Logic, a rapper hailing from Maryland has dropped mixtapes for years that have established him as a student of the rap game, though not necessarily an innovator. However, on his debut studio album, fittingly titled “Under Pressure,” the MC has a creative rebirth, a pushing of the reset button, still pulling from a number of influences and yet successfully crafting a confident and refreshing body of work he can mostly call his own.
I’ll begin with my gripes, which, as previously stated, stem from being an avid listener of hip-hop’s current atmosphere, an era which Logic announces himself a part of through the music on his album. Even a casual radio skimmer can see Drake’s hand in Logic’s inflection and ad-libs (see: “Gang Related”), an appreciation for Schoolboy Q’s knack for crafting party jams (see: “Bounce”), and the sing-song rhyming and sneering of Big Sean and J. Cole (see: “Intro” for Big Sean, and “I’m Gone” for a dose of Cole).
The most apparent presence is Kendrick Lamar, with the ghost of his acclaimed “good kid, m.a.a.d. city” lingering from track to track on the album to an almost shocking degree. “Buried Alive” not only takes its name from Kendrick’s interlude on Drake’s second album, but features musical and lyrical choices that could only have come from repeated listens to “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe.” “Never Enough” ingrains itself in your memory as a “good kid” or “Section 80” leftover, from the beat to the flow to the Outkast-sampling hook, but it’s in the main body of Logic’s major debut. The beat to “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” the standout track on Kendrick’s first studio album, is essentially recreated on both Logic’s “Metropolis” and his title track, while its theme and delivery are also strongly present. Paying homage to both the past and the present, and especially to one’s rivals, is appreciated in today’s landscape, but through the middle stretch of Logic’s album I felt as if I were being encouraged to play some Kendrick instead.
When Logic finds his voice, there’s much to admire. The man can tell a story while rapping his head off, changing up his flow and delivery enough to keep the listener interested; although the cool, lushly constructed beats (a good portion made by Logic himself) might tempt one to lose attention of the lyrics. The beats often seamlessly change mid-song, and Logic adapts over them like a lyrical chameleon, blending in with expected but welcome (and nearly flawless) styles. There’s not one dud when it comes to the production, with the standouts being “Soul Food,” “I’m Gone,” “Gang Related,” “Till the End,” and the Eazy-E-sampling nine-minute title track.
The inspirational crooning on the introductory track doesn’t quite work, but when the bars finally come they don’t let up. The first few tracks following the intro lead you to believe you’re listening to something special, which is still true by the end of the album, although much of the feeling is diluted by a slower and less original middle section. “Under Pressure,” the album’s penultimate track (not counting the bonus songs, which appear more as solid afterthoughts than anything else) picks things up and ends the album on a memorable note when followed by “Till The End.”
Logic bookends his mainstream debut with songs that I’ll likely be coming back to for a long time, but it remains to be seen whether the album as a whole will be cemented in our culture as solidly as Kendrick’s or even Schoolboy’s major label debuts. In the sea of new music, I suggest people look for artists that innovate rather than emulate, which is something I hope Logic does more of on his second go-around, a chance that I’m sure the popularity and sales of this album will give him.