals that "PRIDE." actually started out as a collaboration between him and Anna Wise.
"So we were jamming out, it gets quiet in the studio, and then I'm like, 'yo! Lemme play you some stuff.' I just said it. Shooting my shot. The least he can do is say 'no.' So I'm playing him some stuff that I'm working on, it was some stuff from the demo, some songs that didn't make it.
"A couple days before that I had a session with his friend that's on a lot of his tracks, Anna Wise. So the song that I did for [Kendrick] came from this acoustic session that was recorded on my iPhone. So I showed Anna Wise how to record her vocals and she recorded this whole idea over these acoustic guitar chords and a small little drum loop that I made. Then I took her vocal stems and I made a beat over it.
"So this new version of this Anna Wise track I played for him—and this was the track that [made him] give me his phone and was like, 'yo, put your number in my phone, I need this.' I went there a couple more times to work on some stuff and this song he was sure about. He loves this one. And then I hit him up again to see if we're about to go work and then he says he's finishing up the album. So I go, 'tracklist' with the eyeball emojis. He goes, 'LOL'—it was called 'Wasn't There' at the time—'is track seven, but it's called 'PRIDE' now."
From dropping his debut solo project to producing for the likes of J. Cole and Big Sean, Steve Lacy's last 12 months have been a crazy ride. But this particular moment, he says, has yet to sink in.
"It's wild. It's still hitting me now. I still haven't fully gripped what I just did. But yeah, it's crazy. To think I was in a classroom, like, six months ago."
The main takeaways from Steve Lacy's story: build the right relationships, use whatever tools are at your disposal (like an iPhone) and never, ever be afraid to shoot your shot.