Logic, the person, seems very nice. He is affable, charming, endearingly earnest, and just goofy enough that his obsession with Quentin Tarantino movies comes off quirky and not serial killer spooky.
Logic, the musician, is a whole other story, unfortunately. All the personality tics that make him endearing and lend themselves to him growing on you make for a rapper that’s a little too smug, a little too self-righteous, a little too convinced that whatever he just said deserves a standing ovation, and it’s all kind of repetitive.
On each album Logic has released, he’s been a little like the Mega Man character from the eponymous video game series. With each, he picks up another bad habit that rears its head on the next — a tasteless joke about his mixed heritage, a tendency to read too much into internet comments. His latest, Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, will ultimately leave listeners who aren’t already Logic fans with the same sense of aggrieved, dissatisfied, exasperation as his previous albums. The potential is there; he just doesn’t seem to know what to do with it.
Logic clearly subscribes to the idea that you’re judged by the company you keep. In any case, that philosophy would explain the hilariously mismatched collection of guests on the album. It doesn’t explain why all the guests, to a man, outshine their host on their respective songs — even Eminem, in full-fledged, “see how fast I can read a dictionary at you” mode on “Homicide.”
The guests seem calculated to hit different quadrants of rap fans: Grumpy old heads (Eminem), ornery young ones (YBN Cordae, with whom Logic is going on tour later this year), laid-back stoners (Wiz Khalifa), hood come-up advocates (Gucci Mane), moms (Will Smith). They feel like a shortcut to Logic doing the actual work of tinkering with his flow and finding new, appealing things to say to each of those crowds. Instead, he covers well-worn territory that anyone who’s heard a Logic album before could likely predict without hearing a song, right down to the jarring mixed-heritage joke that still fails to engage with the perceived privilege that comes with his white-passing appearance. Even the beats, which knock to the high heavens, loop every four-to-eight bars without even attempting to step outside longtime producer 6ix’s comfort zone.
“Don’t Be Afraid To Be Different” is ironically and yet unsurprisingly one of the few times Logic and 6ix actually try something, well, different, combining Rob Base and EZ Rock jock jam energy with video game sound effects and a shockingly refreshing verse from Will Smith. Smith’s ultra-positive, “you can do it too” verse should be instructive to Logic on how it’s done — rather than wasting time harping on whether or not he receives what he feels is just credit, the former Fresh Prince simply lists his credentials, including a cute callback to his best-known track, the theme song from his culture-shaping sitcom.
It should be a simple enough format to follow: make something truly original (to be fair, a far more daunting task now than it was in the halcyon, unformed early days of hip-hop), set a trend, and have a deep and abiding love for the culture rather than whether it has the same for you, the artist. But Logic, who came about as close as he ever has to being truly original on last year’s YSIV, has always had a problem with wearing his influences on his sleeve. It’s why on his first album, Under Pressure, he caught so many accusations of aping characteristics of each of the Big Three names in rap at the time: Drake, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar. He still does the same, but now with an added dollop of sophistry in place of the genuine angst of those previous efforts.
It’s hard to feel for him when it seems like every third bar is about how underrated he is or how much hate he receives or getting compared unfavorably to the greats when he refuses to stop doing the things that gets him compared to them in the first place (“Clickbait”). He does make reference to how much easier it is to notice the negative comments among the overwhelmingly positive ones, but it feels like a missed opportunity to tell the other side of the story, that unmitigated hero worship is what gives elevated egos further to fall when the inevitable, less-than-salutary comments come rolling in. The dope/trash dichotomy is wrecking critical discourse about rap, but it’s also putting Logic in a corner and giving him plenty of paint to work with.
The guest stars carry Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, mainly because it feels like Bobby Hall has run out of things to say. It’s clear just from how many times he repeats himself — both within his verses here, and in an overarching sense of his career. Rappers do tend to lean into whatever subject matter works for them, but there should be plenty of room in different lanes to try new things. Logic drives straight ahead, sticking firmly to the middle of his chosen lane and ultimately hamstringing himself, because he’s the type of rapper you want to try new things and the kind of person you want to see win.
Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind is out now via Def Jam Records. Get it here.