When you release a series of acclaimed mixtapes like the "Young Sinatra" series, and the time for your major debut has come, pressure tends to build. When your sister calls you crying because she can't shake the memory of the man who raped her -- and she's popping pills because she thinks she's repeating the same mistakes as your mother -- pressure tends to build. When your dad, who was absent for almost all of your life, addicted to crack cocaine, calls asking you to stop rapping about his addiction and also requests money for his new girlfriend, pressure tends to build.
This is the world of Logic, and the many adversities he's encountered during the first 24 years of his life could have kept the Maryland-born rapper anchored below the surface. But what would seem a cage to almost anyone --the once "literal underground artist" spent his mixtape years living and recording in his friend's basement, which is depicted on his new album's cover -- was not: The travails of Logic's life became an oubliette, and when enough pressure comes in contact with the right body, the result is a diamond.
To say Logic's "Under Pressure" lived up to its hype would be an understatement. Throughout the album's 12 tracks, Logic continues to demonstrate that he has one of the top five flows in the game. He also amps up his production chops, providing tracks that comfortably stand in line with Visionary Music Group's sawed-off shotgun that is in-house producer 6ix and the record's other contributors.
"It’s where I truly found myself, as an artist, as a young man, who I want to be, how I want to be perceived," Logic told The Huffington Post. “The first thing you hear is the homage to Tribe Called Quest, you hear this computerized voice that is similar to ‘Midnight Marauders.’ The difference in mine is that I gave her a name, and her name is Thalia, one of nine sisters and daughters of the Greek god Zeus. Thalia was the muse of music, so it’s like it’s my muse taking you through all these cool little tidbits and fun facts about how the album was created. And overall, it’s a coming-of-age story about a young man growing into the man you see today and all the things I had to go through. From coming up broke, Section 8 housing, my mom and dad dealing with their drug addiction and alcoholism and them not ever being married, so my dad not really being around, and just all the things I witnessed.”
From the piano-led crooner that is "Intro" to the glitching vocal beat of "I'm Gone" to the hollow trap of "Nikki," Logic pulls equally from golden age and new class artists, creating a 56-minute head-bobber that carefully balances its raps and beats. It's the title track that captures the album at its most essential, featuring almost six extra minutes from the single version. In the addition, there are voicemails from his sister, brother and father, as well as Logic's reply, revealing his struggle to let and keep his family in his life. "They say family is everything, I swear that shit the truth / I should spend it all with y'all, but I spend it in the booth / This is everything I love, this is everything I need / Never sacrifice this feeling even though my heart it bleed," Logic raps. "Under Pressure" received an accompanying video that gives insight into what Logic wants listeners to take from the album.
“The whole thing really is deep," Logic said. "The song and album 'Under Pressure' obviously hints diamonds, so the entire thing is a diamond heist, so it’s almost like breaking into the game. You’re trying to take out the best rappers, and not by dissing, but by your achievements. For me it’s almost like a Robin Hood story. Some people see it as violent, but it’s like, okay, you could take it there, but it’s a metaphor. It’s not like I’m chipping off heads or whatever. You go through all these obstacles, literally the ups and downs of all you go through to get these diamonds, and then go spread that to the world.
Another intriguing element to "Under Pressure" is the lack of any features from any other artists, a very uncommon occurrence for a hip-hop studio record.
“I wanted to create something that was just mine, my story," Logic said. "I haven’t met Kendrick [Lamar] yet, but he’s someone I could envision on this record, or J. Cole, Nas, all these great people. And then I was with Don Cannon and he was like, not talking about anyone specifically, 'Man, fuck everybody. This is your story. This what you have waited all your life to tell and you should tell it on your own.’ I thought about it, and realized he was right. I don’t need a cosign. It doesn’t matter who you are, being on this album isn’t going to help me sell records. They are going to listen to Logic because they like Logic. They might buy that single or that one track, but they’re not going to get the album. I decided I don’t need that, I don’t want that, I just want to tell my story, and then work with all the homies afterwards.”
As for other artists who are experiencing the same struggles that he encountered in his life, Logic has some suggestions for how they can take their art to the next level:
The first thing you have to do is get out of your city. Wherever you are, get the hell out of there because you will not shine, you will only be known as local talent. Word hard and be dedicated, but don’t be a fake hard worker. You can’t be at the club the whole time and pretend like you’re in the studio. You literally have to make it your everything. Kanye West, Sinatra, Michael Jackson, all the greatest of the greats have made their craft their everything. Made it their life and sacrificed years to be the best. You also need a team. It’s not about money, so don’t think about that first, it will come later. Be a good person, be kind and shake everybody’s hand in the room. If you don;t know about business, find somebody out there that knows about business and have them teach you the business while they’re working the business for you. Be smart and hopefully things will work out for you.
"Under Pressure" is undeniably the best hip-hop album of 2014 so far. This might only be Logic's debut, but "Under Pressure" is the kind of record that listeners will look back upon 10 years from now with great fondness. Talent will make an artist famous, but it's the courage, perseverance and kindness that Logic embodies that make an artist last.