Believe it or not, it’s somewhat common for rappers to claim retirement as they reach their late 20s and early 30s. Most rappers, including Logic, whose sixth studio album, No Pressure, released tonight via Def Jam, is billed as his last, will spend most of their young adulthood writing rhymes, recording tracks, performing in concert halls, and living underneath the public eye. Although enriching, such a lifestyle taxes the artist with a hefty toll.
Over the past six years, Logic, born Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, has released five studio albums and two commercial mixtapes, and headlined five tours, plus one co-headlining tour with Oakland rapper G-Eazy. He has topped the charts as a featured and solo artist—earning him enough Gold and multi-Platinum plaques to fill Brett Favre’s trophy room.
Logic, who turned 30 this past January, successfully crossed over into the echelon of recording artists that made their mark on the world by reciting songs on stages for an audience that loves him and, most importantly, believes in him. Now, as hip-hop enters a new decade, the Maryland native bids that audience adieu with a 15-track sequel to his 2014 debut album, Under Pressure.
Although I believe rappers can’t actually retire, Logic may be a man of his word, so I press play assuming this is my final Logic one-listen album review. May it be a good one.
In usual 1-Listen album review fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
1. “No Pressure”
Starting with Thalia welcoming us to the No Pressure program. Instead of sounding robotic, the soundscape is boom-bappy. A No I.D. shout out. This feels good. Fifty seconds in, no rapping, and I’m not sure where the soundbite is from, but it’s setting a pleasant mood. “A story doesn’t have to appeal to the heart; it can also appeal to the spine.” Logic is here. He sounds hungry. He’s coming out the gate strong with line after line. The flow is focused, and the lyricism is sharp enough to shave off a tiger’s claws. This intro is like watching an NBA ballplayer in the gym, wearing a throwback jersey from their rookie season, making all the moves that made them famous. Not mad at it one bit.
2. “Hit My Line”
Warm, sunny keys. I like summery production. “I think it’s going to be a good day.” Logic sounds good. A melodic, sing-songy delivery. Not in love with the singing, but the rapping is strong. He just mentioned “Jesus Walks,” and I gotta say, this soulfulness is reminiscent of The College Dropout. This beat is best when stripped down to the keys. I don’t love the bass, though. Makes the beat feel too full. Overall, the sonics have a throwback No I.D. feel to it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kanye West was on the mood board for the No Pressure sessions. How they chopped the “Message” vocal sample reminds me of “Live Fast Die Young.”
Is this an OutKast sample? Oh wow, he sampled “Me & U.” Not in love with the hook, but I’m compelled. He’s paying homage with this beat. Logic’s flow has Hermès shoes on. He’s spitting. A Thanos bar. He has to be the most referenced character from the Marvel universe. I laughed at Logic texting Erykah Badu. I can’t hate on this sample. It’s hard to do such a classic justice, but Logic doesn’t disappoint. He could’ve kept that hook, but the rhymes, he kept them tight. “This album marks the reunion of Logic and No I.D.,” says Thalia.
So Logic and No I.D. coming together for the final album is their first reunion in six years. I respect them for closing the circle. I love to hear a nice Spike Spiegel line on a major label rap album. No I.D. got the LOOPS. No I.D.’s consistency is something to awe at. He’s been blessing our ears with angelic production. I love Logic’s confidence. He sounds amped to rhyme. I can’t lie, this second verse sounds like a feature, but I don’t think it is. [Editor’s Note: It’s a feature: Silas.] The voice got lighter, but also sounds a bit like Logic. “Celebration” is a good record. Victory lap raps over a pristine soul beat.
5. “Open Mic\\Aquarius III”
Ah, I know this sample; Kendrick used this on one of his early tapes. The name escapes me. More pointed lyricism from Logic. I wonder if No I.D.’s presence encouraged him to sharpen the pen. In a post 4:44 world, I can’t imagine any rapper slacking over a No I.D. beat. This beat is a soulful massage. A lot of positivity from Logic. Good raps into a beat switch. No I.D.’s mind doesn’t make a bad beat. Logic is opening up about how his son changed what he perceived to be necessary—sounding like a changed man. I support it.
6. “Soul Food II”
My primary gripe with No Pressure thus far is the length of the records. Feels like Logic is working overtime. Not missing a step, but the overall message, from song to song, hasn’t changed. To his credit, he’s motivated. The kind of honest, gut-spilling, diary entry lyricism that made him a favorite. The confidence has him sounding so comfortable. A rapper’s self-esteem makes a difference. Happy to hear that Logic in a great headspace. A mid-song skit. A storytelling switch-up. Classic sample flip. No Pressure is living up to its name. “Soul Food II” is a keeper.
Okay, something with a more contemporary bounce. Logic with a banger. “I started from the bottom now my neighborhood gated.” Reminds me of a Mac Miller record during the GO:OD AM era. The second verse flow switch reminds me of Dot. He’s road running. “Perfect” is fun. Was that Juicy J!? [Editor’s Note: Yes.] I loved hearing the Nujabes nod.
8. “man i is”
So many classic samples. This one is Badu’s “Didn’t Cha Know.” So I guess him texting her a few songs ago was a foreshadow. Oh, he threw in a sample of Pimp C’s “Knockin Doorz Down” too. This is as sleek as a candy-coated Cadillac. He’s paying respects to the legend. “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” horns. A lot of ideas in this one. It’s like a fusion of so many classics. A Cole nod. Hahaha, I love that he said the song had to end because he ran out of studio time. Keeper. Nods to the animes he watched during the making of the album at the end.
So far, nine tracks in, and not a song that I dislike. Some safe sample choices that are fail-proof, but the rapping is some of Logic’s strongest in recent years. He’s going out honest, soulful, and stress-free. “DadBod” is a rapper with nothing to prove. Love that Logic be at the crib playing Pac Div. Logic is describing his day-to-day routine. Reminds me a bit of what Eminem would sound like if he weren’t so hellbent on being a Rap God. “I’m not a kid anymore.” “Hotels sucks and the internet is shitty.” You know, with every song, Logic makes a pretty good case for retiring. Keeper.
10. “5 Hooks”
I already love “5 Hooks.” “No I.D. my mentor, but it’s time for the story end.” This man genuinely sounds happy. Beat switch. The smoothest one yet. So much classic Kanye in the music’s DNA. Also J. Cole. Logic is from that family tree. The College Dropout bore so many children. This one, too, is a keeper.
11. “Dark Place”
Okay, I’m convinced, Logic is planning to retire. This is his Black Album. Okay, a switch in tone. He’s digging into the depths. The honesty is just pouring out. “I’m tired of searching Logic in Google.” Man, artists have to stop searching their names. It’s poison. Your mental health will thank you. “All my dreams came true but I bleed and cry too.” I appreciate how much he’s opening up.
Lil Bobby has appeared. Oh yeah, we have something dirty. These keys are mean. Some bite on the cadence. Chest out raps. Talk your shit, Logic. One of my favorite beats on No Pressure. I’m glad Logic decided to go out with such a strong rap album. Another keeper. Thalia is playing a demo from 2005. Oh man, he cut it off! Wait, he’s back. This sounds tough. Big L vibes. Oh, Biggie flow!
13. “Heard Em Say”
Three more songs to go. Not sure what else Logic has to say, but he hasn’t missed a step. This one is a full production. It feels like it was made to be performed in a stadium. Reminds me a lot of mixtape Cole and early Kanye. He studied and channeled his influences and found a voice to express himself. To be this self-assured is such a nice way to end your career. “My flaws, I happily greet them.” “I used to dream about becoming the man I am.” “Bobby boy ain’t no kid no more.” Honestly, this is what people would like from Drake. Accepting time and entering a new phase in his life. Wait, Thalia said the program changed.
He’s going out with some beautiful keys. Another classic sample. All these samples give No Pressure a mixtape feel. It’s an exciting build-up of a studio album and an underground mixtape. Each song sounds even more invigorated. He hasn’t run out of steam. Leaning toward a keeper. Not in love with “Amen,” but I love the sentiment.
15. “Obediently Yours”
Going out with a six-minute outro. I wonder if this will be Logic’s “Last Call.” Sort of feels like it. That’s the vibe I’m getting from the beat. “To be born free is to be born in debt.” Gotta just sit back and listen to this soundbite. I’m not sure of the speaker, but he’s talking that talk. Ending with food for thought. Some necessary words in troubled times. Respect.
Final (First Listen) Thoughts On Logic’s No Pressure
Logic’s No Pressure does what all retirement albums should aspire to accomplish: conclude a rapper’s career on a high note. The music is on par, lyrically, with the best material Logic has released throughout the past six years, and the Maryland rapper is keenly aware this is it.
Every song, from the start of “No Pressure” to the final seconds of “Obediently Yours,” is in acknowledgment that No Pressure is closing a door Logic never intends to reopen. At the same time, it gives us one last hurrah for everything Logic loves about hip-hop.
No Pressure is driven by love—a love of life, a love of self, a love of music, and all the feel-good emotions that come with entering a healthy, happy maturity. Logic embraces being a man with a son to raise, businesses to run, friends to support, and his mental health to protect. He sheds the boyish charm and adolescent insecurities for self-confidence that’s contagious. As a listener, you feel uplifted by the angelic, soul-sample driven production and the spirited, positive perspective spilled by a voice who is eager to let the world know: I’m better than I’ve ever been.
There’s a scripture in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:11, that goes: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” That is the version of Logic we hear on No Pressure, a child no more. Let us celebrate his manhood and wish him the best on what is shaping up to be a beautiful retirement.