Logic’s ‘No Pressure’: Album Review
Some people retire with a solid IRA. Some with detailed pension plans. Occasionally those who retire go into small side jobs, or find relaxing hobbies.
Robert Bryson Hall II, better known as Logic — rapper, songwriter and author who made his open-hearted brand of hip-hop into socially relevant hit fare with the suicide-prevention paean, “1-800-273-8255” — announced his retirement last week at the same time he announced this album’s release date. While he said he wants to focus on being a father, he did not explicitly state what he’s retiring from, and earlier this week announced a lucrative deal with Twitch as a livestreaming gamer. Nice work if you can get it, as the Gershwins said.
As for the rapping career he apparently just retired from, at his best — like on 2017’s “Everybody” album — the congenially loquacious, baritone-voiced rapper is focused and forceful, espousing reasoned theories about mental health, social schemas and intimate relationships over carefully arranged hip-hop. At his worst — say, 2019’s “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” — his thought process is haphazard and preachy, accompanied by music that can be downright messy.
Fortunately the former Logic is present on “No Pressure,” reuniting with ace producer No I.D., who’s helmed albums for Jay-Z, Kanye West and Snoh Alegra as well as Logic’s own 2014 debut, “Under Pressure.” Building upon labyrinthine beds of sound and plump rhythms with lyrics that are both funny and frank, Logic is in his best, kid-like Q-Tip mode.
Starting off with a snippet of Orson Welles speaking in an old radio drama, Logic affably speed-raps his way through “GP4,” paying tribute to heroes like Erykah Badu and Public Enemy. “Celebration” finds him praising hip hop’s verbal muscle — “What’s rap without a little braggadocio?” — over a bent gospel tone reminiscent of Melvin Van Peeble’s “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” soundtrack. Weird gospel and heavenly background vocals also feature prominently on “Soul Food II,” with a chorale featuring Brittney Noell Hall, producer 6ix, Bobby Campbell and others singing while Logic fades their voices through the mix. The coolly complex jazzy R&B of “Man I Is,” complete with a warm horn section and a billowing guitar line, is a prime example of Logic and No I.D. at their most sonically inventive. It also nods to his retirement: “I transcend and I transform, poetic version is rare form/ I promise when I have a family, I’ll be there for ‘em.”
Elsewhere, “Hit My Line” finds Logic borrowing Ice Cube’s “good day, I didn’t have to use my AK” vibe at its start, displaying self-satisfaction; while “Hit My Line” shifts sonically into woozy-dream psychedelia and lyrically into a crumbling world of “Too many kids outlined in chalk/ Scared of drive-bys when they should just be scared of the dark.” The latter is Logic at his finest, raging with righteous indignation and heightened melodic skills. On the other hand, the plinking “Perfect” isn’t, and the lyrics to the chamber-hop of “Heard ‘Em Say,” even with its artful Manfred Mann sample, are saccharine and heavy-handed. But he closes strong on “Obediently Yours,” with another Orson Welles sample, squelchy Philly soul synths and loving shout-outs to old school hip-hop.
If Logic is truly done, “No Pressure” is a solid, soulful finale — and if it’s he’s got more in him, it’s an intriguing jumping-off point. Time will tell …
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