I didn’t like Logic’s new album, Everybody. There’s your kicker. Feel free to scroll past everything I write here and pound your keyboard keys to dust with angry missives in the comments. I’ll wait — there, you’re back, and I hope you feel better and are ready to listen. Everybody was a lot of things; it was heavy-handed, it was occasionally cheesy, and it was disappointing. But it was not bad; it just also wasn’t really all that good. It was humdrum, middle of the road, wishy-washy, “all lives matter” rap, and that is the last thing the culture or the genre needs. I understand, though. We are drowning in a deluge of devil-may-care, unintelligible, unconcerned mumble rap. Lil Yachty, Lil Uzi Vert, Young Thug and the like are ruining hip-hop, and rappers like Logic are just the cure for that sort of drivel, right?
Except, that’s not how it works, and pretending otherwise is disingenuous and does a disservice to Logic, his fans, the music, and the culture as a whole. The problem with this view, aside from the fact that it’s myopic and condescending, is that in a lot of cases, it’s outright wrong. It means that we have accepted mediocre instead of great, and surface level understanding of our own culture instead of truly learning what hip-hop actually represents. Rap has always addressed social issues, but it has also been a meaningful escape from them as well. Those artists who are being derided with derogatory comments sections on popular rap blogs may have lessons for our icons that can take their messages further than closely-rapped, rhyming bars ever could.
Likewise, from a lyrical standpoint, just because a rapper is rapping double time doesn’t mean he or she is actually saying anything. Logic worked hard to master certain technical aspects of rap, and it shows; his breath control and timing are impeccable. His actual writing leaves a lot to be desired when his rhymes are so quick to devolve into “Show me the enemy, and I’ma hit ’em / The second I bit ’em, I get ’em / And hit ’em with the venom” on “Gang Related.” He has used this exact pattern more than once, and its lack of complexity reflects the lack of nuance and critical thought in dropping him in the “lyrical” box while relegating others to “mumble rap.”
Public Enemy made joints you could “Fight The Power” to, but those joints also made you need to dance. Everybody inadvertently centers this fact to its own detriment with Chuck D’s inclusion on “America,” a blaring, cyberpunk techno-sounding jam that wouldn’t sound out of place in a fight scene from The Matrix. Chuck and fellow guest MC Black Thought rap rings around their host, further demonstrating his lyrical shortcomings.
While Logic has cultivated a stalwart, devoted fan base of kids who are willing to run through a wall for him — or at least write a wall of text on Facebook decrying the travesty of hip-hop’s assault from within by colorful-haired dopes rapping about turning up and lean — he’s also been the subject of ridicule online, and has never really had a crossover runaway hit. He gets accused of biting, he is derided as too derivative of heroes Drake, Kendrick, and J. Cole, and he just can’t seem to get over his Caucasian-leaning features, whether that’s in his bars or in his life. If Logic wants to be taken seriously as a great rapper, then instead of trying so hard to prove that he is one, he should look outside the constraints of this stringent section of the genre for ways to improve upon his excellent foundation and make it over the hump into true rap stardom.
For instance, a couple days ago Lil Uzi Vert stage dove twenty feet through the air. In hindsight, Uzi’s stunt during his set at the Rolling Loud festival was borderline terrifying; he could have hurt someone, he could have hurt himself, he could have literally died for his art. But the fans… the fans ate it up. His supporters are every bit as rabid Log’s are, but Uzi’s fanbase seemingly far more active in demonstrating that support, taking him to the top of streaming music charts and granting him platinum success and radio smashes and like his beloved and controversial star-making turn on Migos’ “Bad & Boujee.” Uzi has done all this without an official album to his name — so what’s the difference?
It comes down to one simple rule.
On Everybody, Logic titled a song repudiating suicide with the phone number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, “1-800-273-8255.” “Here” singer Alessia Cara anchors the lush production as swelling strings stretch a soothing bridge into teen R&B sensation Khalid’s declaration that “I don’t wanna die anymore.” On the surface, this is very noble and enlightened act, but if you scratch at the veneer, it’s clear that his guests are doing all the heavy lifting, and that he is breaking the cardinal rule of good writing: Show, don’t tell. He’s telling us, “Well, you’re sad, and that’s okay, you probably have good reasons to be, but you have reasons to live,” which — again — great message, but the delivery falls flat.
By contrast, Uzi gets right to the point on his latest single, “XO TOUR Lif3.” He straight up shows us, right there in the haunting, chanted chorus: “All my friends are dead, all my friends are dead.” Whoa. That’s heavy, man. But then he throws purple dye in his dreaded, knotty hair, and goes out and gives himself reasons to still be here. He throws himself around the stage (and off it) with a wild abandon that says, “Look what I’ve lived through, and I’m still here; I have nothing left to really be afraid of.” Your judgement means little to Vert. He’s still here, so he’s going to have a good time, but maybe he’s also making himself have a good time, so he has reason to still be here. He’s showing us that you can be depressed, live through some truly awful circumstances, and still have the opportunity for a great life. He’s sad, but he is having fun.
While Uzi relates the stress and trauma of losing friends to the streets of Philadelphia, Logic spends time on at least five of Everybody‘s records — especially on the unfortunately titled “AfricAryaN” — whining about not being black enough, and telling us we shouldn’t see color. He does this while Black men and boys all across America are being arrested, beaten, and gunned down by police, vigilantes, and supremacist terrorists for “crimes” like: talking back, talking too loudly, not talking, running, swimming, selling cigarettes, complying with officers, breathing — just existing. If Logic wants to make a statement using his platform, he has to do better than “I don’t believe in labels,” Coexist bumper sticker raps, and just above average lyricism.
The reason I’m so hard on him is how clear it is he works hard, has something he wants to say, and the potential I see in him to do more than just get a pass for not being a “mumble rapper,” especially when he could be taking notes from them instead. Self-seriousness and bars overstuffed with consonance don’t really make for the absolute best rap music, and in the end, don’t serve the most meaningluf message either. Rather than trying to force every new rapper to fit into a mold created from the past, rap fans could stand to demand a little more show than tell from their faves, and remember to have a little more fun.