As the world awaits the release of his next project, we delve back into Logic's catalogue and sort his studio albums from worst to best.
Depending on who you ask, Logic can represent a number of things. To some, he’s an artist that merits the highest degree of praise for his inventiveness and commitment to his vision. For others, Sir Robert Bryson Hall III is either “corny” enough to be vilified or has just retreated from hip-hop’s foreground to cater to his target audience alone. Whatever way you square it, the MC is in the midst of a massive tour across America and is granting a lucrative platform to J.I.D and YBN Cordae by bringing them along for the ride.
Set to voyage to Australia straight afterwards, this demonstrable ability to still sell out arenas at a whim suggests that he remains unimpeachable in the eyes of Rattpack affiliates across the world. After all, while his career may have experienced ebbs and flows, his carefully honed capacity to rhyme at a virtuosic level has remained intact.
And what’s more, he’s gearing up to go back to his roots.
Among those who’ve grown weary of recent work, there’s been a lingering hope that he’d exhume the spirit of the records that put him on the map and get back to that headspace. Now, he’s wilfully returning to it.
As alluded to with the "No Pressure Freestyle," Logic corroborated all the forum speculation during a trip to the Tiny Meat Gang Podcast studio. “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.”
Although there’s no documented timeline for its release as of yet, his recent rate of productivity would suggest that we may well get the tentatively titled No Pressure in 2020.
In the meantime, we’ve decided to use the downtime to retrace Bobby Tarantino’s steps and rank his albums accordingly.
Before we get underway, it’s important to clarify that this is an appraisal of major studio projects, not mixtapes. Prolific as he’s been in that area over the years, that would could merit its own investigation. With the legwork out of the way, let’s begin our voyage into the varied and eclectically-curated catalogue of the Maryland MC.
6. Supermarket (2019)
When Logic announced that he’d penned a novel, the response was a lot less quizzical than it would be if almost any other rapper decided to do so. His well-documented penchant for wordplay and incorporating gradually unfolding stories into his records notwithstanding, Bobby had previously discussed bringing the written word to life through a comedy he’d created with Judd Apatow. Proposed as “Clerks for a new generation,” it’s fitting that his first novel, Supermarket, would also be closely tied to the world of customer service. Far from being viewed as some untalented interloper, the literary realm welcomed him with open arms.
Eager to be viewed as a renaissance man, Logic soon transplanted the New York Times bestselling book’s narrative into the musical realm.
“I was at my old house and making these songs about love”, he told The New York Times. “I was feeling kind of lonely, and I realized that is also how [the protagonist] Flynn felt it kind of hit me like, I want to do more than just rap. These were songs that almost would have never come out because I would have been too scared. But I think that fear is a good thing.”
Empowering as the experience may have been for him, Supermarket’s corresponding soundtrack has its fair share of missteps. Released in March of 2019, the album’s genre-bending sound is not as wholly irredeemable as some may have suggested but it’s certainly not a triumph either. For every gaudy mess like “Bohemian Trapsody” or the misguided hybrid of piano balladry and Biz Markie that is “Baby,” there’s bright spots worth sifting through for such as the Mac Demarco-aided “Probably Gonna Rock Your World” that lands somewhere between Neptunes-era Pharrell at his most lo-fi and the latter-day disco experiments of Tame Impala. A project that would’ve been better as a 4 track EP than the sprawling 49 minutes that materialized, there’s nothing to say that Logic has to pigeonhole himself to succeed, but the good outweighs the bad on this occasion.
5. Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (2019)
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Committed to wearing his heart on his sleeve for better or worse, Logic has made no secret of his contemptuous relationship with the public’s opinion. Festering on his brain, the rapper has raised his concerns in countless interviews, going so far as to seek J. Cole’s guidance on the matter. Rather than heeding any advice, Logic funneled his misgivings about trolling and tweeting into his material and it soon became one of the focal points of 2019’s Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind.
“It’s a place where people want to say hurtful things whether you’re famous or not or this and that and bully you…and it has even made me sad,” he confessed to Hollywood Life before the record’s release. “Imagine thousands of people are talking trash about you right now. That is kind of a sad thing. So, I talk about where we are and where we are headed and where hopefully we can end up… there is some dope ass raps on there too.”
Intrinsically linked to social media and its perception of him, the record saw Logic come out swinging. Fuelled by an innate need to prove himself and silence the critics, Logic seemed to pull out every trick in the bag on this project, switching up flows, tampering with melody and proving his proficiency when it comes to rapping over just about anything. And yet, there was an inescapable sense that, while playing host to a few great offerings, it somehow fell short of the mark.
Coming out of the gate with authority, Logic broaches the pejoratives that are thrown his way and the toll they take on his psyche throughout the title track, “Wannabe” and “Clickbait,” venomously spitting “I'm a motherfuckin' hypebeast, I ain't black in the slight least, I ain't good enough, I should quit, I should kill myself (Kill myself), 'Cause "you'll never be Kenny", You'll never be better than Drizzy or Cole, You're losing your hair, you're too fucking old.”
Then, away from the self-flagellation, he re-emerges with a pep in his step and renewed confidence at a rate that seems abrupt. Expressed most notably on the Andre Hotbox & J.LBS produced “Out Of Sight” and “Pardon My Ego,” the preceding track does a fine job of displaying the ingenuity that will allow him to meld his rhymes round any given sonic footprint while the latter does little to parry the persistent allegations of biting Drake.
A dizzying mix between counting his blessings and lamenting over how the public’s patience for him has waned, Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind’s main issues arise from the exhaustive rehashing of these two themes and the lingering lack of focus it breeds.
As a result, genuine highlights such as the immersive groove of “Keanu Reeves” and the lyrical marathon of the Shady-aided “Homicide” are sold short by poorly crafted collaborations with Will Smith and Gucci Mane that only add to the disjointed feel of the project. An album of two halves that refuse to be welded together, his latest album sees Logic trying on different narratives and struggling to work out which one he feels at home in.
4. Everybody (2017)
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Owing a deep debt of gratitude to Andy Weir— best known for The Martian that’d later be adapted for the big screen— and his short story The Egg, the concept behind Logic’s third studio project Everybody soon grew arms and legs. Based around a revelatory dialogue between “you” and God that takes place after your current life has elapsed, Weir’s acclaimed short story does a great job of driving home the commonalities in the human experience through the ages and the cosmic ties that bind:
“I had the idea to do the skits,” Logic said to Hard Knock TV of its influence. “But then it hit me: What if I actually rapped from the perspective of all the lives this guy is living?”
Spanning 70-plus minutes, Everybody often seems like a concerted effort to live up to the profundities of the source material. Beyond that, there’s a sense that he was trying to not only position himself as a unifier in hip-hop but somehow mend the rifts of society. During 13 tracks that veer between the sublime to the ham-fisted, Logic fixates on the shared pitfalls that we all endure in life with varied results. Swathed in luscious production, he throws caution to the wind and enters the pantheon of gospel during “Hallelujah” before dabbling with Chicago-house piano stabs on “Confess” alongside powerful oration from Killer Mike. On the flipside, there are times in which his mission statement of bridging the gaps between us all emerges through tired rhetoric rather than quality work. And, in a moment that he’s arguably never recovered from, Everybody is the record where he stepped into the internet-dictated beartrap of memes through the recurring allusions to his biracial status.
Inspired by looking “at where we are in the world” and “realizing that millions of people listen to my voice,” his noble intentions couldn’t compensate for the shortcomings in his expression, with the use of iconic hip-hop dissidents like Chuck D and Black Thought on “America” only exacerbating that perception.
By no means shy of phenomenal tracks such as “1-8000-273-8255,” the Ansel Elgort-featuring “Killing Spree” and “Black Spiderman,” there’s plenty to lavish praise on here. However, its transparency in trying to be a socially-conscious classic in the vein of To Pimp A Butterfly or Black On Both Sides is exactly what prevented it from entering that realm.
3. Young Sinatra IV (2018)
At the tail end of Everybody, a comment from one of The Aquarius III’s Quentin Thomas— more on that later— from “AfricaAryan” suggested that his fourth record would be his swan song. But as we know, this was far from the case and in reality, it was a bait-and-switch that ignited the excitement that surrounded Young Sinatra IV. Transferring the series from mixtapes to official canon, the record arrived in the wake of a side project that rekindled his love for rhyming for the fun of it on Bobby Tarantino II. After harnessing that outlook, Young Sinatra IV eschews the conceptual ligature that he’d been entrapped by on recent albums in favour of doing what he does best: spitting.
The project sees Logic stick to one preconceived direction and carry it through with skill. A love letter to the East Coast’s 90’s golden age, Logic takes its tenets and repurposes them for his own, vastly more upbeat means. Free to demonstrate his lyrical prowess without worrying about how it fits into the thematic concern of the record, YSIV features many of his best punchlines in years on tracks like “One Day” and the frenetically paced “100 Miles & Runnin” before the nostalgic tone of the record drives home his incisive and cutting remarks about the state of the industry on “The Return” :
“Back then I thought I'd be defined by how good I rhyme. Not like these rappers with shit flows, but look good online. Not made to feel bad for speakin' bout this shit on my mind.”
Bolstered by guest spots from frequent collaborators such as Big Lenbo and British folk songstress Lucy Rose and less commonplace names such as Jaden Smith on “ICONIC” as well as Wale, Haillie Stansfield & Ryan Tedder, let’s not forget to give credit where it’s due for reassembling all of the remaining Killa Beez for a full-scale celebration of Staten Island’s finest on “Wu Tang Forever.”
Although it may not be some seminal project that moulded hip-hop in his own image, Young Sinatra IV reiterated everything that Logic is great.
2. The Incredible True Story (2015)
Aside from Clipping’s incredible, Polaris Prize-winning Splendor & Misery or the technicolour world of Ishmael Butler’s Shabazz Palaces, sci-fi and hip-hop are two worlds that often seem incompatible. Save for Kendrick Lamar and Janelle Monae’s occasional leanings towards afro-futurism, the concept becomes even harder to stomach from artists in the mainstream. Yet for Logic, the birth of the daring, space-travelling odyssey known as The Incredible True Story all arose from a matter of self-acceptance.
"When I let all that shit go, and was like, I'm an anime nerd—[a] sci-fi loving, film-going motherfucker," he told The Fader, "that completely changed how open I was as far as lyrical content, for sure."
By doing so on his sophomore project, Logic took risks that paid off. Lovingly co-produced by his tenured partner-in-crime 6ix, the record brims with the optimism of a man that knows he has something special to unveil.
Everyone remembers the first time they heard that panoramic opener of “Contact.” Exuding grandeur and with ambition to spare, its triumphant strings give the sense of delving into something timeless while the dialogue between the occupants of The Aquarius III spacecraft is fleshed out with sonic textures that make you really feel as though you’re orbiting above the remains of the earth and listening to captain Quentin Thomas and William Kai discussing where it all went wrong.
Following the plight of the spaceship’s crew on their journey to Paradise, his knack for linear storytelling is very apparent and takes skits from the superfluity of many records from the past into an actual plot device.
Merging a highfalutin concept about earth’s extinction through genetically engineered meat and nuclear war with radio-ready singles. “Fade Away” sees him in contemplative form, eking out a frank portrayal of his outlook on life before “Like Whoa” cranks up the voltage with its joyously simplistic hook and flirtation with latin rhythms. Beyond that, Bobby places his own spin on that iconic ESG sample and delivers on “Young Jesus” before harking back to jazz-rap on the meticulously crafted “Innermission” with British songstress Lucy Rose.
For fans of Logic's lightning quick flow and overall demeanour, there’s plenty to love about the record, including some of the most vivid production work of his entire career. Yet with all this taken into account, it still couldn’t overthrow the gem that glistens brighter than all others in his catalogue.
1. Under Pressure (2014)
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It’s an old cliché that artists struggle to top their debut, but it’s one that rings true in Logic’s case. Where artists have allowances of two years to map out what they want to do with the follow-up, they have a lifetime to ruminate on their first grand statement to the world. And in Robert Hall III’s case, what a lifetime it had been. Abandoned by his drug-addled father and treated with begrudging indifference by his alcoholic mother, the streets of Maryland threatened to consume him until he finally found his salvation in music. After bubbling on the underground and inking a multi-record deal with Def Jam, the Visionary Music Group artist had the expectant eyes of the world on him as we awaited his debut studio album.
As for the direction he wished to take, Logic’s intentions were straightforward and congruent with the way he carried himself five long years ago:
“Instead of doing the radio route… I wanted everybody to know Logic is a spitter, he respects and loves hip-hop, and he’s a student of the game.”
Under Pressure is Logic’s most autobiographical record in a way that doesn’t grasp for wider social implications, instead opting to tell his own story with an endearing candidness.
Reflective in tone, its title track takes a birds-eye view at his road from squalor to success while offerings such as the beautifully arranged “Growing Pains III” and the smooth “Buried Alive” zoom in on the hardship and explore how he scrambled to the surface. Purposefully free from any high-powered features that’d distract from his story, he tackles his over reliance on cigarettes within a light veneer of metaphorical language during “Nikki” before grasping the opportunities that he’s been given on album highpoint “Soul Food.”
Constantly flitting between turmoil and triumph, it makes the sudden disdain for his sentimental tendencies difficult to comprehend when this record proves they were there from the outset. Not to mention his overt cribbing from other artists that has led to countless accusations of biting:
"I wear my inspirations on my sleeve," he told Complex prior to the record’s release. "It’s so weird to me that it's OK to take something from Nas’ Illmatic because that was 20 years ago, but you can’t take something from Drake. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a difference between taking exact words, but I’m just very open with it."
A poetic masterclass that built upon the industry’s working knowledge of Logic and what he’d set out to accomplish from his earliest mixtapes, Under Pressure is the most robust picture of why he still captivates audiences, and its tracks have aged with an unexpected grace. Still boasting replay value after all these years, the album remains the gold standard for Bobby Tarantino and makes the concept of a sequel all the more tantalizing.