Logic’s third studio album, Everybody, is on its way to Number One, and the lede appears to be “biracial rapper deals with being perceived as white” or something looser, like “rapper accepts himself and finds peace and popularity.” We have no idea if Sir Robert Bryson Hall II is actually happier than he was before, or if he’s still concerned that coming from the DMV (as the D.C./Maryland/Virginia pocket is called) isn’t as cool as being from California, where he lives now. But we do know that Logic still worries, which is partly how a wholesome, nerdy kid who likes to rap double-time became a mainstream artist. A decade ago, Logic’s baggy albums would have been too idiosyncratic to work. Now he sounds like he has a dozen tabs open, music blasting, a video playing on another monitor, as he imagines the likes into being. Everybody is entirely of a piece with Logic’s catalog, which documents a hardworking student feeling insecure in the open.
Take his first studio album, Under Pressure, from 2014. Logic openly borrows the digitally filtered woman who played tour guide on A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders in 1993. This proto-Siri is turned into one of Logic’s cheerleaders on “Growing Pains III,” where she reads this publicity copy at the end of the song: “Logic has recorded 1,700 songs in the span of his ten years as an MC. However, only just over 150 have been released to the public.” Logic has a way of preemptively assuming we’re not on his side, making him double down on his own mythology. The title track of 2015’s The Incredible True Story is a seven-minute song with only one minute of rapping. The song ends with two astronauts from the future — reoccurring characters who appear at the end of Everybody — talking about how Logic’s rapping reminds them of Tarantino’s camerawork. Instead of going Kanye and openly discussing his anxieties, Logic lays out all of his boy-in-the-bedroom scenarios, his game-day omnipotence fantasies that he likely knows we’ll recognize as such.
Race is the locus of Logic’s anxiety on Everybody, and it is expressed in the overly long codas he can’t seem to let go of. (The rapper rarely meets a three-minute track that he doesn’t prefer as a six-minute song supplemented with a skit.) “Take It Back” — less than two minutes of rapping, plus four minutes of talking — talks about a kid “persevering” while the world tells him he won’t be shit. Apparently, some of Logic’s racial anxiety comes from his white mother being a “racist” and a “cracker.” But Logic also castigates his black father for being an absent addict. Everyone is to blame here but Logic. “The craziest shit” and “the wrong people” were preventing him from “preaching a message of equality,” which demanded that he get two jobs, while also making music, instead of sleeping. This doesn’t sound like self-pity, exactly, if we think the teen Logic of this story is talking. It is less appealing if we imagine the 27-year-old Logic is just now sorting out his family identity and throwing his own mom under the bus.
His anxiety is what drives much of this narrative wobbling and Logic knows it. He calls it just that on “Anziety,” which is a Logic-style list of what is bugging him: intro with strings, backing singer being ambient, Logic rapping quickly for a few minutes and then simply talking: “I have anxiety just like you, the person I wrote this for, and together we will overcome this feeling. We will remember, despite the attacks and constant feeling of our mind and body being on the edge, that we are alive.” It’s corny, as a lot of Logic’s work is, which works in the context of him changing his backdrops so often. Other than in his rhymes, Logic isn’t presenting a story of mastery. A Logic fan doesn’t mind him making up long, sci-fi backstories for his albums because he won’t make up anything important.
First and foremost, Logic is a fan, and the pleasures in his work often come from his synthesizing a bunch of stuff that already exists. He’s fond of pointing out exactly what he is doing as he does it, so “Young Jesus,” from The Incredible True Story, begins with an announcement that we are going back to the Nineties, in case rap fans don’t, like, know about rap. Which, this many years into the game, they might easily not. This is where Logic sheds his anxiety, in the library. Over a beat that borrows from the Skull Snaps and ESG’s “UFO,” Logic plays Nas and Das EFX while his friend Big Lenbo does a strong Big Pun impression. Nothing special but entirely solid. If Logic is the gateway drug to the past, god bless him.
Across his earlier albums and mixtapes, Logic not having a center wasn’t a problem. He would name-drop OutKast right after biting them convincingly, and do entire tracks like “Now” that read like mini mixtapes of Drake’s various flows. On Everybody, when he mimics the cadence of first Drake, and then Kendrick, on “Black SpiderMan,” he’s both aggrieved and confused. He leads a chant of “black is beautiful” at one point, co-signing a black Jesus, Spider-Man, and Seinfeld, while also leading a variety of shouts-out to his own biracial status. He seems to want to fold everything in to his anxiety over race, which overloads the apparatus. He raps, “I ain’t ashamed to be white, I ain’t ashamed to be Black, I ain’t ashamed of my beautiful Mexican wife as a matter of fact.” This is the preemptive explanation, again. Pulling everything into one rainbow of apology and acceptance, where racial identity is caught up with sexuality and religion, is more than we can cover with something like anxiety. It just doesn’t scan, since these forms of identity don’t all have the same engine, nor are they experienced in similar ways.
Logic can be especially fun when talking shit and drawing from the entire library of hip-hop, and that he wants to be more than that is laudable. Everybody suggests that the path to becoming elevated and righteous isn’t necessarily an incredible story. Logic needs vivid, supernatural material to let his gifts shine; the work of the self may be too mundane and iterative for a show-off.