When we think of the hip-hop kings of today we tend to list out obvious contenders such as Drake, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar. Some may even argue that Big Sean or Chance the Rapper may qualify but personally I’d like to throw Logic into the mix. I’ve followed the rapper since his Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever mixtape and I recall being impressed with his flow and wordplay. But honestly speaking, I never thought I’d have such an interest in his music as I do now. And with his third commercial effort, Everybody, my interest has peaked to its highest level. However, I wonder is he deserving of a slot in hip-hop kingdom? What if Everybody is a work of majestic brilliance and nobody listens to it?
The album opens with “Hallelujah” as Toro Y Moi’s vocals glide along a string-piano combo with hints of an electric piano that will lift you into a heavenly aura. Logic fittingly approaches the record with saying, “Open your mind”, as he prepares the audience for a journey of spiritual confrontation, a search for racial identity, and social ignorance. These are themes that can be viewed as redundant in hip-hop but his unique approach keeps the ears alert and focused. “Everybody” follows with Logic building a parallel of his bi-racial struggles to the common man. Whether it is gender, sexual orientation, or race; he boils it down to the idea that as humans, we all bleed, that we all need love and that we all need something. That something is essential to the lives we all desire to live.
“Killing Spree” is the yang-like match to “Everybody”. Logic raps about how we ignore certain distinct needs. We’re so wrapped up in our phones, busy schedules, and our own issues that we forget that we need each other. These distractions or priorities tie our hands and keep us from reaching out and truly empathizing with one another. The song beautifully transitions into my favorite track “Take It Back”, where Logic dives deep into his struggles of being bi-racial as a kid which ultimately taught him to be slow to judge when it comes to people of different backgrounds. He then breaks into a very personal monologue about his absent and black father and a racist white mother who would voice her discouragement towards him. The amazing part is how he connects all of this to the first black man:
“Take it way way back to the first black man/Long ago before the white man could paint the black man with a gun in his hand”.
Then to the first white man:
“Take it way way back to the first white man/At the very moment when they looked around and said ‘f*ck it I’m a steal this land.”
In one statement he’s showing how the black man is portrayed negatively – like his father. And in the other, he’s stating how whites have stolen things from other cultures to maintain their supremacy – case in point, his mother. And even though he is the combination of both, he chooses to clean the slate. This song gets really deep, as it is well written and thought provoking.
“America” holds the album’s most memorable wuotes with, “George Bush don’t care about black people/2017 and Donald Trump is the sequel/So, shit, I say what Kanye won’t/Wake the fuck up and give the people what they want”. Logic follows his hip-hop predecessors by using Black Thought, Chuck D, and a very rare vocal cameo from NO I.D. as they verbally attack the current political climate of America. The beat is filled with urgency as the delivery of the lyrics and distorted vocals orchestrate a protest against the current presidential administration. Then the protests simmers down into what sounds like a J.Cole throw-away that perfectly adjusts for Logic’s infamous flow. He and Juicy J then trade bars mocking rappers with identity issues. I wish the song was a minute longer especially since their chemistry surprisingly worked well.
“Anziety” cradles you into a blissful daydream as Lucy Rose serenades you with her smooth angelic vocals. Then instantly, Logic explodes onto the scene, “I’m a get up in ya mind right now/Make you feel like die right now” just as strong as his anxiety attack back in 2015. The song’s warmth hug then immediate burst of heat brings us right into the night where Logic, unconsciously crashed into the ground and woke up in hospital bed feeling nothing but fear and helplessness. Logic orchestrates his most vivid piece on the album vocally, musically and lyrically. And then there is the album’s closer, which is also the album’s former title, “AfricAryaN”. The song delves into the album’s central theme of racial identity as he expresses himself being defensive on both sides of his cultures. He also vividly takes us into a different scope of his world where he’s witnessed domestic abuse, abandonment, and the need of love and affection by his parents. It rounds out a beautiful group of compositions that Logic himself should feel impressed with.
THE ROYAL NO’S
Even thought I think Logic has put together a slightly better album than Kendrick’s DAMN, it doesn’t mean he’s excluded from criticism. And if you know me, I find flaws in everything. On “Confess”, Logic takes us on a journey with a lost soul questioning God and the purpose of life as the devil lurks in search of him. It sounds like a good concept but the execution isn’t there. Maybe it’s the house music like instrumental or the odd gospel-like adlibs during his verses that doesn’t quite fit. Killer Mike then comes on and speaks from the perspective of the same character in Logic’s verses but the message in his monologue is much more profound. This turns into a developing theme throughout the album.
After the album’s intro, Atom and God (voiced by Big Von and Neil DeGrasse Tyson respectively) have a conversation where Atom appears dead and is in a waiting room with God as he overlooks the characters within Logic’s music. It’s a cool concept but the storyline lacks true meaning which you will hear as you play the album in its entirety. Then there are the next few tracks, “Mos Definitely”, “Black Spiderman”, and believe it or not “1-800-273-8255” that comes off as almost corny to me. Whether it is the chants of ‘black people’ or Damien Lemar Hudson’s, “black Spiderman”, these songs lack solid delivery. While I understand his aim to tackle issues surrounding black empowerment, racial stereotypes, and suicide, I believe he missed the mark.
Black Thought is amazing as usual and Chuck D sounds just as great as he did in ’87. But I will admit Juicy J surprised me with his performance on “Ink Blot”. The one feature that raised a lot of questions is NO I.D. and how his ending plays out.
“Now send the blacks back to Africa/Build a wall for the Mexicans/Send the whites back to Europe/Give the land to the Native American/Take the skyscraper/Tear down the casino/Print your own paper/And bear down on the gringo.”
It lacks clarity on his perspective on a multitude of issues and leaves me wondering what the goal was overall. J.Cole appears at the very end of the album and even though his two-and-a-half minute verse is well-crafted, he isn’t spitting anything refreshing. His verse summarizes the album over a low quality recording and while it is a feature from J. Cole, it wasn’t entirely useful.
Logic has the skill set to compete with any and every rapper. His different bodies of work already topple the big fishes like Drake, Big Sean, or arguably J. Cole. But the issue that remains is how difficult it is to identify what makes Logic great. Kendrick is the versatile rapper with everlasting content. Drake is a consistent hit-maker. Cole is the introspective monk and Sean is the punch line dark horse – so where does that leave Logic? When I first listened to this album I instantly thought it was his best work yet. But I went back and listened to his first project Under Pressure. And I soon realized that Logic has the a keen ability to paint pictures that no other artist dares to. Whether his brush treads slowly over the canvas paying close attention to details, or his brush moves swiftly and glosses over the strokes others aim to correct; Logic delivers masterpieces deserving a seat in hip-hop royalty.