As he preps a spiritual sequel to his debut album, we examine whether Logic can overcome the groundswell of disdain that hip-hop has expressed towards him since 2017.
For the better part of a decade, Logic seemed to be on an upward trajectory. Propelled into the stratosphere by 2011’s Young Sinatra mixtape, the amiable MC was candid about the arduous childhood that he’d endured. Tales of familial drug abuse and near-strangulation from his mother made his sunny disposition all the more remarkable. Never short on aspirational rhetoric, his punch-line laden style and natural charisma soon enabled him to broker a merger between Def Jam and his own Visionary Music Group, weeks after he was named among the 2013 XXL Freshman. But where classmates such as Travis Scott, Joey Bada$$, Chief Keef and Ab-Soul have remained critical darlings, the very traits that once hoisted Logic to stardom are now being held against him.
Although he wasn’t ever universally beloved and regularly had to combat allegations of copying fellow rappers, his 2015-2017 run conjures memories of a time where Logic was considered highly capable as an emcee. Prone to quick-wittedness and neatly crafted rhyme schemes, even those unmoved by the subject matter or quirkiness of his debut LP Under Pressure, The Incredible True Story, or the socially conscious musings of 2017’sEverybody granted him his place among the industry’s leading lights. But ever since that third studio project, it feels as though that Logic’s reputation has been tarnished in the eyes of avid hip-hop consumers.
Teamed with the increasingly muted response to his projects—culminating in the disdainful takes his debut novel’s soundtrack Supermarket-- there is a sense that Sir Robert Bryson Hall II has been left preaching to the converted assembly of the Rattpack with only a semblance of interest from those beyond his core fanbase. Granted, this has done little to damage his commercial standing, as the often-pilloried MC captured his third Billboard number 1 record with Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind. But on the other hand, there seems to be a growing scornfulness towards Logic that suggests his artistic credibility has reached its low ebb.
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As the world grows increasingly resentful and meanspirited towards Bobby Tarantino, this prevailing narrative was recently summarised by agitator extraordinaire Joe Budden as he leveled some serious shade. Speaking on a recent edition of his podcast, the veteran dispensed with any temptation to spare Logic’s feelings. “I’m going to be honest with you”, Joey proclaimed.” I don’t know what they tell you at Def Jam, I know you sold a lot of records, I know you sell out a whole bunch of tours and I know just how successful you are, I have to be honest, you are horrible, man.” As a parting shot, Joe would go on to brand the platinum-selling artist “easily one of the worst rappers to ever grace a mic.''
With fans and detractors speculating on whether the rapper will respond to Budden’s comments, the hate has now reached such a fever pitch that even Your Old Droog—who had previously claimed that “Logic must be stopped”-- felt compelled to recant remarks that he’d made about him in a lengthy open letter. 12 hours after he’d wished death upon the polarising figure and was placed on a Twitter timeout as a result, the New Yorker deemed his actions to be “ill-conceived and repulsive”. Among his impassioned Ratt Pack, questions such as “Why does everyone hate Logic?” And “do you think Logic is corny?” are commonplace. However, a more pressing query that’s often placed on the backburner is whether there’s still time for him to steer away from this vast canyon of ill-feeling and regain the status of the past.
Never one to hesitate when it comes to bearing his soul, a 2018 interview saw Logic openly broach the rising tide of malice that was expressed towards him. "It’s just so fucked up that people can think I’m this way or that way”, he lamented to Billboard. I’m a good man. Why would someone talk shit about me?’ J Cole responded, “Well, why do you care?’ Why do I care what that person said my music isn't that good? That I’m a fuccboi or I’m corny or I’m a hypebeast? Why does it matter?” Far from the only rapper to receive flak online, the comparison to the Dreamville head honcho is valid in some ways. Where Cole is pejoratively labeled “J. Snore” by those who are left unmoved by his music, Logic is often deemed to be “corny” or otherwise false. The crucial difference is that Cole takes a more tactful approach to unfounded hate—as exemplified by his sitdown with the architect of “FUCK J COLE” himself, Lil Pump-- whereas Logic gives oxygen to the hate through acknowledgment.
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Assured in the belief that “social media, personally, destroys me”, addressing the fact that he’s rankled by the comments has only emboldened the entire internet to lambast him. And it’s this inability to let the jibes slide that made Everybody into the turning point. Declaring that “there are certain things that shouldn’t be joked about” after South Park parodied “1-800-273-8255", Logic also took time to acknowledge the seemingly endless array of memes about his heritage and made it clear that they dwelled on his mind. “Not even to bring it up, because I don't even want to talk about it a lot, because it's a meme on the internet now," Logic said. "But, like, even my race, I'm so proud to be who I am and to have all these people try to tell me that I can't be this," he told Zane Lowe.
Two years on from the height of the joke, there remains a sense that Logic is yet to fully reassert himself as a serious artist. For corroboration, look no further than YSIV’s title track from 2018. On the same mixtape that he conspired with the Staten Island’s finest to create a cultural moment on “Wu-Tang Forever," he cited the admiration that his fellow MC’s feel for him as a means of confirming that he’s earned his status. “The legends above me love me like the RZA, like Nas, like Jay 'Cause I mastered the flow from back in the day. Respected by my peers from Drizzy to Cole to Kenny. Thank you for the love and inspiration plenty. Yeah, I'm loved by many, and only hated by a little.”
Saddled with the albatross of trying to prove himself all over again, this groundswell of discontent that’s stalked his every move makes his recent announcement all the more intriguing. During an appearance on the Tiny Meat Gang Podcast from September 19th, Logic suggested that he’s looking backward in order to move forward. “I just did a song the other day called ‘Not Right Now.’ It’s pretty dope," he said. "I was writing it because I’ve been working on an album right now which is a sequel to my first album, Under Pressure, and it talks about a lot of really dope shit on it."
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Met with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, the notion that a fire has been lit under the Maryland native was reinforced with the recent release of “OCD.” Flanked by Dwn2Earth, Bobby Tarantino shed the glossy veneer and took aims at the very fans that uplifted him:
“Oh, shit, it's Logic! Can I have a picture?" They don't give a damn
Soon as they see me, they clench the device that's in they hand
Don't even say hello, more like, "Can I get one for the 'Gram?"
That's when I be like, "Fuck no, but you can shake my hand.”
I’m just gonna vent. This beat is my therapist right now.”
A set of bars that bears resemblances to Eminem’s scathing reproach of intrusive well-wishers on “The Way I Am” or his verse on Xzibit’s “Don’t Approach Me," this raw honesty certainly hearkens back to the days of his 2014 major-label debut. Prior to its release, Logic spoke to Hip-Hop DX and clearly outlined the manifest for the project. “I let all that shit go. All trying to impress anybody”, Logic declared, “and I was just like, “Man, I’m just gonna vent. This beat is my therapist right now.”
Now, if he’s going to reinvent himself, it’s that sort of sincerity, not sentimentality, that’ll do the trick. In the wake of garnering success and the backlash that comes with it, Logic did what many of us would inadvertently do- try too hard to ingratiate himself to audiences and justify his place rather than focusing on his journey. In a reflective moment with NPR from back in 2017, Logic claimed that “I used to have nothing to lose, so that's why I would go as hard as I did— because I had nothing to lose and I had everything to gain." Once freed from the sense of urgency that the come-up requires, it appears that if Logic wishes to re-enter hip-hop’s good graces, he needs to recapture the energy that he possessed on his early projects.