It’s no secret that Logic can rap his ass off.
However, while he’s become of hip-hop’s premiere lyrical technicians, one thing that has eluded the Maryland rapper (born Sir Robert Bryson Hall II) since his prodigious rise from grassroots champion to nationally recognized mainstream rap star is the certain level of respect afforded to many of his contemporaries. In a genre where sincerity and honesty are considered attributes of paramount importance, Logic’s earnestness has instead worked against him. Where rappers like Drake, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and Jay-Z are praised for laying their inner demons bare, Logic has seemingly never been afforded the same plaudits by any but his most ardent supporters.
Recently, however, Logic’s luck has begun to change. With his fourth studio album, Young Sinatra IV, releasing later this week (September 28), the outlook on his musical reception stands to evolve. A recent run of highly-praised singles and moving televised performances, along with Logic’s appearance in an insightful documentary have helped revamp his image into a verifiable hip-hop star. Now, on the verge of his most crucial release yet, the perception of Logic’s sincerity may finally mirror the perspective of longtime supporters who have always sympathized with his message of positivity and intriguing rags-to-riches coming of age story.
Logic’s earnestness has certainly contributed to his sizable following, informing the series of mixtapes that eventually secured him a contract with Def Jam, while the resulting major label releases — 2014’s Under Pressure and 2015’s The Incredible True Story — were well-received commercially. But his work garnered mixed critical responses, with some dismissing his rapping as surface level, or dubbing it an awkward mimicry of more successful rappers such as J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar.
And though each of his prior albums went gold, Logic was far from being a household name — that is, until the release of his third album under Def Jam, Everybody, which defied expectations by debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in its first week. Like its predecessors, the album initially received a lukewarm response from critics — including myself — upon its release, but unlike Logic’s prior works, it proved to have longer legs than anyone other than Logic’s most fervent fanatics could have expected. And even they would have to admit they couldn’t foresee the catalyst in the high-concept album’s rise to prominence months after its initial release.
Though Everybody‘s reach seemed to exceeded its grasp in executing Logic’s ambitious, philosophy-influenced vision, the record’s high watermark, an anti-suicide diatribe, “1-800-273-8255” — named for the phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — became the flashpoint for his artistic renaissance when he and guest stars Alessia Cara and Khalid gave a rousing performance of the song at the 2017 MTV VMAs, flanked on all sides by survivors of suicide attempts and family members of suicide victims. Though the song’s guests undoubtedly helped bridge the gap between then 28-year-old Logic and the young fans his message targeted, after the performance, the song itself breached the mainstream in a way it had formerly been unable to do.
The operators of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reported that after the performance, calls surged by over 50%, with visits to the website increasing from 300,000 to 400,000 over the following months. When the trio took to the Grammys stage early this year, only a few months after the VMAs, traffic again increased in the wake of Logic’s heartfelt exhortation to the young members of the audience.