The fourth and final installment in the "Young Sinatra" series has a nostalgic allure that is hindered by Logic's predictable missteps.
In a climate where fickle fans call the shots and the financial barrier to become an avid supporter of an artist has essentially disappeared, it is increasingly difficult to secure long-term success in the music industry. With music moving forward at a rapid clip, it’s extraordinary that Logic has maintained such a diehard fan base, one that is not only willing to go out and purchase his albums en masse, but also remains deeply tied to the beloved music of his past. Although the Gaithersburg, MD emcee gained a host of newcomers following his 2017 blockbuster single “1-800-273-8255,” he has consistently been garnering listeners for the better part of a decade. And while his torrid pace of one release a year has ensured that his name stays squarely in the spotlight, it's the prospect of a fourth installment in the Young Sinatra series that has kept many fans along for the ride.
The excitement reached a fever pitch following Logic’s August 28 freestyle announcement that the storied character was set to make a long overdue return. In the 11-minute Fan Experience documentary released by Visionary Music Group two days prior to the album drop, 25 lucky Sinatra superfans got a taste of what the conclusion to the series had to offer. The intimate listening experience and reactions of those in attendance further fueled the hype swirling around the album’s imminent release. As the video wound to a close, one fan echoed the sentiments of several other attendees and made a bold proclamation: "That's the best project we've ever heard from the man. It was insane."
If the first three chapters of the Young Sinatra series were Logic’s case to have his name mentioned alongside rap’s elite members, then Young Sinatra IV is a hopeful realization of the legacy that he wants to leave behind. In the five years since the release of Young Sinatra: Welcome To Forever, Logic has continued to earn recognition for his versatility and creativity. He’s expanded his rap palate, honing his array of strengths and immense technical skill to become a true student of the game. Although his willingness to emulate his contemporaries has earned him some flack, and despite the fact that his music often falls flat due to an overambitious reach, he has managed to pull off the difficult branding act of shoring up loyal fans while casting a wide enough commercial net to ensnare a growing school of mainstream listeners. Cheeky R&B features, eyebrow-raising EDM crossovers, and lush pop tunes have been sprinkled throughout the past few releases, offering sometimes welcome if bizarre breaks from the preachy message rap that makes it tricky for Logic to balance sanctimony and light-hearted fun.
On Young Sinatra IV, he unsurprisingly delivers an encore performance that builds on this formula, but with an overt nod to the music that raised him. The album picks up where Everybody left off, with the opening track “Thank You” featuring audio messages from fans around the world expressing their admiration for Logic. The salute to The RattPack leads right into “Everybody Dies” on which the “You are watching a master at work” snippet from Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey ushers forth sharp wordplay and punchlines. Logic’s pent-up frustrations boil over as he takes aim at the competition, and expresses a disdain for paying lip service to rap critics. It’s a spirited effort, but one that can’t possibly match the bravado of “The Return.” The song features a tasteful vocal sample loop of Nina Simone’s “Wild Is The Wind,” and signals the resurrection of the gung-ho Young Sinatra alter ego that attacks Trump and mumble rap in one sentence and submits a formal request for Jay-Z to join forces with him in the next.
As expected, 6ix’s production is vibrant and complementary at every turn. Gone is the occasional staleness of autotune and trap beats, replaced by Logic’s unabashed embrace of the boom bap style courtesy of his in-house producer. “Wu-Tang Forever” is a rapper’s delight, characterized by an instrumental and format that embodies the rap form of yore. Packed to the brim with 11 verses of stream-of-consciousness lyrics from every living member of Wu-Tang Clan, the cypher pays homage to the legends that were instrumental to Logic’s early career. It’s a collaboration that brings everything full circle, and acts as a stamp of approval from the key 90s hip-hop influencers that helped mold Young Sinatra.
Yet by the end of the fourth track, Young Sinatra IV begins to lose steam. “The Glorious Five” finds Logic jumping into a heartfelt examination of his checkered past and father’s influence, before ultimately reaching the verdict that this adversity didn’t change him; rather, it made him more focused than ever on fulfilling his life’s aspirations. Unfortunately, the transition into lead single “One Day,” where his dreams come true, feels wholly uninspired and out of place. The blasé pop flair is grating, and the song’s placement in the tracklist grinds the build-up of the previous songs to a screeching halt. Logic falls victim to a similarly self-imposed trap just a few songs later on “100 Miles & Running,” his first collaboration with fellow DMV artist Wale. Full of breathless energy, Logic showcases the double-time flow that has become one of his signature calling cards. The frantic speed is in line with the title, and would seem to suggest a wild blitz to the finish. But the subsequent offering, “Ordinary Day,” is nothing more than another upbeat, catchy filler track that doesn’t add anything to the album beyond radio potential.
“YSIV” is a momentary high point that incorporates the chorus from Nas and AZ’s “Life’s A Bitch” and also samples Miilkbone’s “Keep It Real”; it closes with a poignant reminder of Mac Miller’s wider influence. The fictional concept song “Street Dreams II” is a creative idea that is well executed, but the vivid, Quentin Tarantino-esque details of violence and mayhem regrettably give way to the doldrums of two of the most forgettable tracks on the album: “The Adventures of Stoney Bob” and the penultimate “Iconic,” on which “bicoastal” Logic doesn’t add anything substantial to Jaden Smith’s breakout hit.
The various “sacrifice my health for wealth” riffs on food-for-thought record “Legacy” inevitably lead to the closing monologue “Last Call,” which borrows from early Kanye to create a noteworthy closing track that addresses similar topics with a comparable style. Spontaneous stretches of rapping are interrupted by moments of contemplative speaking, as Logic mimics Kanye’s inflections to convey a great deal about his journey from couch surfing to rattling off ruthless Kill Bill blood-spilling lines. Tracks like “Legacy” and “Last Call” should be masterful capstones that bring the Young Sinatra series to a triumphant close. Instead, they feel like inconsequential send-offs that are endearing but don’t offer anything new and can’t possibly hope to reach the high bar set by the trio of Young Sinatra predecessors.
It is for this reason that Young Sinatra IV feels disappointingly passable. Yes, Logic’s re-envisioning of the past has a broad appeal, which makes his decision to turn the popular mixtape series finale into an album seem all the savvier. But it culminates in an inconsistent and jarringly mixed bag where the best moments on the album leave a diminished impression. Although Logic’s flow and delivery remain key selling points, the overall lack of substance leads to detrimental repetition both lyrically and topically. Logic was once the kid who wanted it all, and now that he finally has it all, he’s content to reminisce on the past. This would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that his comfortable return to a familiar place doesn’t yield any refreshing qualities. Young Sinatra IV doesn’t have the same pitfalls as Everybody, which got lost in it’s draining seriousness, but it will probably be underwhelming for many longtime Logic fans. Instead of creating a legacy that is freeing and allows new ideas to take root and flourish, Young Sinatra IV gets bogged down in the same played out material and unwelcome visits to areas that Logic should have put to rest long ago. Such is Logic’s legacy as the curtain closes on the Young Sinatra series: he’s by no means complacent, but his stubbornness in trying to stretch the same concept to its tipping point has worn all too thin.