Concept albums are something of an oddity with hip-hop. They are an oddities anywhere, but especially so in the genre of hip-hop. You’d think that the lyrical focus of most hip-hop songs would lend itself to telling a coherent story or exploring a particular concept/theme, and sometimes it does. But other times, concept albums get too bogged down in the exploration of a theme that the music begins to suffer. Childish Gambino’s “Because the Internet” is one such album; the first half was killer, but the second half plodded far too long inside the psyche of the album’s main character, and the songs reflected it. So where does Logic’s new concept album, “The Incredible True Story,” land on this spectrum?
“The Incredible True Story” is the second full-length release from Maryland rapper Logic. Logic’s first LP release, “Under Pressure,” came out last year. “Under Pressure” was a pretty solid commercial debut from Logic. He went back to his roots, taking cues from influences Lupe Fiasco, A Tribe Called Quest and Kendrick Lamar to name a few. The result was an okay album. The recognition of his influences might have bordered on flat-out imitation in some cases, but Logic still made an effort to make each track sound like his own. With this second album, Logic got ambitious. “The Incredible True Story” is an 18-track concept album with some of the tracks being interlude-type skits that tell the story of two astronauts heading to a potentially habitable planet after humanity leaves Earth. (One of said astronauts is voiced by Steve Blum of Cowboy Bebop/Toonami fame.)
“The Incredible True Story” is being played by one of the astronauts. So the interludes are supposed to be these conversations that these two astronauts are having while the album is playing. During these interludes we get to learn about some very vague stuff about humans leaving Earth and looking for a new home.
On the actual songs, Logic raps mainly about himself: how he’s the greatest, how he can rap over anything, how he isn’t in love with someone and how he’s frustrated with rap fans and the culture behind rap music.
It’s hard to say if this water-and-oil separation of story and songs hurts or helps the album. On one hand, it’s odd to have the interludes discuss events that have nothing to do with the actual songs. On the other hand, using the interludes to frame the setting in which the songs are being played give the album a very unique feeling.
What is pretty clear, however, is when the interludes stops the album in its tracks and makes the listeners roll their eyes. Examples of this interruption are found wherever the characters in the story reference Logic and his music. On the eponymous final track, “The Incredible True Story,” one of the astronauts begins to compare Logic’s verses to the composition of shots in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” on the basis that there is “thought put into them.” Apparently Logic didn’t put any thought into how stupid that sounds, because it almost ruins the track.
Speaking of tracks, the album has a ton of killer ones. Whatever faults result from the theme of this album, the songs themselves make up for it. The production of the album, and how Logic uses the production, is probably the album’s greatest strength. Produced by Logic, 6ix, and C-sick, the album is filled with boom-bap style drums that work wonders with Logic’s flow. Being one of the producers of the beats, Logic is able to fine-tune his verses to the intricacies of the beats. The best example of this is on “I Am The Greatest,” which is filled with high-hats and tone-shifted vocal samples. Logic times his verses perfectly so that the vocal samples and his verses never play over one another.
Unfortunately, the same praise cannot be given to Logic’s lyrics. It’s not that the lyrics are bad; it’s just that they aren’t great either. These lyrics could have been written by any other new-age hip-hop artist from Childish Gambino to J Cole. Fortunately, Logic’s delivery is able to save the lyrics and trick the listener into thinking they’re listening to something with a little bit more depth.
Another oddity in an album that is the definition of a space oddity is Logic’s frustrating imitation of other rappers. The first track of the album “Contact” uses the exact same percussion as Kanye West’s “Amazing,” The “City of Stars” background vocals sound like they were copied and pasted from another Kanye track “Say You Will,” and the beat on the track “Stainless,” sounds suspiciously like the beat on Travis Scott’s “Backyard” only sped up and with more horns added on. There’s a fine line between being influenced by particular artists and copying exactly what they do. In these examples, Logic crosses this line, arguably plagiarizing.
As a whole, it’s hard to tell whether the album would be stronger if it didn’t spend so much time telling a story in the interludes, especially when they take away from the listener’s experience. The songs themselves are stellar however, and it wouldn’t be fair to not give credit to the songs that make up the bulk of the album. If anything, while Logic doesn’t land the concept as well as other albums such as Deltron 3030 or Kendrick Lamar’s “Good kid M.a.a.d city,” Logic still manages to craft a solid batch of songs.