The project details fatherhood and the pitfalls of rap stardom.

By Danny Schwartz
July 29, 2020 at 05:14 PM EDT
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After Logic released his first mixtape, Young, Broke, & Infamous in 2010, it didn’t take long for him to establish himself as a can’t-miss prospect — a kid from Maryland who used his tremendous technical gifts to inject a flashy, ‘90s revivalist spirit into his aspirational raps modeled after contemporaries like J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. Yet his emergence as a global superstar during the second half of the decade coincided with a pronounced creative slump, which culminated in the spring of 2019, when he put out two of the year’s worst albums in any genre: Supermarket, a catastrophic alt-rock detour, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, a study in punchline rap that somewhat resembled Sideshow Bob milling around in a parking lot filled with rakes. Those two releases possessed as much flavor as a cardboard sandwich, and none of the charm of his early work.

Logic’s retirement album, No Pressure, is a much-needed corrective, a back-to-basics palate cleanser that rights the ship with help from co-executive producer No I.D., who was the guiding hand behind his debut record Under Pressure. It’s the cleanest album he’s ever made. 

Sequels tend to settle on top of the original volume like stratified layers of sediment. No Pressure is less of a continuation to Under Pressure than a reiteration, with Logic treating his 2014 studio debut — along with its futuristic 2015 follow-up, The Incredible True Story — as source material to be mined, revived, and sampled. For Rattpack day ones, No Pressure is a treasure trove of Easter eggs. 

During Logic’s hardscrabble youth, he faced homelessness, his siblings sold crack, and his parents battled drug addiction. Under Pressure was about hip-hop as a refuge that helped Logic endure and escape this bleak world. On No Pressure, he revisits these themes at length — “Open Mic” simulates his first performances, and “A2Z” includes an actual rough demo from 2005. The album comes alive through Maryland nameplaces and recollections of his life before his career took off: “Took the 61 to Germantown and hear them guns bust,” he raps on the intro, “Call it static, my headphones on, it's Illmatic/ On my Rosa Parks, in the back writing like B-Rabbit.” 

No Pressure's backwards gaze dovetails neatly with Logic's eagerness to retire.
Def Jam Recordings

No Pressure is an open tribute to Logic’s myriad influences, which he has always worn on his sleeve. He shouts out Cowboy Bebop and scores a personalized cameo from the Metal Gear Solid character Solid Snake. He borrows cadences from Biggie and Kendrick and makes lyrical nods to Cole and Kanye. He offers “A2Z” as a humble, somewhat half-assed tribute to Papoose’s “Alphabetical Slaughter.” In contrast to the trap-forward Bobby Tarantino mixtapes, No Pressure generally sits on a bed of crisp, down-the-middle boom-bap inflected with R&B. By recycling production elements from Erykah Badu’s “Didn’t Cha Know,” Lupe Fiasco’s “Gold Watch,” and Outkast’s “Elevators,” (as well as the iconic horns from “SpottieOttieDopaliscious”), it carries the looser air of a true, old school-style mixtape. The event of Logic’s retirement both contributes to this lightweight feel and creates the kind of natural stakes that haven’t existed on any of his prior albums. 

The lowest moment on No Pressure is when Thalia, the Midnight Marauders-inspired robot, opines, “Actually living your life is exponentially different from just being alive.” Fortunately,  these kinds of fake-deep adages are far outnumbered by Logic’s lucid insights into the nature of fame, which has nearly ruined him. “I been beaten and battered, my confidence shattered/ I'm constantly second guessing if my profession is worth it on my mental state,” he raps on “Dark Place.” The album’s backwards gaze dovetails neatly with his eagerness to retire; it represents an attempt to “have some fun [on some] back in the basement type shit,” to recreate the days when writing raps was an act of joy rather than obligation.

The birth of Logic’s son (as well as his lucrative new streaming deal with Twitch) offers a natural exit point from the rap game and all the baggage that comes with it. “Got a son now, f--k the rap game, i’m done now,” he raps on “DadBod.” While any retirement notice from a rapper should be taken with a grain of salt, No Pressure possesses an unexpected grace and restraint that makes Logic’s decision appear all the more compelling, convincing, and necessary. His hyperbolic career arc necessitated a swift exit to a quiet life of child-rearing, gaming, and binging anime. Don’t expect him to pick up the mic anytime soon.

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