Hip-hop and Seinfeld nostalgia rarely intersect, but then Logic is not your typical rapper. The 24-year-old Gaithersburg, Maryland, native is in town on a promo blitz for his debut album, Under Pressure, and asks to meet me for breakfast at Tom’s Restaurant, the Morningside Heights spot known as Monk’s Diner to fans of Jerry, Elaine, and George. He’s ridiculously punctual, unheard of in hip-hop, and really nice about my tardiness (even more unheard of). “You watch Seinfeld?” he asks, after ordering a tuna sandwich on white bread, toasted, with light lettuce and cheese. “Jerry Seinfeld is the type of dude who would break up with a girl because she eats her peas one at a time.”
Born Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, Logic’s regal name and pop-culture affinities seem more suburbia than his tormented, impoverished, and downright fucked-up upbringing. A light-complexioned, blue-eyed biracial child — he absolutely hates when people incorrectly categorize him as a “white rapper” — he grew up with a white mother who battled prostitution and addiction while his father, who is black, was addicted to drugs, even scoring crack from Logic’s brothers. Terrifying violence was the norm, and Logic recounts seeing his mother and sisters sexually assaulted. His own best friend is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence for stabbing and disemboweling a man on the sidewalk, due to what he believes was a drug deal gone bad.
Somehow, Logic took this as a cautionary example and went the other way.
He’s sober now (aside from jonesing for Newports) and sees a therapist. Music is his catharsis, and he’s funneled his experiences into mixtapes, including 2010’s Young, Broke and Infamous and the Young Sinatra series. The latter caught the ear of the hip-hop industry. In 2012, Logic scored a deal with Def Jam Records; this year, he was inducted into XXL‘s 2014 Freshmen class and spit a hot verse during the BET Hip-Hop Awards cypher.
Flashing lyrical dexterity, tart honesty, and vulnerability, Logic is steadily ingratiating himself within the echelons of respected rap. On Under Pressure, he collaborates with famed producer No I.D., and he’s garnered cosigns from Lupe Fiasco, J. Cole and Nas. But Logic isn’t drinking the Kool-Aid. An independent artist at heart, he’s taking it all in day by day.
You’re one of only two rappers (the other being Tech N9ne) who has shown up early to an interview.
I show up 20 minutes early to business meetings and interviews and stuff. I’m so business-oriented. I run my own company. I have employees. I fund everything. I pay for my tours. It’s not like I have anybody to release the burden on. I’m not the typical guy, you tell me where to rap or where to go. It just doesn’t work that way for me. It’s more of a burden, but I enjoy it.
What strikes me is how pleasant and happy-go-lucky you are. Given your background, people would expect you to be brooding or a difficult interview.
I saw the positive in the situation, even as a kid. Of course, there have been times that I’ve broken down or gone through a bunch of shit or freaked out or had doubt. That’s completely normal, but you do your best to look at the positive in the situation. Even when everything gets completely bleak.
How do you cope? Are you religious or spiritual?
I have a strong relationship with God, but I’m not religious. My mother was overly religious and almost like brainwashing, Bible-thumper kind of crazy. I feel like I would be like a Satanist out of spite. [Laughs.] I think it was just God and common sense. My brothers were in the street selling crack and my dad was smoking crack. My mom was in the house and she was an alcoholic and popping pills and my sisters were getting pregnant. Witnessing all of this going on, my mom getting beat by men, and all this crazy shit, it was like, “Here’s what not to do.”
Have you reconciled with your parents?
I haven’t talked to my mom in years because she’s not a good person, unfortunately. She’s extremely prejudiced against everybody. Race, religion. That’s the type of person she is. It’s very hard. I can’t understand. So all my brothers and sisters are black looking and I’m the only one who looks white. We all lived in this household with our mother, and she was racist. It was weird.
Against black people?
Against everyone. She would even throw racial slurs around to us. I remember people like, “Oh that’s wack. That don’t even make sense” — but I’ll tell the story and people will try to act like I’m the person in the wrong because my mom used to call us “niggers.” It’s fucked up. I don’t get it any more than you get it, and I stopped trying to understand it.
When did you stop talking to your mom?
I left home at 17, got two jobs, and saw her twice since then. We talked once over the phone and she hung up on me on my birthday. My 21st birthday. Long story short, I told her, “I don’t talk to you because of who you are. You’re not a good person because you don’t allow people to have their own opinions and be open-minded whether you agree or not.” Before I could finish, she hung up.
What about your dad?
My dad has always had his ongoing battles with addiction. He’s been clean for a couple years now and he’s doing really good. He can annoy me sometimes, but it seems like every time I get a call from him or somebody it’s about money. I tried to reconcile because me and him had a falling-out. I flew him and my brother to L.A. from Maryland and I spent, like, $1,500 on the flight. He’s not even there for 30 minutes and asks me for $600. I’m like, “What do you need $600 for?” He’s like, “I’m on probation.” You’re on probation? You’re 60 years old. What did you do? It just goes on and on. In my mind, I’m like, “What a selfish motherfucker. I just spend $1,500 to fly you out here. Before you even came, you should have told me you needed the money and I would have just helped you.” My father’s too old for me to take care of. But it’s all good. It’s cool.
Are you OK with it, or do you want closure with your parents?
I’m 100 percent OK with it. For me, it’s not about closure. It’s about acceptance. I accept my family’s fucked up. It is what it is. I never had a good family, and because of that…like, witnessing my mom and sisters get assaulted taught me what not to do and what to do. I feel like when I get married and have children, I’ll hopefully do my best to create the family that I always wanted. It’s not like I’ll never have it.
Because of your past, do you find yourself craving stability in relationships? Are you a serial monogamist?
One hundred percent, but especially in my situation. I was with a chick for five years, like 16 on. It was a real difficult breakup. She was kind of a cunt about it, but it’s all good. She’s a good woman. After we broke up, I realized that as much time and effort you put into a human being, you’re not guaranteed to get that back. Through that, I began working and working. I realized that as much time and effort I put into my craft, I get it back. For me, ever since then, I couldn’t really hold down a girlfriend. Not because I’m bad. I think I’m a really sweet man, but I don’t know. I’m a relationship man. Even when I’m single, I don’t have sex. It’s weird. I don’t sleep around. Most people don’t believe me, unfortunately.
Is there FOMO from not sleeping around and partaking in the requisite rap groupies? There are 36 flavors and you’re sticking with vanilla.
I’ll put it like this. I’ve been with a few women. Nothing crazy. It’s like a box of standard crayons. Red, white, black, purple. Standard. I’ve gotten a taste of a few flavors — I don’t necessarily mean color, but personalities — to know pretty fucking much what my favorite kind is. Blue is my favorite color. There’s times I thought red would be. Other people are like, “We gotta step it up to the 100-crayon box and try fuchsia. This and this.” For me, I don’t need 50 shades of gray. I know what I want.
So how has the promo run been going?
It’s more so talking about the story, who I am as a person. The music is damn good. Not to sound arrogant. I don’t mean to but I just put so much into the music that I know how good it is. It’s different. From live instrumentation to strings to a small orchestra to, you know, bassists and guitarists. I know how good the music is and I think it’ll speak for itself. While I’m here, it’s not me going, “Oh. My shit’s incredible” or “Go check out my album because it’s the best!” I feel like people know I can rap, for the most part, but why should we like him?
Why should people like you?
I think people should like me because I’m my fucking self. I know that might sound weird. I don’t try to be anything that I’m not. Miles Davis said, “You play for a long time before you learn how to play like yourself.” I feel like the mixtapes were never cohesive — I was getting there, and it was sounding good, but the album is a body of work. It’s a little cliché, like, overcoming and making it out, but it really is that. It’s legit. It’s more heartfelt than “MC Killer Murder Dog” talking about making it out of the ‘hood, or whatever the case may be.
Killer Murder Dog (if he existed) would be a great rapper. Do you feel like you’ve “made it”?
I think “making it” is a perception. Making it to you might not be making it to me, or the next person. When I graced the cover of XXL, that was huge. Like, oh my God, I can’t wait to be where Mac Miller was or where Wiz or Sean or Cole or my favorites were. When I got there it was like, “This shit is wack.” Not that XXL is wack, but, like, I want more. For every goal I attain, I set 10 more.
You signed to Def Jam in 2012 but didn’t announce it until 2013. Why did you wait?
Because we didn’t want people to think, “Oh. He’s gone mainstream.” We didn’t want it to seem as if it was too premature to the public, even though we were working for years. Another thing was we wanted people to know that we kept our creative control and integrity, which is 100 percent true. The XXL cover. That was us. That wasn’t Def Jam. The BET cypher. That’s not Def Jam. Def Jam doesn’t really do shit. Not in a negative way. They’re more so a bank. A lot of these major labels don’t know how to break artists today, because the game has changed.
Why not stay independent with your Visionary Music Group?
The majors have radio and television. For me, make those connections and then, you know. Do your own thing. Quote me: “Def Jam has not done shit for my career except give me money.” That’s awesome. They gave me the money I needed to go out and create what you see. They’re a bank. That’s what they’re good for. But Visionary Music Group is the reason me and you are talking. They’re the reason I’m successful. I’d be nothing without Chris, my manager and founder of Visionary Music Group.
You’re a fiercely independent artist. In fact, Nas courted you and you chose not to sign with him.
He’s the man. He was such a good dude. For me, I never wanted to live in his shadow, and in my mind, I had all these other deals, Def Jam included, and I could sign under him and forever try to fill his shoes or I could try to be his label-mate. I chose the latter, respectfully.