The Maryland native makes good on the hype, turning in an impressive major label debut. Logic's "Under Pressure" waxes nostalgia throughout the album, while giving a contemporary tale from multiple perspectives.
Sir Robert Bryson Hall II even sounds like future royalty. Professionally known as Logic, the massively talented Maryland MC has that potential. He’s also an interesting meta case study of multiple perspectives. Surface level, his racial background paints a ready-made perception, fair or not.
Within this particular context, there is a matter of fact. Frankly, while his heritage cannot be questioned, his lighter skin (and his incredibly endearing nature) makes him instantly relatable to others of the lighter hues, who mostly cannot truly identify with his story. He has YouTube clips in the millions of views, exemplifying a cult following that will walk with him over the ledge, if asked. For this, detractors will damn him.
More importantly, there is the actual output, which has been rather impressive. Starting with 2010’s Young, Broke, and Infamous, and concluding with notable Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever, the wordsmith garnered inclusion on the XXL Freshman list, and co-signs from the likes of Lupe Fiasco. Logic’s poisonous flow has led him into a groundswell of support for this latest project, and Def Jam debut, Under Pressure.
After the album-welcoming “Intro,” “Soul Food” provides the first chill inducing “whoa” moment. During the second half switchover, the track turns down a dark alley, with Burial-making-rap music quality and a Punisher flow/scheme. Logic sounds confident on “I’m Gone,” a well-produced track that includes the robotic voice of ‘Thalia,’ similar to track endings of Tribe’s classic Midnight Marauders. From the jump, a rap classics-educated listener can hear that Logic really gets it.
Standout “Gang Related” features a well-utilized Sepalcure sample, and a double-time flow with multiple perspectives on the drug game. “Do you really wanna be famous? Do you really wanna be dangerous?” says Logic, on “Buried Alive,” a noteworthy off-kilter, but on-time Dungeon Family influenced production. The second DF-influenced production, “Growing Pains III,” sounds like a deep cut from Goodie Mob or Outkast album, with the horns and deep bassline. Somewhat controversially using the same sample as Kendrick’s “Sing for Me, Dying of Thirst,” Logic creates an interesting take on his travels. The track maintains more of the feel of the track actually mentioned in the song, Yaasin Bey’s “May-December.” His ode to a serious smoking habit, “Nikki,” the MC flips the illusory chick track through metaphor.
Logic’s greatness shines through on the reflective “Under Pressure,” replete with more Tribe influence. (Yes, it is similar to “Sing for Me, I’m Dying of Thirst, itself a Tribe-like production with better lyrics.) Finishing off the album (the feature-less, standard release), Logics spits triumphantly on “Till the End.” The deluxe edition includes a notable tête-à-tête with Childish Gambino on “Driving Ms. Daisy,” as well as an almost perfunctory Big Sean verse for “Alright.” The trap-ish “Now” probably could have fit into the standard version, as Logic breathes fire all over the track.
Under Pressure stands as a remarkable project, deserving of the recognition it is sure to receive as the best debut of 2014. Immensely replayable, it’s a rare project, that can be run straight through, without the need to skip around. However, it will not be quite enough for fickle, “well, it’s not album X” wet blanket fans. There’s already an insular clamoring to contrast Under Pressure to good kid, m.A.A.d city, which would be fine on the surface. Lamar’s veritable classic stands as the new bar of excellence, in album execution of any genre.
In reality, the two albums are stylistically dissimilar, apart from a few related sounds, and the fact that they both have a theme. Logic tells a separate story, authentic and relevant to his own personal experience. (I would even argue race is the primary reason for the tone-deaf and narrow comparison, but that’s another topic.) However, the languid comparison does bare a measure of truth, hinting at something broader within the album, requiring some specificity.
Digging deeper (and perhaps into the weeds), the main problem on the album lies in the ever-present fan boy googly-eyes Logic makes at all of his influences. He’s taken scrupulous notes, and has thoroughly applied the motifs he loves. However, the reverential treatments end up layered upon each other, and fail to fully bind, creating too much of an out-of-Logic experience. Occasionally, the influences veer toward projection, and into idolatry.
The next level will be attained once he fully fuses the essence of artists he adores into his personal sound, instead of merely extracting pleasurable notions. He must use his vis-major talent to become the force of nature his influences are. Nevertheless, this is the fun part, isn’t it? Assuming the expected progression, his superior ear and grounded quality make him an unquestionably exciting development. To use a '90s reference, he’s a young Ken Griffey Jr., a five-tool talent, literally just breaking into the majors. The sport that is rap music will be better for having Logic within its confines.
Turn on the bright lights. Young Sinatra is ready for his close-up.