Back in 2014, a then-scrappy Logic rapped, “Work so fucking much, my greatest fear is I’mma die alone.” He was spitting his heart out on his debut album’s titular track, “Under Pressure.” The nine-minute, multi-perspective track was Logic’s best song at the time. “Under Pressure” was an honest look at Bobby’s fears and the fallout of the hustle to be the biggest and best rapper alive.
The year is now 2020, Logic is retiring, and his final album, No Pressure, is here. The parallels between the two albums are evident from the jump—just look at the titles. In six winding years, we’ve gone from a skinny and wounded young rapper to a built, healthy adult man, who puts his son ahead of his ambitions—no, his son is his ambition. Logic has scored several No. 1 albums and Platinum plaques, written a novel with a soundtrack, appeared in Rick and Morty, and pursued a slew of other creative opportunities. If pressure makes diamonds, then the pressure of 2014 has turned Logic into—love him or hate him—one of hip-hop’s brightest stars.
And yet, the success has made Logic miserable. He admits this time and time again in his music. Ahead of No Pressure, Logic released “OCD,” wherein he detailed how much he hates fame on the third verse: “Bein’ rich is not a blessin’, fame is not a blessin’.” So, heading into No Pressure, out today via Def Jam, it’s easy to worry Logic has burned himself out so incredibly, the music and the message will be nothing more than dust in the wind. Thankfully, this is not the case. Across the hour No Pressure runs, Logic sounds renewed and honest. He uses No Pressure to draw creative boundaries and to put himself first.
Logic’s No Pressure plays like a blueprint for how to draw important lines between yourself and your work. On the 13th track, “Heard Em Say,” he announces he’s been “Killing myself to make a killing,” which sounds like a direct call back to 2014’s “Under Pressure.” Though, as we place these lyrics in conversation with each other, we realize Logic’s fears are mostly unfounded. He has a wife he loves, a son he loves—who makes an appearance on “A2Z”—and a life so beautiful, he cries at the idea of his accomplishments.
Running through No Pressure, we find instance after instance of Logic wrestling with the fruits of his 2014 prophecy. On “Hit My Line,” while speaking with God, Logic admits to being addicted to fame, and how that has damned him for all-time. On standout “Open Mic\\Aquarius III,” Logic returns to the line “fame is not a blessing,” and closes the two-part track with a promise he’s happier without the internet. Immediately following, on “Soul Food II,” Logic mentions his son and his legacy, paired with another call to “OCD” in reminding us, and himself, that money is not the key to happiness.
These threads all span the six-year gap between Under Pressure and No Pressure, which, yes, were filled with life-changing accomplishments, but so much anxiety Logic could not handle the stress. Recall 2017’s “Anziety,” and the spoken-word outro where Logic details an anxiety attack so terrible, he was hospitalized. In the six years between his debut and final album, Logic has worn himself too thin. While fans will be happy to see a reprise of their beloved “Soul Food” from Under Pressure, I’m almost certain Logic wanted to use the call-back as a base for capturing everyone’s attention to say: This life is not glamorous, fame is a disease, I’m happier without it.
On track nine, “DadBod,” Logic says, “I’m a dad, this is my life…” before taking us through a spiteful trip through the supermarket. The tone of “DadBod” is irreverent—Logic cannot fathom what the people want from him when all he wants is to take care of his son. The song feels like a tirade against expectations. It is No Pressure’s breaking point. At this moment in the album, the listener realizes the importance of creative boundaries, perhaps not for the first time, but certainly for the last. The listener comes into the consciousness of Logic’s inability to run the rat race. Hopefully, from that position, they think of themselves.
Everything comes to a head on pinnacle song, “Dark Place,” where Logic admits he hates social media—no surprise there—and dishes out concerning lines about “searching for purpose” and how it’s “hard to get in the zone,” coupled with confessions about rap no longer making him happy. Lines must be drawn. The lesson of No Pressure, to achieve living in a place of no pressure, is to craft for yourself at your own pace. One of the greatest mistakes of Logic’s career must be his prolific nature. He explained as much in a recent interview with The Verge:
“I announced my retirement from music because it came to a point where I felt forced, like I had to do certain things. And it’s not that the label made me feel that way. I was doing it to myself, because I’m such a businessman, and I was pushing myself to the brink of insanity.” –Logic
Though “insanity” only lightly colors No Pressure, the energy is potent enough to force us to rethink our lives. How hard are we working? Are we pushing ourselves too far? In 2014, when I heard Logic scared of dying alone and working too much, I related so deeply. I was hustling to become a writer by any means, and I saw myself in his come-up. In 2020, with Logic losing his mind at the expense of his craft, I relate once more. When he raps, “Killing myself to make a killing,” it’s not a brag. It’s a word of caution. He’s trying to tell his fans the constant rinse-and-repeat of burnout is not worth it. There must be a balance.
No Pressure is Logic’s foray into finding balance. His son is a huge help, I’m sure. Logic tells us as much when he raps, “All I ever gave a fuck about was my career / But all that shit out the window now that my son is here” on “Aquarius III.” As Logic notes, he’d rather be himself and hated than be someone else and loved. As he notes on “5 Hooks,” he’s never been so happy to be him. Logic is putting himself and his life first in a real way, not just in platitudes on songs, but in a way that will get him further and further from the “brink” he so described.
Though we know rappers can’t actually retire in a traditional sense, there is a twinge of hope in No Pressure being Logic’s goodbye to music. It is a moment wherein humanity comes before the hustle. The fear of 2014 was never realized, then. Logic did “Work so fucking much,” but something tells me he won’t die alone or in emotional squalor. From 24 to 30, Logic has matured and learned the ins and outs of priorities. If there’s one thing to learn from his music, it’s this: You can only throw yourself so far into your craft before it swallows you. Don’t drown in the work. Learn how to use the work to buoy yourself.