From Confession to Expression: Logic’s Artistic Journey
LOGIC, THE ARTIST
Hip hop artist Logic is an artist who has had a long, struggle-prone rise to the top of the mainstream charts. That isn’t to say he wasn’t immediately successful with his music; by most people’s standards, he hit the ground running in that respect. But he’s always been the type of artist who puts out work that really shows a lot of work, and behind the scenes, I suspect there’s even more work going into every song he makes, probably more than he’d ever like to admit to. He’s been on a career-long journey to find himself, to define himself, and to be good with whatever the resulting amalgamation may be. Through his discography, we will take this journey with him, and see where it lands as we wrap up in the present day for Logic’s career.
Logic was born on January 22nd, 1990 in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and given the very un-hip-hop sounding name, Sir Robert Bryson Hall II (yeah, that’s everybody’s reaction to that, I’m sure). The “Sir’ is not the honorable royal title awarded to someone when they’re knighted by the Queen. It’s actually part of his name. His mom had named him “Sir Robert” to give his otherwise inherited name from his father a little more flair. It reminds me of the name a prissy white girl would give her English bulldog, and it definitely raised some eyebrows when Logic first came on the scene. In an interview, Logic attributed his unusual name to his mother being a little “extra,” which I guess somewhat explains this. But her choice in names ranks pretty low on the list of bad life decisions she’s made. Logic had a rough upbringing, with his mom having a drug abuse problem. She also dealt with being continuously abused herself, by a rotating barrage of bad boyfriends, and the whole matter was worsened considerably by his father’s on-again-off-again crack addiction.
Determined to better himself and his situation, Logic began his quest to secure a music career early on. By 2009, with Logic being only 19 at the time, he had already released his first mixtape, Logic: The Mixtape, then still going by the longer version of his (now truncated) name, Psychological.
Between 2013 and 2014 (a remarkably short come up, by most comparisons) Logic was signed to VMG/Def Jam records, and officially began his music career as a signed rapper. To date, he has released multiple mixtapes, which he is very well known for, and five studio albums. All give us a piece of the puzzle that has been his artistic journey into self-expression, self-confession, and where he as a person fits into his various artistic personas in between.
Officially released in 2014, Under Pressure would be Logic’s first officially distributed studio album through VMG/Def Jam Records. His record deal with Def jam was due to the sheer virility of interest in his last DatPiff drop Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever, (the third installment of his Young Sinatra mixtape trilogy) which Logic had digitally distributed, then toured for, as an independent a year before inking with VMG. Under Pressure was met with a notably positive response from critics, and claimed the #4 spot on the Billboard Top 200 charts before officially going RIAA Gold in 2016.
The album had several official singles, the lead being the title track, “Under Pressure,” which was a staggering 9:20 playback time. Logic clearly wasn’t under any pressure to wrap up the song, and, both at the time and even more so now, that long of a track was and is unheard of, if not totally unprecedented in Hip Hop. It sounds like Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By” in tone, flow and changes in style. Also a little like Gravediggaz, like in their song “1-800 SUICIDE,” and given the title of this track, it wouldn’t surprise me if Logic had also been a fan of this song, as he later releases a song called “1-800-273-8255” (a.k.a. the “Suicide Hotline” song) to great commercial success.
It is a strangely bold move to put that on his first studio album, and then to make it the title track carrying the same name, as if to further denote it’s purposeful, deliberate placement there. This trend for longer songs to no apparent effect, end, and for seemingly no particular reason, would continue throughout Logic’s career to date.
The song “Growing Pains llI” is a foreshadowing of what would later become integrated into Logic’s recognizably unique vocal sound, as he would go on to incorporate this style into his tone and flows more often. This style can be best described as Kendrick-esque with similar cadence and a production tendency towards doubled phrases.
The album in general, as well as it’s same-titled single in specific, seems mainly focused around Logic’s emotionally tenuous grasp on his own artistic identity, his difficulty accepting the extraneous eccentricities of his creative process, and the struggles of his own come up over the years before his eventual commercial success. It’s that time in an artist’s career where they seem entirely preoccupied with self-loathing and angsty disdain of their own creative process as if it is completely broken and very obviously so.
This seems to send many Freshman artists down the first-year spiral of bitterness and spite towards themselves, their work, the way they do their work, and any success (and indeed any failure) from that work might garner in return. It’s a time markedly fueled by resentment, often evident in the songs that make it onto that Freshman album. Logic, rather than being an exception to this rule, seems to be the poster child for it. In tone and vocal delivery, Logic sounds almost like a whole different rapper from the mc that was laying down vocals for the Sinatra mixtape trilogies. However, the change in tone and cadence is definitely a positive one, having partially to do with better equipment I’m sure. The rest can be attributed most likely to the pressures a label puts on an artist to produce an album where at least the majority of the songs on it are made to suit the current trends in the genre. Logic likely needed to conform somewhat to the modern standard for flows, tone, and instrumental specifications.
Before this album, Logic would devote a vast majority of his mixtape tracks to beats of an entirely different era. Namely, there were ones with that overtly-90’s B-boy style rapping (complete with all the semi-cringey tonal inflections and tongue-flipping flows that this term denotes) and combined with the beat, the effect was what used to be known as a “confessional” type track.
The question is, why did Logic continue to jump on these types of beats and to flow in such an unnecessarily outmoded style even after he was officially signed to a major record label? It almost seems like Logic used these confessional style beats and flows, perhaps in some subconscious attempt to elicit an actual confession from himself. The phrase “the truth will set you free” is never truer than concerning acts of self-expression, and making music tends to be precisely that, whether the artist likes it or not.
But Logic does a pretty good job of playing the role of a confident rapper in his first major release, not just in terms of its critical and commercial success, but in terms of seeming genuine in all the lines where he fronts about street life. Though, to be clear, it’s only a front because it’s not coming from an honest place of confidence, not because what he’s saying isn’t factual.
Logic devotes most of his other tracks to precisely what the label surely wanted from him, with trendy beats following current form to the proverbial “t.” Lyrics with catchy flows and lines which are full of the standard sort of self-repping small talk, mostly just flexes about dominating the game and how he is the greatest and how much he is killing it on every beat. But for all the places and moments where this could seem transparent, leaving the audience to just feel awkward for him, it surprisingly doesn’t. There’s no place I could really definitively call his bluff here, in terms of his exaggerated posturing (the requisite stance, it would seem, of all new rappers) he appears to be pulling it off.
I can tell it’s not really true for him, but I don’t know if he knows that. Perhaps he’s so convincing as a rapper twice his size because he doesn’t know how unlikely he is as a competitor in this space. It reminds me of one of those tiny dogs that are so vicious they convince giant dogs to back down, and it’s assumed the little dog doesn’t actually know how small he is because no one can imagine how anything could front that well if they knew how unlikely a challenger they are. Logic is kind of coming off that way to me in this album. His bark has successfully caused the other dogs to back down, but where did that confidence to be that way come from? Something about that facet of the whole thing seems pointedly false. But perhaps not disingenuous.
Between confident, bravado fueled victory lap tracks, Logic keeps returning to confessional lyricism and confessional beats, and the endurance of this tendency towards confessional tracks persists throughout all of Logic’s studio albums, including the most recent to-date, (though notably less in that album than any before it). On all of them, Logic seems to miss the mark of actual emotional confession. He more dances around the attempt at that, and at some point, he seems to do a sort of impression of what he knows confessional lyricism to sound like, having heard it countless times in some of his go-to songs for musical inspiration.
It’s not an issue for me, that he does this, as much as it is a point of curiosity. But as the journey down his discography continues on into the more recent albums, the picture starts to get a little more clear on this issue.
THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY
Logic’s second studio album, released in 2015, is called The Incredible True Story. Right off the bat, you’ll notice that the instrumentals in this album get about a decade more current than on his last studio album, with this release having several uplifting, invigorating ballads that ring like victory marches. “Contact” is the name of the first track on the album, and sounds a lot like a combination between “Not Afraid” by Eminem (2010) and another one of Eminem’s projects done with Royce Da 5’9 — the two making up the rap duo, Bad Meets Evil — namely their song, “Lighters” released just a year later (2011). “Contact” is inspirational and triumphant. And just a little emotional. This gets the album off to a great start. Then comes the skit at the end of the song. Ok, maybe just off to a start, then.
Logic may have updated his beats for this sophomore release, but he does still occasionally harken back to his old B-boy ways. There’s lots of this 90’s relapse happening in his flows, many incorporating the 90’s era doublets and that flipping sort of sound that makes all rapping sound about twice as fast as it actually is. To reference this flow type, try saying “I’m flippin’ it, skippin’ it, dippin’ it” really fast, and really enunciate the p’s, and the n’s when you do it. That’s the trademark of this flow style. And while Logic’s flow may occasionally regress him to an era hip hop had all but forgotten, his beats definitely kept his songs sounding modern and well produced. There’s plenty of trap like influence in this album, at least on the beats, and this gives the album the strangely duplicitous quality of being both ahead of, and behind, the times. In his song, “Fade Away,” you can hear these old school flipping flows, and some more modern stylings he’s picked up since his last album, too. This album has some outstanding examples of well-employed trap influence, also. “I am The Greatest” is the most exceptional example of this, with a true-to-form trap-beat sound, with Kendrick-like cadences in his vocals mixed with some A$AP type flow stylings. I suspect a lot of 2019 trap songs may have taken some of their influence from early Logic in his songs like this one. Logic was able to incorporate his long lines of verse and his more lyrical style — even some of his older flows — into this modern instrumental. At the time, there was nothing in trap with this kind of lyrical backing. Today, trap is becoming noticeably more lyrical, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this were Logic’s influence — not that any trap artists are likely to admit it.
There’s even a little New Wave style represented on this album, and as this album predates new wave in hip hop, it’s another example of how Logic was both behind the times on this album, but, more impressively, way ahead of his time as well. In Logic’s song “City of Stars” where you can hear an early representation of the new wave style that would take hip hop by storm in later years, complete with singing-style-rap, and heavily auto-tuned vocals in the chorus. Logic’s flow on this song (appearing after about three minutes of singing) is a little like Drake’s verse in his song, “Forever” (2009).
Between his 2015 studio album and his next studio album in 2017, Logic released another major mixtape. These were a set of two, both entitled Bobby Tarantino, (I & II), the first being released in 2016, and the follow up coming after another studio album and dropping officially in 2018. On the first Bobby Tarantino mixtape, there’s an immediately noticeable change in mood. It’s a lot more relaxed, which makes sense, given that it’s a mixtape and not an official studio release. Track 5 embraces this new, untroubled tone, quite a bit, with this 3:00 long skit track. It seems Logic’s humor is another place where he has drawn inspiration from Eminem. The track is reminiscent of those old Slim Shady prank calls, and a little bit like one of Eminem’s (to-date-recurring) skit tracks where he gets a call from his manager Paul, which are included on most of his studio albums. Logic’s skit track is admittedly pretty funny – which, at three solid minutes in length, it would have to be.
This whole mixtape series seems to be in line with his first studio album, where Logic — rather than being himself — is being a portrait of himself, but he is doing an excellent job of it. The name of the mixtape series itself seems to point to this. The “Bobby” part of this name is clearly after his own first name, Robert. The Tarantino part is a reference to Quentin Tarantino, who made a series of movies called Kill Bill, which Logic had seen as a kid, and it is said this is where he first found hip hop, as the soundtrack to Kill Bill Vol. 1 is produced primarily by RZA of Wu-Tang Clan. This had such a profound effect on Logic that he carried the style of Wu-Tang into his professional music career and carried the name Tarantino into the naming of his mixtape series. But this seems to be just another example of Logic not being totally good with being himself as a person when he’s rapping. This is a normal thing, and many artists do disassociate themselves from their real persona and adopt a new persona for their artistic works.
However, Logic seems to be trying to straddle the fence on this issue, wanting desperately to be validated as himself, but also wanting still to hold up a guise of a different person he admires more than himself. He doesn’t yet feel totally secure in the representation of the real Bobby as a good representation to move forward with as an artist. The concern is understandable, and while many of us probably would have no trouble accepting him as just Bobby when he raps, it seems he had trouble with it. And while most of us would probably have no difficulty accepting some crafted persona he adopted as his artist-persona, he doesn’t seem to be totally on board with that idea either.
So, he sort of gives us both here and alludes to that in the title. It seems, at least, that he is leaning less on the works of the greats before him to define him as an artist by this point. And, if my theory holds true, that would make his earliest mixtape, Logic: The Mixtape and attempt to give us just himself as an artist. Without having much success from that endeavor, he employed the name of another inspiration for him, jazz and pop singer Frank Sinatra of the Rat Pack, in naming his 2011, 2012 and 2013 mixtapes (a three-part series) the Young Sinatra mixtapes. It seems he went back to adding a little bit of some other artist into his persona, springing some of the great Frank Sinatra into the mix of personality cues he was taking from others. But given that there is still a blend happening, it looks like Logic was still trying to be somewhat himself in the midst of all this, too.
In these mixtapes as well as the Young Sinatra mixtapes, Logic is using other greats he admires as a framework for developing a sort of mask that he can wear, which helps him feel confident as an artist. It’s sort of a pseudo personality graft for him, telling us who he is by way of our already existing understanding of Tarantino and Sinatra as artists.
Bobby Tarantino (2016) blends a lot of sub-genre hip hop into the fold again, with a variety of comparable artists audibly present in a lot of Logic’s beats and vocals here. In his song, “Wrist” featuring Pusha T, the beat chosen here was a very uptempo kind of trap instrumental using booming 808’s and plenty of low end to drive the mix. It seems the beat drove Pusha T to have to rap with a little more gusto than average, creating the effect of him sounding more like 2 Chainz than the Pusha T we are used to, but not to an undesirable effect.
In Logic’s song “Slave” the auto-tuned vocals are back, making it another track ahead of its time. The 808’s and kicks in this mix are even more thumping than before, showing that Logic might be using hard beats to somewhat over-compensate for a little insecurity he seems to have over being, perhaps, not quite hard enough to satisfy the audience’s expectations of mainstream rappers. Logic says in this song, “Living as a black man in the skin of a white man,” discussing the controversial issue of his heritage. Logic’s father was black, but his mother was white. Whether or not he is culturally “allowed” to identify as black or not is a heated issue, with a lot of sensitivity behind it on both sides.
Given that Logic looks so white, I’m not sure making a song called “Slave” where he discusses the trials of appearing white while feeling and identifying as partially black, was a good look for him. All I can say is, in Logic’s shoes, I personally wouldn’t have done it. The song raised a lot of questions about whether or not this was an acceptable move, and if memory serves, the conversation eventually died out on its own with no real conclusive consensus from the community either way.
In the song “Deeper than Money” Logic really pushes the envelope even further with his highly Kendrick influenced bars. Sounding more like a parody of Kendrick Lamar than just somebody inspired by him, this track may just be another example of how his work as an artist pushes him to define himself. It’s as if, he hasn’t yet decided if he wants to be himself, or if he wants his artist persona to be a collage of other artists who have inspired him. Leaning on the commercial success and industry respect of an artist like Kendrick may be a safe bet, but he takes it just a little too far in this one. The effect of this is heard mostly in his vocals, all sounding a little bit like somebody doing an impression of Kendrick Lamar, or maybe doing a karaoke version of “Poetic Justice,” a track off Kendrick’s good kid, m.A.A.d city.
BOBBY TARANTINO II
Bobby Tarantino II (2018) is the follow-up mixtape to the original by the same name, and in it Logic further explores himself as an artist by using different types of beats and different kinds of cadence and flow, still trying to find where he fits in all the various sounds of the mainstream. His song, “Wassup” off this mixtape features Big Sean, a Detroit based rapper who also struggled with finding confidence in himself as an artist, but would come into his own as an artist in his own time, just like Logic. The two definitely had a lot in common.
In the song, Big Sean says, “I’m just a young nigga that’s tryin’ to innovate/ as many ways as Em and Jay did Renegade.” In this line, Sean is referencing the 2005 collaboration between Jay Z and Eminem, two giants in the industry who got on the same beat together, creating quite a stir in the community. I’m sure both Logic and Big Sean (who has worked with Eminem closely) both wanted to be doing the same thing as Em and Jay did on Renegade, if not in this song, then, maybe one day. They both have unambiguous aspirations, and equally, evident insecurities. This is a track about dreaming just a little bigger than you currently are.
The song “Wassup” sounds pretty identical to the song “Mercy” (2012) which Big Sean was also a feature on. It has a very reminiscent arpeggiated lead sequence, and the “yea, yea, yea,” adlibs in the song “Wassup” are basically identical to those in the song “Mercy.” Clearly, Big Sean was drawing on his previous commercial successes with more accomplished artists to bring everything he had to the table with this Logic collaboration.
In Logic’s song, “State of Emergency” featuring 2 Chainz, there’s a switch up in vibes when it comes to the beats he’s traditionally selected for his other projects. This beat is almost Dre-like, with very similar melodic loops as those favored by Dr. Dre, a legend in producing and in the game in general. In Dre’s song, “Light Speed,” off his 1999 release, 2001, you can hear a distinct similarity between Logic’s chosen beat for “State of Emergency” and that classic Dre sound, with a little trap-update to the drums which serves to modernize the whole composition.
Logic’s next studio album, entitled, Everybody, dropped in 2017, and as the name suggests, it attempts to make a more mainstream-friendly contribution to the game with a little bit for everybody included. In this album, Logic’s battle to find himself and express himself as an artist and to either join or to separate that from who he is as a person comes to a head. He can’t seem to decide on what version of himself he wants to present to us: Funny, casual, hard, sensitive, introspective, conscious, woke? The jumping around between these extremes shows that he’s not yet sure how he wants to look to the world. This may, in fact, stem from a semi-warped view of self which Logic seems to have always struggled with, making it difficult for him to determine how he’s coming off to others, and what the overall impression of him is to someone listening to his albums. So, he seems to try to straddle the fence again, and, in Everybody, he goes on that artistically precarious mission to give everybody what they want.
In the song “Everybody,” this is particularly evident. In the lyrics, he describes how, even though everybody is different, there’s always common ground to be found. It seems this album is trying to do some of that, too. He also says “I’ve been gone for a minute, but I’m back now,” even though Logic has never “been gone” for a minute. Historically speaking, he seems to have about 30 seconds, tops, between releases.
Another big release for Logic that can be found on this album is the so-called Suicide Hotline song, (“1-800-273-8255”) which brought Logic into the forefront of the mainstream in hip hop. The phone number that the song is entitled with was released in partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or NSPL for short. Logic wrote on Twitter, “I made this song for all of you who are in a dark place and can’t seem to find the light.” With deeply emotional lyrics, the song attempts to be empathetic and encouraging to those in low places, but to me, it is more depressing than anything. The track was very thoughtfully named because, after hearing it, you might find yourself needing to call that number.
The song borders on too much emotional vulnerability, which doesn’t seem to fair well in hip hop these days. But the emotionally empowered singing on the hooks, and also from Khalid on the outro, is enough to keep this song from feeling like it comes from a place of emotional vulnerability, and as such, it comes off as more emotionally introspective, instead. That slight edge towards a more introspective versus a more vulnerable quality might have been the saving grace of this song. It was still enough to push me to want to dial the number on the title though. This is definitely not a song for anyone having a perfect day, to put it mildly. But, it is an important message none the less.
Logic’s fourth studio album was released in 2018 and entitled, YSIV, which stands for Young Sinatra 4. This is a reference to an earlier set of mixtapes Logic had released independently, all bearing the name Young Sinatra. These included Young Sinatra in 2011, and in case you thought maybe he wasn’t Young Sinatra, he released Young Sinatra: Undeniable in 2012, and in case you were wondering when this Sinatra business would end, he released Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever in 2013. Now we have a fourth Young Sinatra, mercifully, however, he has chosen to leave this one an acronym.
YSIV has a title track included on it, which starts out with a spoken intro and a RIP shout-out to Mac Miller. On “YSIV” he sounds a lot like Nas, especially in the Nas song “Life’s a Bitch” which has a remarkably similar chorus to the one in Logic’s title track. It would, in fact, be the same exact chorus, were it not for the additional closing line that Logic adds to Nas’s chorus from his song off the album ill. “Life’s a Bitch” features AZ, another artist that Logic sounds a lot like here, putting Logic in good company in his nostalgic call back. Back to the old B-boy sounding boom-bap beat, he embraces his original instrumental preferences and fills up the bars with lyrics that speak to this end, saying, “if I spit over the boom bap/ then they perceive it as nostalgic/ but the truth is my subject matter has been the same/ and my production selection is still flame.” Flexing aside, it seems Logic is expanding on the notion he leads the verse with when he says “They say they want the old Logic” which, according to one Genius annotation, is a response by Logic to the fans asking him to bring the Young Sinatra persona back. But it also seems he might have misunderstood a lot of commentary on his songs which employ older stylings of beat and flow, which often are referred to by critics as “nostalgic.” This is what a critic calls a throwback when it works — when it actually makes you miss the era that it’s from, as opposed to cringing at it. But it appears that Logic might believe that they’re calling him nostalgic when he is a throw-back to himself, and his own, older works. On a beat like this, so highly referencing Nas’s earlier works, and with Logic flowing like it’s a release from 1992, a song like this would be called nostalgic by most, and that’s when the song actually works. It would just be a failed throwback if it didn’t work. But with so many fans apparently vying for his earlier persona to make a reappearance, he might believe that, when he does so, the nostalgic label is one applied to him for going back to an earlier style. This would definitely send him some mixed messages.
Another song to note on this album is the song “Iconic” which comes second to last on the record at track number 13. It features, of all people, Jaden Smith. All I can say is, I wouldn’t have featured him on my album, but, then again if Logic has taught me anything through his discography, it’s that there really is no logic to how he picks his features. The song is on Jaden’s beat from a previous work he had released called “Icon,” which had some level of commercial success but in terms of being respected or acknowledged by the community, it really wasn’t.
Most people just tuned into that track and accompanying video to see the freak show. But on the Icon beat, the song “Iconic” — the name being a nod to the beat’s origins — Jaden has a pretty small role as a feature. He only has four spoken word lines on the song, appearing somewhere towards the end, just when you think you’ve somehow escaped having to hear him. The lines are not worth noting. This feature is not the first head scratcher on this album, and somehow, after featuring Jaden Smith, I still find myself giving Logic a pass. Maybe he just wanted to provide Jaden some positive traction, or some kind of press that wasn’t all shock value. Only Logic knows I guess. To make matters even weirder, this song starts out with a shoutout to Eminem’s alter ego, Slim Shady. For no apparent reason. Eminem is notoriously not a huge fan of Will Smith, so, I don’t know if this was some attempt to point at that, or if Logic has just abandoned all actual Logic. A Jaden Smith feature and a Slim Shady shout out go together like a peanut butter and ketchup sandwich, leaving us to ask, who would make that?
The list of questionable features doesn’t stop with Jaden Smith. On the song “Thank You” Logic also features the RattPack (in… spirit?). If he’s referring to Frank Sinatra’s old group, that’s definitely odd, because they’re all long dead. The RattPack does have 499 subscribers and 0 monthly listeners on Spotify now, thanks to Logic citing them as an official feature, and that’s pretty impressive for a now-non-existent artist group. I guess.
On the song, “Wu-Tang Forever” the absurdly long, non-related feature list continues. This song features every member of Wu-Tang (minus Ol’ Dirty Bastard), and when you watch the features scroll across the screen forever, you’d swear it features everybody they’ve ever known, too.
In Logic’s first album, Under Pressure, he is trying a bit too hard to be a crafted version of himself. By the time we get to his third studio album, Everybody, he is trying too hard to be everybody else. In this album, he seems to have given up on both of those pursuits, and is, instead, just trying to feature everybody else. It seems Logic is still, even at this point in his career, trying to figure out how he wants to present himself as an artist, and how much of that will be the real him.
CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND
Logic’s most recent album to-date (2019) makes for his fifth studio album (assuming you don’t count either of the Bobby Tarantino mixtapes as studio albums), which he called, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. The album is really more Logic’s Dangerous Confessions than they are the Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
After writing confessional style songs on confessional style beats for years, the title track to this album is the first time Logic authentically confesses. “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” has a lot of lyrics worth noting, all of which hone in on the very thing Logic has been avoiding his whole career, which is, to portray himself honestly with no filter and to say all the things he previously was probably scared to even speak to himself. This can be one of the most liberating artistic experiences, and it appears that Logic is no exception to that rule. In the song, he says, “Even when I’m hearing I’m a bitch, I’m a fag” and because he uses the word “hearing” to describe this incident, instead of say, “People are saying I’m a bitch, I’m a fag” or something to that effect. It begs the question: Could Logic maybe be hearing these things from his own mind, berating him on things he deeply fears others might think about him, or is it really coming from a third party all the time? I think the language he uses, such as the word “hearing” implied strongly that, even if someone else had said this online or something, it’s the replay of it in his head that torments him, and furthers his feelings of inadequacy. He goes on to mention a few other things to that same effect. But in the lines that follow this line about being a bitch and a fag, he switches to using quotes, putting these words in actual quotations on the lyrics, meaning, it is reasonable to assume these things are direct quotes from other people, in this case, Twitter, as opposed to perhaps the trolling of his inner mind. The quoted parts go as follows: “Cuz you’ll never be Kenny/ You’ll never better than Drizzy or Cole/ You’re losing your hair/ You’re too fucking old,” and these might just be the cruel takeaways from the internet that Logic has used subconsciously to support his fears and insecurities. It is especially worth noting that of all the random, mean comments everybody gets, and of the ones he could have chosen to throw back at us in his lyrics, he focuses on the artists who he has been emulating in his flows, in his attitudes, and in his selection of beats, for years; especially with regard to Kenny (Kendrick Lamar) and Drizzy (Drake).
It seems he really has had trouble finding a place to put himself into his own work over the years, deciding instead to rest on what he already knows works, using a lot of influence taken from Drake and from Kendrick. But now, he has to come to the realization that he isn’t those artists, and never will be. Not that Logic never being Drake should break his heart, but, in this case, he clearly sees it differently. The last lines are very typical of somebody who is facing fears surrounding their own mortality and the inevitable aging process (“You’re losing your hair/ You’re too fucking old”). This can be a potent and profoundly disquieting fear to face when you’re already so many years into pursuing a career in hip hop and maybe still not as far along as you want to be.
I can relate to that, as I’m sure many of us can. But this song isn’t speaking to any of us, even though it does sound like he’s throwing a lot back in our face. It’s a song where Logic faces off against Logic, and all the things he’s feared for years, some of which, he may have been afraid to even speak aloud to himself. Letting all of that out and facing your fears, facing yourself even, down on a track, is the breaking through point for a lot of artists. It’s definitely a breakthrough for logic. Once you speak those fears, they lose a lot of their power over you, and then, suddenly, you find yourself artistically free to say whatever you want to say, without filter or reservation.
Eminem, in his early career, talked a lot about this concept. He was interviewed on the reasoning behind his first rap group, D12, having so many alter egos. In these interviews, he often talked about how it was a way to be able to say whatever you wanted to say, without holding back on anything or being afraid of the ramifications of what you end up saying. That’s what the alter ego effect did for members of D12, particularly with Eminem and fellow member Proof, both who had a separate persona which allowed them the freedom to say anything and then somebody else (the alter ego) to take the fall for it when it didn’t go well. Eminem details this more in his song, “Groundhog Day” (2013) if you’re interested. But there’s another way to do this, and that’s to go up against yourself, which has a long tradition in hip hop just as much as the alter ego approach does — both having the same end effect of being able to speak without reservation.
The most recent example of an artist going up against themselves to free themselves to express their fears and their insecurities without backlash is in DaBaby’s 2019 song, “Baby on Baby.” In the opening of the song, he says, “I’m going Baby on Baby/ that nigga a bitch/ he think he a gangsta/ he probably still slingin’ 380,” and the effect was an immediately realized commercial explosion for him after that. It’s reasonable to assume that his process of calling himself out in this song and speaking his insecurities might be related to his ability to make really feel-good songs, leading to his immediate success in the industry.
Certainly Eminem enjoyed immense success in this genre, and he too employed a technique similar to this one, with his alter ego Slim Shady, who had the ability to speak candidly and casually about all the negative things people (in the beginning, mostly) were saying about him, and which, the real Marshall Mathers probably feared were true about him. So, even with Logic somewhat abandoning the less-than-fully realized Sinatra alter ego, he still achieves the same effect in this title track by giving a name to all his fears, particularly the ones he fears true. Eminem also used the alternative method of calling himself out, in addition to using the alter ego approach. Everyone can remember the iconic scene in 8 Mile where he wins a battle by first listing all the things that he thought the other rapper would throw in his face, saying I am this, I am that, and shutting down his opponent in the process.
And what better to follow the track where Logic does this for the first time than with a track featuring the man who did it first? The next track on the album is called, “Homicide” featuring Eminem. It had to be a fantastic feeling for Logic to score this feature, as he’s been a long time fan of Eminem. In this track, Logic gets to battle ‘em all, taking down his own fears, and some of his haters (himself included, perhaps) with his longtime hero Eminem. Logic takes two verses, and while Eminem’s verse is as incredible as always, it doesn’t overshadow Logic on his own album (something that always happens when Em jumps on somebody else’s song). Also, Logic holds his own under the pressure of working with one of the greatest in the industry, something which a lot of more seasoned artists have not been able to manage. “Homicide” marks a crowning achievement for Logic and the crown jewel of the entire album.
Another track to note on this album is the oddball song, “Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different” featuring one very -unlikely Will Smith. I guess giving us a Jaden feature wasn’t enough. In the song, not being afraid to be different is a central theme, as the title would imply. If Logic, in essence, were made into music, this song would be him. It’s a little weird, a little confessional, a bit too illogical to be by an artist named Logic, and all around embodies what seems to be his truth as a person, and now, as an artist. Maybe minus the Will Smith feature. In Will Smith’s part on the song, he goes into that satisfyingly memorable refrain from Fresh Prince of Bel Air, only to cut himself off halfway through after the line ending with, “West Philadelphia born and raised on the playground where I—” continuing with, “aw fuck all that.” The word “fuck” is muted, at the behest of Will Smith and his career-long (career-tanking) moral agenda against curse words.
That head shaking moment aside, the song is really about learning to be ok with yourself, both in terms of the image you put forward as an artist and with the underlying person who feeds that persona. The song “Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different” really should have been titled Don’t Be Afraid to Be Yourself, as being different and being yourself are often two very different things. Logic can be different from a lot of other rappers without really being himself — just on looking white alone, and with his cooky bars and unusual propensity for throwback style songs, not to mention his formality of speech and mannerisms. Being different is not the same as being yourself as an artist, and this will remain true for as long as art remains a commodity. The industry wants artists to be similar enough to other already-market-tested artists to be able to predict the artist’s potential sales and target audience, but they want an artist to also be different enough that this audience will buy music from more than just one of these “type” artists. All the rappers in the A$AP Mob are alike enough to hold the same moniker in the front of their name, but Ferg is different enough from Rocky that you might just buy both artist’s albums. This is the sweet spot of different-but-the-same that the industry wants to pigeon hole their artists in. It’s nothing to be mad at, it’s just the way it is, and the way it will likely continue to be so long as there is money involved.
Logic just needed to learn how to be himself, since he had the whole being-somebody-else thing down to a pretty authentic-sounding measure right off the bat. He achieves this on this last album, and the effect is the debut of the Logic we have all been waiting for.
Logic indeed has learned to be himself at this point in his career and to be good with that. It is an integral part of self-expression to first have some access to self-confession. You can’t really express some part of yourself that even you are afraid to admit is there, and songs that come from a place of self-expression have, for centuries, made for the best, most relatable and deeply-felt music.
So it is essential to be real to yourself, about yourself. Logic is being his utmost self on this album, and that’s important. He’s the most himself, I think, on the song “Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different” where he doesn’t represent a lot of his old ideals or values, something which a lot of people found interesting. Maybe it was time to let go of some of the things he had grown out of, but which his audience had grown used to associating with him. That can be difficult for an artist, as fans see their favorite rapper as a static, unchanging, infallible continuum, and that is just not what any person ever is. Fans don’t often respond well to a change in the core persona of an artist, so Logic was brave to face some of these things down in this song.
Without self-confession, self-expression will never be truly authentic, no matter how genuinely you try to portray yourself. Logic was stuck in this conundrum for years. Being yourself is of primary importance to confessing to yourself, and through self-confession comes authentic self-expression. Maybe you don’t need to be your raw, most essential self in every song, but on this album, Logic gives us at least one song where he is — and with a Will Smith feature, one was enough.
A lot of artists can create a sort of secondary self which they portray as their artist image, and that works great for a lot of them. Other artists find it strictly necessary to be absolutely themselves with no attempt to craft an image whatsoever — but they don’t tend to be very successful. The same is true for the artists who chose to just front a personality without any real care or finesse, just copying the words and behaviors of those they think they’re supposed to be like. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that’s what Logic has ever done. He was more attempting to straddle the fence, flip-flopping between versions of an artistic persona that never fully gratified him. He strikes me as the kind of artist who just would never be okay with making money off an expression of himself that wasn’t ever really authentic. I think this is where a lot of his insecurities as an artist came from. A lot of other artists do this and are okay with it, and we as fans know they’re doing it, and are okay with it. But Logic was never really okay with it — not when it came to himself as an artist. But he seemed to worry that perhaps we wouldn’t accept him in his most authentic form, that we would reject a pure form of expression coming from his real self. A valid concern in this day and age, but one that he had to overcome none the less.
Logic’s moment of real self-confession happens on the first track of this album. And every song that follows that one, it seems, are markedly different. Perhaps this is the resulting effect of a true confessional, where suddenly you are free to begin using the music you’re making as a vehicle of self-expression. This is what makes the music feel like it speaks to us; that it speaks for us. Listeners seem to enjoy music made that has been created through the vehicle of self-expression, even more than just a song they make. Listeners enjoy an artist’s self-expression as a vicarious form of their own self expression, speaking for them and thus allowing them to express the specifics of their own lives as well. Feeling liberated to fully express himself, I believe Logic finally made the music he wanted to make on this album.
LOGIC, AS HE STANDS NOW
Through everything, Logic has been an artist on a journey of self-discovery, and maybe just a little self-shame. He tried on a lot of hats in this industry, always coming just shy of putting his full self on a song. Because he is such a talented artist in all respects, this actually still worked for him in terms of selling records and amassing a fanbase. But I don’t think it ever really worked from him personally. He just needed to build up the bravery needed to try and be himself fully. Perhaps the fact that he’s had some success beforehand with all his previous albums that gave him the courage to do this now. Maybe it was the fact that, on this most recent album, he had some especially-established artists as features. Or perhaps it was a cumulative effect of both of these things which finally gave him the courage to try a more authentic portrayal of himself, something I’m sure he felt like had a good chance of not working out for him. Like, come for the Eminem feature, stay for the real Logic. Maybe that was somewhere in his mind.
It’s kind of ironic because we have all always liked Logic. His music is not the most listenable at times, and let’s face it — that Young Sinatra name he gave himself is downright cringey. He is a little wacky, a little un-categorizable, a little illogical, and somehow always either ahead or behind the times. But we still liked him anyway. It seems that the last person to like Logic was Logic himself. Welcome to the fan-club, Logic. We’ve all been here since the beginning, and, just to be clear, we will all be here till the end.
Just, maybe no more features from the Smith family.