If You Value Woke Hip-Hop, You'll Love Logic.
The last time I was in NYC my best friend introduced me to the incomparable hip-hop artist Sir Robert Bryson Hall II aka Logic. Since 2009 the prolific songwriter has been making mixed tapes including his critically acclaimed 2013 Young Sinatra: Welcome To Forever, which landed him a contract with Def Jam Recordings. His well received 2014 debut album Under Pressure, quickly lead to his 2015 follow-up album The Incredible True Story, which he topped with another mixed tape called Bobby Tarantino in 2016. With the release of his third album Everybody on May 5, 2017 one might say Logic is the Woody Allen of hip-hop—annually churning out hits at breakneck speed with no immediate signs of stopping.
Rising above the rank and file rappers of today, Logic is elevating rap music through candidly addressing racial identity politics and the convoluted role spirituality plays in disenfranchised communities. Through artful and experimental musicality that satisfies the intricate beat lovers and the admirers of talented lyricists who seriously spit, Logic spreads a clear message of equality. Because the music is so complex and explores such controversial themes, I felt compelled to do this review a little differently than other TBOT Musicology articles. Delving deeper into Logic’s lyrics and the thematic structure of his music, I found great veracity exemplified in his work that puts him in an elite group of rappers. If you value woke hip-hop, you’ll love Logic.
In the words of Logic, “let’s take it back, take way, way back to the first black man.” In 2004, Kanye West’s debut album College Dropout exploded with singles like “Jesus Walks” which featured the following lyrics:
“I'm just tryna say the way school need teachers
The way Kathie Lee needed Regis, that's the way I need Jesus
So here go my single dog, radio needs this
They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, videotape
But if I talk about God my record won't get played, huh?”
At the time promoting Christianity in popular rap music was unheard of. Not only did “Jesus Walks,” earn West the Grammy for Best Rap Song that year, it created a new space for rappers to express themselves spiritually. Thirteen years later, an onslaught of successful hip-hop artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Chance The Rapper have openly explored religious themes in their music turning the proclamation of their faith into financial gold.
Like them, Logic grapples with the mysteries of God attempting to reconcile the harsh realities of his life experience growing up in Gaithersburg, Maryland as a mixed kid in Section 8 housing. Despite the hardships and frustrations that conjure up feelings of being forsaken by God, there is a message of positivity, and gratitude as well as a deep connection to manifesting greatness through perseverance and faith in much of Logic’s music. Everybody’s first track is called “Hallelujah,” –an uplifting, multi-layered, ethereal song that musically builds with a repetitive underpinning lyric requesting the listener to “open your mind” before he says:
“I’m like hallelujah!
Praise God, almighty, the most high
Alpha and omega in the sky,”
Logic invites us into his sanctuary of reflection allowing us to witness the ups and downs, twists and turns of his internal and external struggles until there is a point of surrender. The consistent build of the music slows to a gentle rest with only an acoustic guitar rift and Logic’s voice echoing, “Your way, do it your way. Do it your way.” The song finishes with what could arguably be the main thesis of the album we are preparing to hear.
“This is beyond the flesh, this is beyond the flesh
This is from the soul and for the soul
This is for all my brothers and sisters, for all my children
This is for every race
This is for every color, every creed.
Music does not discriminate; music is made to assimilate.”
It’s as if music is the ultimate unifier that transcends all of these perceived barriers. The call to open our minds is crucial, because what he’s about to share with us is a testimony of struggle dealt with through various coping mechanisms that all lead back to his music. As it is often said, the struggle is real, which sometimes makes it difficult to feel the presence of God in disparaging situations. That prevalent angst powerfully comes through in Killer Mike’s outgoing verse on the song “Confess.”
“I'm startin' to hate the man in the mirror
And it's gettin' clearer
That society was designed to keep me on the bottom
So, if you real, if you're out there for real
Please explain to me why
Why do we suffer? Why do we die?
And why do the people
Who go against everything you ever said always get ahead?
I've done so much wrong, I don't know if I can ever be right
But tonight, I am in this church
Asking you to show yourself, to reveal yourself to me
Because I'm tired and I don't know what else to do
So black I'm blue, so brown I'm down
I done been everywhere but up, and when I finally get up
I am ravaged with guilt and pain and shame
And all I wanna do is believe in you
The darker you are, the closer you are to dirt
And they make sure it hurts
And I am tired of hurtin', man
I'm tired of bein' looked at, second guessed, doubted, feared
So if you out there, do something about this
'Cause I can't take it no more
Not afraid to tackle racially sensitive identity politics, in the song “Take It Back,” Logic raps about the racism he endured growing up as a poor half black, half white kid. With unapologetic authority he shares his unique experience of what it’s like to appear white—or have light enough skin to pass as white, but identify as black.
"Take it back, take it way back
Take it way, way back to about 1990
Shady Grove Hospital in Rockville, Maryland
7:36 a.m., where a biracial baby was born
To a black father and a white mother
Father that wasn’t there
Addicted to crack cocaine, alcohol, and various other drugs
Same as his mom
(Way, way back)
So I’m gonna tell you about that, right
And I’m gonna tell you about how
All this young boy ever wanted was happiness
All he ever wanted was positivity
All he ever wanted to do was entertain
And this boy went through hell
You gotta understand, his mother was racist, which is crazy
'Cause how in the fuck is you gonna have
All these black babies with black men but you racist
Like bitch, that don’t make no sense, but it is what it is
You know, he grew up, her callin' him a nigger
The kids at school callin' him a cracker
Identifying as black, looking as white
Being told what you can or can’t be,”
Given his socioeconomic background, the concept of “white privilege” was incongruent with his reality. Because his blackness doesn’t fit into societies definition, he is constantly faced with having to prove his identity. One can imagine how taxing, frustrating and truly confusing that all can be for a child growing up in any environment, let alone one that’s filled with violence and scarcity.
“This kid went through everything
He went through...
He saw narcotics in the household
Violence, murderers, drug dealers, he was kidnapped
There was crazy shit that happened to this kid
And he persevered while the whole world said
What they said?
Said you wouldn’t be shit!
You ain’t gon' be nothin', nothin', nothin', nothin'
Nothin', nothin', nothin', nothin', nothin', nothin', nothing
And I, and he, he said fuck that, I’ma persevere
And that’s why the message is always peace, love and positivity
See, he always saw things from two sides
He always saw things from two sides
He always knew that the message
Everybody was born equal
Regardless of race, religion, color, creed, and sexual orientation
He knew that because he saw that
(Take it back, take it way back
Take it way).”
Although our backgrounds are vastly different, I can personally relate to Logic’s predicament. Growing up with a father who was a doctor that owned a successful private practice and a mother who gave up a burgeoning career in journalism to stay at home with my brother and me, I know all too well the pain of being told what and who you are. Because of my education, the opportunities that were given to me, and the people I developed relationships with through common interests and geographic proximity, I was interchangeably labeled Oreo or Uncle Tom more than I could ever count—and that came mainly from other black people. With my self-esteem in jeopardy, I quickly learned how to protect myself from that hurtful ignorance and channel it into my own artistry.
The magic of Logic and artists like him who tap into their creativity with unwavering determination to beat the odds, becomes a source of inspiration for us all. Logic is the real deal—he’s the OG hustler from the wrong side of the tracks who took a look around and said I want more—I am worthy of more and that seems to be the very foundation of his music. Recognizing that he had a gift to give, the “I am worth more,” doesn’t seem to translate into superficial materialism when it comes to his music. Having listened to the majority of his albums and mixed tapes, it’s refreshing to encounter an artist that’s so connected to the intrinsic value of his music’s message. There’s real integrity in it and for all the musically advanced bells and whistles that edify Logic’s sound; the music is at the same time didactic, conscious, and vulnerable.
Favorite Tracks: "Black Spiderman," "Hallelujah," "Confess," "Mos Definitely," "Everybody," "Take It Back"
Check Logic's Facebook page for Tour dates! He will be performing in Los Angeles at the Greek Theater July 9th!