There was an online riot after Logic announced AfricAryan as the working title for his third album late last year. It clearly had to do with the two words making up the title – African & Aryan. Logic is a nice, endearing guy (watch any of his interviews), so it didn’t matter whether the riot was justified or not, he changed the title to quell the noise. But he’s ‘black and proud’, so the title still shows up as a track on the album.
Logic’s the lovable nerd with the kind of background story everyone cheers for but he tries at every turn to be as ingratiating as possible. He’s been basically slanging the same story of his biracial upbringing forward on all his project using the same monotonous rapping approach. Logic is a also an adept springroll rapper, especially with his usual 150bpm double time flow as his calling card. He wraps all the nuances of his raps in that flow to make it seem like his lyrics have extra weight, just place those lyrics under a microscope and you’d realize he’s basically rehashing majority of his talking points. The repetitive flow is good on the ears, using the same flashy handles is cool but when it’s time to finish at the rim, he mostly pulls the move of another rapper verbatim.
One of the cardinal rules of hip-hop is “Do not bite”. It’s a tricky and ironic rule considering how influence helps a rapper’s style. Biting isn’t really a sin until it becomes glaring beyond any doubt and Logic’s superfandom of other artists has often led him to cross the line between admiration and flat out imitation. His part-manifesto part-autobiographical debut, Under Pressure has enough similarities to Kendrick’s good kid, m.A.A.d city to make you wince. The drums on Under Pressure‘s title track are the same drums on ‘Sing About Me‘ off GKMC, with the same thematic concept although with different scenarios. Logic’s follow up, The Incredible True Story has the unmistakable feel of what ’07 arena rap Kanye crafted, peppered with Drake-ish moments. Listen to ‘City of Stars‘ and ‘I Am the Greatest‘ as glaring examples.
Everybody, Logic’s latest release looks and feels dense (from the cryptic album cover to song lengths), but there’s basically little or anything new to unpack. The album follows J. Cole’s template of telling your story for relational points, adding plenty platitudes to create avenues for advice. Platitudes, because Logic has constantly dyed his past projects with his story about being biracial. While it is true that music is supposed to tell the artist’s story, cracking it open every time by spinning the same yarns is a surefire way to make it redundant. After 6mixtapes and 2albums, Logic still has to constantly pull out the fact that he was born to a black father so people can gravitate towards his sentiments, it creates a hotep rhetoric at some point which basically waters down his intent. Platitudes with a gimmicky touch.
This time, Logic uses his biracial story on Everybody to explain his ability to see both sides due to the bigotry he’s faced from both sides as he explains on the album’s spoken word emotional centerpiece, ‘Take it Back‘. His narrative is pretty poignant, not totally heart wrenching because of the monotonous vocals and it’s too long because he spends the first two minutes rapping some nonsense about taking “it back to the first white man”. Pandering, another big issue when it comes to Logic’s rapping. Logic raps the same verse 4times on ‘Africaryan‘, there’s tiny, almost unnoticeable differences in those verses. Whatever he was hoping to achieve doing that is totally lost on me.
Two veterans show what Logic lacks with ease, Killer Mike takes over “Confess” with a powerful and passionate spoken word outro that will tug at the heart strings. And Black Thought’s quickfire sixteen on ‘America’ is incise and effective, no pandering.
What annoys me most of all is that not only is he basically saying what many rappers (Cole especially) have said, he throws in a swanky storyline for unnecessary complexity. Logic added a plot that leaned pretty hard into clairvoyance on his last album. Although it mostly didn’t figure into that album’s narrative, there was at least a ceremonial feeling attached to it. Everybody‘s plot includes God and a human named Atom, who’s meant to live every life judiciously before he can transcend to heaven. It’s partially interesting until it becomes totally laughable when God’s big advice on ‘AfricAryan‘ is the clichéd “love everyone, be yourself, money isn’t everything” yarns. What was J. Cole rapping about on ‘Love Yourz‘ again? Remind me.
The few times he does turn away from the tropes are interesting, ‘1-800-273-8255’ and ‘Anziety‘ (see what he did replacing x with z? You know who replaces s with z) tackles mental illness. The former deals with suicide and is quite uplifting, using big orchestral pop that just escapes being bland to address its topic. ‘Anziety’ follows the template for ‘Take it Back‘ sonically. An extended spoken word comes after about 2minutes of rap. The initial raps aren’t pointless, just not discernable due to Logic’s eternal use of the same inflection. It’s hard to follow when he breaks off rapping as anxiety to rapping as himself.
It is enjoyable to hear Logic rap on Everybody some of the time, coupled with his knack for larger than life beats. The hi-hats on ‘Everybody‘ tick with the frenzy of a time bomb and (whiny) nice lines like “In my blood is the slave and the master/It’s like the devil playin spades with the pastor” prop the quite horrible hook up – a hook that’s basically the distillation of the whole album, sheesh. Tribal drums pound hard alongside zagging synths to set the mood for partial self-obliteration on ‘Confess‘, the addition of a church piano during Killer Mike’s outro adds a much needed incorporeal feel. There’s a joy to the dubstep of ‘Mos Definitely’ which adds a colorful nuance to the call-and-response chant at the end of the cut.
Everybody’s message of love and self acceptance is surface-level-inspirational enough to get some applauses. But for Logic to transcend, he really needs to take J. Cole’s sage-like advice to “fuck the black and white shit/be who you are, identify as a star”.
Writer’s Rating: 2.8/5
Words by Dennis, aka Black Reason, aka @ayo_dennis.