Logic – Under Pressure – The STiXXclusive Review

The majority of people that I’ve found out about, music wise, has come from the help of social media (Twitter to be more specific), and Logic is just one example of how gaining a buzz strictly off the internet can generate into a following and then that pretty much extends into superstardom. Mixtapes, mixtapes, and more mixtapes were his M.O for creating such a following, and in 2012, I had no idea that his base was as big as it was at that time. I saw him perform at a bar venue in Toronto and it was damn near sold out. Of course, Toronto is one of those catalysts that latch onto new talent rather quickly, but to see people come out to the show like they did? Crazy. His Young Sinatra series gave the listeners a glimpse of his life, and also comparisons to J.Cole, as he provided lyricism to go with his half & half, black-white mix to gauge different crowds, but until recently, Black people weren’t all over the bandwagon, because the perception of him is that he’s white. I mean, when you look at him, he doesn’t look an ounce of Black, but that’s not even the focus. Where I found respect for his work was the fact that yes, he loves the double-time style that white rappers are really known for, to follow the footsteps that Eminem laid down (Yelawolf & Machine Gun Kelly being a couple of disciples), he still had that edge to him that didn’t come off as him being a gimmicky rapper. He had bars, and I was here for them. Now, when his last mixtape, Welcome to Forever dropped, you heard the bit of the commercialized sound that was inevitable when it comes to transitioning to an album mode, and I felt like a bunch of tracks were corny – this is where I started to question where he would stay true to his core values established in his early days. Creating bangers wasn’t always the case for getting people to recognize that sound, but when that generic style hit him, I was fearful that the album would turn out to be trash. There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to dropping your first album (most would say it’s the album after, depending on success of the 1st) and the question would be: would he be clutch, or would he collapse ‘under pressure?’

 

Under Pressure (Deluxe Version)

 

Logic said, in multiple interviews leading up to the album, that he took particular time in studying others to get a theme around his storytelling, rather having it particularly dark that none of his fans have heard, and off of the intro you didn’t exactly get that anticipation, unlike the intro tracks for good kid, m.A.A.d city, Nothing Was The Same, or Born Sinner (to name some of the albums he mentioned). The opening was similar to Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever, and it wasn’t something to be excited about. I would have skipped it, but instead I let it ride out since it was Logic reminiscing on what it felt like to make everlasting music. Too many people these days focus on the numbers, and him saying that he’ll likely be remembered more if he went platinum isn’t a new revelation; given that J.Cole had that line saying if he was white, would he sell like Eminem or Adele, it’s a common Hip Hop question that has been circulated as of recent. What I liked about after the intro was that Logic paid homage to A Tribe Called Quest’s classic album, Midnight Marauders with the voice of Thalia being the narrator of the album. That was a nice touch, so maybe there was hope going into the album after all.

 

Hope restored, everyone go back to relaxing. Soul Food ignited pretty much what I thought was going to be heard, but not to get too far ahead of myself, I do find the song dope. The beat alone to start it off is wicked as he starts off his story by highlighting common topics that would be mentioned throughout the album like his mother being on drugs, the absence of his father, but also with his personal issues, but also he makes it important to keep his vision intact as he faces the challenges of being an artist in a new environment – a mainstream one. What was dope about the track was the beat switch that propelled it from just him talking about himself, to just going into straight bars, which is what he noted that he’d be doing on the album a lot. People know that he can throw down due to his multiple freestyles, but it’s still impressive to hear.

 

“Take my kindness for weakness, trying to get the better of me
Tell me how is they gonna remember me
As the artist that concocted the perfect recipe
Or will they be addressing me, talking less of me”

 

It’s like the Kevin Durant approach where they see Logic as a nice guy, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have that aggression that’s to be taken lightly by critics and his peers. The beat that he spit over definitely did him justice and for the nostalgia loving Hip Hop heads, this is one to gush over. It’s a good start because it reiterates just why I was a fan of his to start, so I was hoping that it would continue.

I’m a sucker for soul samples, I can’t deny it; I won’t hide it. A properly used one will always get to me. It’s like I’m an old spirit for that music, or you can blame Kanye West productions of the early 2000s for creating that love, but it’ll always be there. The sample for I’m Gone definitely set the tone off right, and initially I thought it was a Key Wane beat, because of that similar style, but shout out to 6ix the producer for laying down the smooth; I didn’t even want the rest of the beat to kick in at the hook, but it complimented him well. It’s a laid back track, and the track’s title serves as a play on the expression ‘gone’ which is used when you’re either: zoned out, high, or on a certain vibe – that serves as the purpose of the track, and although Logic wasn’t particularly saying anything different, besides that he wants to make his mark in music because it’s what he lives & breathes day in and day out, it’s a dope track regardless.

 

Gang Related is probably one of Logic’s best songs, period. Not only does it go into a darker realm of Logic’s consciousness that has yet to be heard from the listeners, it also can be relatable to a lot of people who weren’t listeners of his before, and I mean Black people at that. When there’s talk about the DMV, the only representation on a major level that’s been heard has come from Wale, so Logic brings another aspect of that area with this track and being that he is mixed, this track will more likely resonate with more so his black side or pretty much anyone who can relate to that inner-city struggle.

 

“Tales from my hood, not a sight like this
Where they up to no good on a night like this
And they murder motherfuckers just cause
Type of shit I see and probably wonder what it was
I was in the crib, just sitting on the rug
Basedheads coming through looking for the plug”

 

Where those comparisons of J.Cole & Kendrick come into play are the hood tales from the “innocence” that they give off, but it’s a vivid perspective that Logic shares to give a glimpse of what it was like living in his hood, which I’m sure a lot of people could relate to, in one way or the other. I like that the 2nd verse of the track came from the point of view of Logic’s older brother, who served as a blueprint for what not to do growing up. Involved with various crime and even selling drugs to his own father, Logic saw it all firsthand and the song didn’t come off as cliché where it was something out of the ‘Rap topics 101’ handbook; it’s authentic and it’s a different side to Logic that I’ve heard. I thought it would have been a little longer, but I respect when artists say what they have to say in the timeframe that they have. It’s not overbearing, and it gets to the point.

 

Kendrick Lamar also had a track called Buried Alive that similarly revolved the same idea of succumbing to success of music because of everything that comes with it: money, women, fame, problems. It’s a lot for people to handle, and in Logic’s track it’s no different.

 

“Do you really wanna to be famous?
Do you really wanna be a superstar?
Do you really wanna get dangerous?
Do you even know where the groupies are?
Bitches out here be shameless
And I really wonder where they parents are
Look around, everything changes
It feels like I’ve been buried alive”

 

The issues that come with success are relevant to anyone who’s in a high profile industry, and those typically are entertainment and sports, and as the world of social media has exploded, we seen countless examples of people who can’t handle that and they fold under pressure (no pun intended). Being that Logic’s entering a new realm of success although he’s been on tour for a few years now, it’s that time of questioning what type of person he’ll become, because he knows that the people around him will change, and things will start to fly at miles per minute. I didn’t think much of the song, although I respect the message that he’s getting at. Production is dope, but I wasn’t really moved by it overall.

 

Logic wasn’t kidding when he said that he was studying other artists’ albums, because Bounce is basically his version of Worst Behaviour, with that turn up style, which he had a bunch of on Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever. I felt like it was overproduced. A lot of things going into it to make it a banger, and while the beat is hot, it’s one that I have to skip the majority of the time, unless I’m in the right mood for it. With a couple of iffy tracks to come around, I was hoping that the album wasn’t starting to get into a vibe I wasn’t going to feel, but then Growing Pains III came around and it was a satisfying feeling that returned. Growing Pains is a series that started off on Young, Broke & Infamous and each one chronicles points in his life that look at the struggle coming up since he left home at 17, highlighting his problematic parents, the hood environment, and becoming an artist that he would be today. That story continues as he’s in a different chapter in his life, but he brings it back to where he began to keep humble. The beat just screams out ‘storytelling’ giving off that Art of Peer Pressure vibe that creates an environment that’s dark and dangerous. I like how the song is structured because personally, I too can relate to wanting to just sleep to escape the reality of living in struggle and hopelessness as Logic highlighted in the 2nd verse.

 

“Why must I open my eyes
I wish that I could stay asleep forever
Attain every goal I wanted and watch it repeat forever
Will it happen, maybe never
Maybe so, I got to know
But tell me why
I picture myself at the top but I know that I’m dreaming
Will I wake up before I finally confront all my demons”

 

When you’re surrounded in an environment that perpetuates that you’re not really destined to attain anything great, you either get really angry at the situation to get better, or you become a product of the environment and fall deep into it. That’s the fear that I experienced a lot of, and because there were drugs and violence around me, you feel like there’s not really hope out there to look for and find that escape – sleep becomes the escape, and the dreams become the reality, until you actually need to face the world. I relate to that, and I’m glad Logic put that into perspective. There’s a reason why when people say ‘TV raised these kids’, there’s truth behind it. Logic pointing out that his dad walked out, and things were rough with his mom, you look at shows from the 90s like Boy Meets World, Smart Guy, The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince, Family Matters, etc. as examples of having family values that you may not have in your own life. It’s not often said, but it’s definitely a reality for many. That 2nd verse is probably one of the best on the album simply for those two examples.

 

Never Enough has a long ass intro, just for starters. It reminded me of old school soul songs that had a mellow build up before the singer commenced. This track has the same vibe of Bounce in terms of being a turn-up track, but with way better production. I’d rather listen to this over and over simply because of that fact. Paying homage to Cudi (whom he toured with) and Outkast (the So Fresh So Clean bit) were nice touches that in a way made me feel a little older because if they’re starting to sample early 2000s stuff, then lord…it’s only the beginning. It’s a cool party track, which I thought served more as filler and not so much having any particular context with the album, but Logic does have fun with it, so it’s merely a reflection of his personality and just what he does to let loose with the homies. It’s necessary to have a release.

 

Metropolis is the Greek word for ‘Mother City’, and it’s also the word that describes a big city, which gives you a sense of what’s to be talked about. City memories, big city dreams, bright lights, and big signs – you know the drill already. Interesting that the Logic used the same sample that was used for Sing About Me, so it threw me off a bit at the beginning, but it’s not the same context, but that wouldn’t be the only time I’d hear it on the album. At this point, you’ve probably heard the name ‘Nikki’ being referenced at least 17 times, and on Twitter he even had a #WhoIsNikki trend going on for people to discover who (or what) it was. There are subtle hints that point towards it being cigarettes (Nicotine = Nikki), so that wasn’t hard to figure out.

 

“Nikki, Nikki, where you been? I can’t wait to breathe you in
Been on this plane way too long, I can’t wait to see you again”

 

It’s more of the transitional phase that Logic goes through as the development of him becoming a star grows more and more, but he takes the time to reminisce on just how he got to this point, like mentioning his first sold out show in Chicago (shout out to Reggie’s). Travelling around the world, encountering people who look down on him because he’s young & rich in first class (first time hearing him say ‘nigga’ which was weird, a little), and the questions of whether he’ll be able to weather the storm, but still having that animal ambition to kill the competition. I liked the vibe that he brought to it, and the skit at the end with the conversation about Tarantino movies was funny, but at the same time, important because had that been ME?! From when the girl said she didn’t remember watching Pulp Fiction, the conversation is over. Okay, maybe not, but I know what those conversations are like (me asking women about sports – looks at God).

 

And finally the moment you’ve all been waiting for (or not), the reveal of who Nikki is, and if you guessed Nicotine (or if I spoiled it for you earlier – not sorry), to quote OG Maco ‘you was right – HOO!’ With rappers, you often hear about them being on different drugs, and at the most, smoking weed or cigars (or both). Others test out drugs like Molly, others sip lean, but you don’t really hear a lot of folks saying hat they smoke cigarettes, especially since, you know – you need your lungs, just a bit. Kind of important. You hear the name Mary associated with weed, and it’s been like that for eons, but I didn’t think that Nicotine had its own feminine persona to go with it, yet here we are. The story of Logic’s addiction started young and had consumed him all throughout the years. It’s like 50 Cent’s A Baltimore Love Thing that had him personify Heroine, but this track has Logic being the victim of something he knows will kill him, but he knows it’s wrong, he doesn’t want to be right.

 

“I can feel you in my lungs, feel you in my veins
Bloodstream only way to make it to my brain
I tried some others but man they just not as good as you
Going crazy cause I only feel this good with you
Maybe I’m just not as strong as I once was
When we’re together lately I don’t even feel a buzz
I’m addicted to this shit like it was hard drugs”

 

The monotonous vocal approach that Logic serves on the track makes it feel like it’s really a depressing and personal struggle that he’s been dealt, and wants nothing more but to get it off of his chest although she (Nikki) lives in his lungs. It reminded me of a scene from one of my favourite movies RockNRolla when Johnny Quid is explaining his love of cigarettes (which also reflected a painting), which is basically a love for something that will kill him which is stated in plain sight. What made it more reachable to his audience was when he took to social media to ask ‘Who is your Nikki?’ basically, what’s your addiction? We all have something, and this was just his. A ballad for the beloved. The little updates from Thalia about the process of creating the album were pretty cool, and it stayed true to that ATCQ feel that was intended.

 

The title track, Under Pressure was released as a video but wasn’t the full version. The video was wicked because it was like a Call of Duty meets Grand Theft Auto concept that paralleled Logic’s assault on the music industry. Coming in, taking names, firing shots, you know how it goes. He came out aggressive and spit some dope lyrics, but the real emphasis on the song came about when the beat flipped and he started going into personifying his sister, father, and then finally from his own perspective as he acknowledges that his life has changed and has neglected family for the sole purpose that he’s trying to be someone great. When I stated earlier that there would be another instance when I’d hear the same Sing About Me sample, this was the case. The structure on how it was done was damn near symmetrical to Kendrick’s as well, which I thought was a good homage, but for it to be drastically similar in sound, that put me off a little. As a new artist, I find that it’s important for one to find his or her own approach to the game and not generate a sound so closely linked to someone who’s already established. I know everyone uses the same samples, but let’s be real for a second. The verses that he spit through the eyes of his sister & father were definitely real and I won’t take that away from him because they’re heartfelt stories that are deep and obviously personal to his life as it relates to his story. The voicemails at the end were pretty cool, and he’s done that before on an earlier project where he had his fans call his phone and leave voicemails, which he used on a track. I like how the track ended off sounding like his Midnight Marauder track from Welcome To Forever. Nice touch.

 

With a strong intro to welcome us, and a nice core body of music to hold the attention for the duration, it’s only necessary that a strong outro like Till the End was evident, and he did it justice. It’s a culmination of everything that came to be in his life. Much like Big Sean’s So Much More, it’s soulful, there’s a lot of bars that are laced with emotional waves to carry it, which is why it hits so well to end the album of just 12 songs (standard version). From the come up with VMG, touring, signing with Def Jam, the creation of the album while keeping the focus intact, I really liked the outro and it felt like the perfect send off to highlight all that he’s done, ups and downs, and going out with a pretty good impression, especially if you would be listening to him for the first time.

 

Logic’s identity, to me, is still in formation, because there were a lot of elements in this music that you could sense was taken from other avenues to piece together for the album, and that’s probably the only thing I would say would have people feeling skeptical about where he’s going as an artist in general. I know he can rap, that’s going without saying, but in terms of his own style and creating his own lane, that’s still not a very clear fact to figure out. Telling his story that revealed a darker side to him was important, because he won’t be looked at as the happy-go-lucky rapper who likes to rap real fast to get the kids to like him. It’s more of a personal tale about being that next artist to come out and actually make noise. His surge has been impressive since I saw him live in 2012, and I know it won’t stop there. The album represents the dealings of what it takes to make it out of unfortunate circumstances to come out on top. It’s a cliché form of coming out, a lot of topics that were visited in past projects, they came up on the album and I had an urge to ask, “what else do you have to say?” To be as successful as he is doesn’t come easy without radio play, but it now seems common because as we’ve seen with Mac Miller and other indies, they can do numbers and attain success through strength of the internet. He knows his base, so here’s hoping that he’ll add on to it. The album is pretty good, and there are definitely songs on here that I can see myself listening to for a while because of strong content and solid production. I’d recommend giving it a listen, but for now, this is my opinion, this is my review

 

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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