Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Favorite Track: "Celebration" Least Favorite Track: "Obediently Yours"
Maryland rapper Robert Bryson Hall, professionally known as Logic, has had easily one of, if not the most critically complicated career in modern music. His albums tend to be very polarizing, despite selling large amounts and earning plenty of fans along the way. Critics have been very scrutinizing against Logic in the past, with records like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and his duo of Bobby Tarantino mixtapes earning relatively low scores despite doing great numbers commercially. I personally have enjoyed some of Logic’s music in the past, and I always felt he was capable of significantly more than the content he was putting forth. More often than not, I felt the production on Logic’s records was great, but his approach to topics like mental health and race relations left so much to be desired for me, most notably on his 2017 record Everybody, which is an honorable attempt at inclusivity despite it’s lackluster presentation. The lyricism on this record aims to make everyone feel valid and welcomed, and while I appreciated what Logic was going for with this record, it felt as though some of the topics were too loosely glossed over to really create a emotionally compelling project. This remains true for some of his less coherent projects such as Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Young Sinatra IV, where he makes more of an attempt at creating a run of the mill rap record showcasing basic ability over artistry, but these projects also fall flat despite the clear talent Logic has.
Logic’s newest record, No Pressure, is easily his best. Executively produced by legendary producer No I.D., the beats are pristine and easy on the ears. A lot of them are very Kanye inspired, with gospel-esque vocal samples and beautiful piano leads taking the forefront on tracks like “Celebration” and “Hit My Line”. While the production is easily this records greatest aspect, Logic sounds the most coherently raw and well versed he has ever sounded, touching on subjects that ride the line of corniness in rap music such as fatherhood and marriage, but he does so in a way that is compelling and interesting. Many of the lyrics surrounding these topics are tongue-and-cheek, especially on the track “DadBod”, which is a hilarious ode to the seemingly mundane nature of fatherhood in contrast with the fast lifestyle Logic has previously led. He describes a trip to Target in great detail, talking about meeting fans in the store and seeing women he would normally be very attracted to, but is instead too focused on “whether or not Hefty holds the most trash”. Logic also hits some new emotional highs and lows on “man i is” which wonderfully reworks “Indica Badu”, a song from Logic’s 2018 mixtape Bobby Tarantino II, with distant horns and an intricate and mystifying bassline. The lyrical content shows Logic reminiscing on coming up from a hard past and now being able to be proud of the man he has become. He details some of his struggles in his past such as cooking crack and growing up in poor neighborhoods, and his flow is wonderfully nestled in the tight groove of the instrumental.
Although Logic finds plenty of space to be emotional on this record, there are also songs that are more laid back and easier to digest. The track “Perfect” is the lone trap banger on the record, with the popular vocal sample from Street Fighter II being used to full effect. The lyrics are tight and the track is short and sweet, almost to a fault. I do wish this track was a bit longer, as the bars on this song are great and the flow is infectious as hell. The aforementioned “Celebration” is a fun moment on the record, with its very bright and happy vocal sample backing up Logic’s carefree bars about his life after rap and his outlook on his future, which is cause for celebration in his eyes. There are other tracks that are also more carefree but do lack some substance, like the cut “A2Z”. This track is more or less an exercise to see how well Logic could go from A to Z in a rap and make it work, and while it was a compelling concept, it doesn’t add anything interesting to the record.
The issues I have with this record do not have anything to do with the music itself, as I don’t think there is a single song on the record I particularly dislike. However, the record is very long, squeaking by at just under an hour. This wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t feel as though the record had any filler, but the final song, “Obediently Yours”, is 6 minutes long without a single word from Logic. It feels very hard to even classify this as a song, with a 6 minute long speech from Orson Welles about racial injustice being slapped over the top of some light pianos, with no presence from Logic. This cut would have fit incredibly well on a record like Everybody, where the frontal topic was racially charged, but on No Pressure, there are essentially no mentions of race relations except for a few bars here and there on racial division and police brutality on “Open Mic//Aquarius III” and “GP4”. There is also a monologue about the importance of personal possessions and wealth at the end of “Dark Place”. The monologue by itself is compelling, but once again, does not fit the narrative of the record. The track itself seems more centric on Logic’s struggles with depression and anxiety, and while struggles with his monetary status could be taking a toll on him mentally, it is never explicitly defined. It is examples of these few monologues as well as a glitched out vocal sample of fun facts about the recording of the project spread throughout that make a lot of quality content feel sort of disjointed and bothersome to listen to as a whole.
While at times, the record can feel a bit long and tiresome, this does not negate the fact that there are a lot of smart and fun rap cuts on here. Some are emotionally potent and compelling, some are mindless but fun, and some just have a few bars to make you think and react to in such a way that it makes the record just that little bit more enjoyable. I think Logic has taken all of the good things from his past records that have made him such a compelling artist despite his critical backlash and culminated them into a project that is a testament to the skilled and thoughtful rapper he so clearly shows himself to be on No Pressure.