No Pressure (released July 24, 2020)
So Logic’s hanging up his jersey, huh?
The 30-year-old MC recently announced that No Pressure, his sixth album, would be his last LP, so he could totally focus on fatherhood.
You certainly can’t deny his success – three No. 1 albums, a top-charting mixtape and plenty of gold and platinum singles – but he’s been met with his share of critics over the years, myself included. While Logic unquestionably is a skilled lyricist, he often felt like the kid in class trying too hard to make friends and prove himself. Preachy concepts, repetitive themes, lyrical gymnastics that would lose the listener – sometimes I just wanted him to stop trying so hard and just be himself.
But I’ll forever give him props for being among the few in his generation to prioritize storytelling and authenticity. Bars matter.
Proof: Late last night, barely an hour after No Pressure dropped, one of my young mentees hit me up to talk about how great the LP was and how much Logic meant to his fandom. Logic’s music, he said, was the first to show him that rap could be deeper than vibes and ad-libs. Logic inspired him to make his own beats and write his own lyrics – and my boy’s bars ain’t bad at all!
For a generation of fans, Logic was the gateway to deeper, more meaningful rap. That remains the story of No Pressure, Logic’s (alleged) final victory lap. And with longtime collaborator 6ix and legendary No ID by his side, success is certain.
The album opens with a title track that harkens back to classic boom bap – chicken soup for my old head soul. But the mood is quickly lightened for “Hit My Line,” where Logic reiterates his mission to focus on health and self, even making a tongue-in-cheek comparison to Kanye West’s College Dropout. It’s not an outlandish analogy – the fingerprints of Logic’s heroes are all over this record.
“GP4” feels like it was recorded in the same haunted swamp as Outkast’s “Elevators,” thanks to the use of that now-iconic snare. Both “Celebration” and “Soul Food II” soar with the soul sound that defined mid-00s hip-hop. Meanwhile “Man I Is” borrows the same Tarika Blue “Dreamflower” sample that J. Dilla popularized on Erykah Badu’s “Didn’t Cha Know.” But this ain’t solely a nostalgia tour – Logic has no problem adapting to more mainstream production, with “Perfect” being a fun, breezy standout. Sonically speaking, No Pressure houses some of the best beats Logic has ever graced.
But as my mentee will tell you, Logic shines when he bares his soul. “Open Mic\\Aquarius III” is essentially his retirement manifesto, admitting that he’d rather release rap’s materialism and wrap his arms around his son:
Money don’t complete us, but it feed us, it can lead us to depression
Being rich is not a blessing, fame is not a blessing
Wasn’t til I was rich and famous, I learned that lesson
What’s the meaning of life, to live it, what I’m guessing
“Dadbod” is a brutally honest look into the life of a rap star … which is basically going to Target, fighting with garbage hotel wifi and trying to feed his son vegetables. “I can tell you more about diapers than modern rappers and cyphers,” he admits. But he’s not mad, he’s ready to move on. “I’m done now, I got a son now” is pretty much the refrain of the entire project.
That said, some of Logic’s old habits poke up from time to time, specifically on the last quarter of the album. “Dark Place” and “Heard ‘Em Say” are both another chance for Logic to muse about his insecurities, and trust me, you’ve heard these songs a dozen times before. Beats are still fire, though, give him props there. “A2Z” feels like a fun concept as he attempts to teach his kid his ABCs, but it’s really just a rehash of Papoose’s old “Alphabetical Slaughter” deal that was run into the ground more than a decade ago.
And, as always, Logic still has a bad habit of cramming too much content into his bars. Yes, his breathless delivery is a sight to behold and proof of his skill, but when speaking on weighty topics like fatherhood, racial identity, maturity, etc, you have to give the listener a second to absorb those gems. It’s like trying to listen to James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son audiobook on fast forward – yeah, you might hear it, but are you digesting it? It’s hard for those lessons to land.
Most rap retirements are as authentic as a football bat so time will tell if this is really Logic’s swan song. But I can’t think of a better way to bow out, delivering not just his best album in years, but one of the best of his career.
He’s inspired a generation of kids to tell their story. Just ask my mentee. Now it’s time he teaches his own son that same lesson.
That might prove to be his true legacy.
Best tracks: “Man I Is,” “GP4,” “Soul Food II”
4 stars out of 5