Last week in Los Angeles, Logic invited Complex to hear his debut album, Under Pressure. Sitting in a plush leather seat in a studio in Hollywood, rocking a black hoodie, tight black jeans, and a black Ratt Pack hat, the Maryland rapper played us 11 of the 12 songs from his debut. (He skipped one song because he wants it to be a surprise but said the song was inspired by Kanye West's "Addiction.") He admits he's nervous, which is understandable. But he says he's not nervous about the quality of the music, he's nervous about whether or not people will "get" his album and the inevitable criticism he'll receive—especially about comparisons to obvious influences like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Drake. Still, he ought to be feeling confident considering his rabid fanbase is ready to support him at all costs.
Although one listen certainly isn't enough to get a clear consensus on the quality of an album, there were a handful of things that were very obvious. For one, it's much darker than his previous work and features some very harrowing details about Logic's troubled upbringing on songs like "Gang Related" and lead single "Under Pressure." (The second half of the latter song has yet to be released.) The album features no guest verses—save for the ones on the bonus tracks, which we didn't hear—and is mostly produced by Logic's in-house producer 6ix and Logic himself, but also features beats from producers like DJ Dahi and S1. It's also narrated by a voice named Thalia who pops up between songs to reveal tidbits about the album—an homage to A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders. He then compared making a single before making an album to making a trailer for a movie that isn't finished shooting.
After playing us the album and downing his first ever plate of chicken and waffles from Roscoe's, Logic broke down many of the creative decisions that went into making the album what it is. Here's what he had to say.
As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)
His influences are very obvious.
“You’ll definitely hear my influences. I wear my inspirations on my sleeve. It’s so weird to me that it's OK to take something from Nas’ Illmatic because that was 20 years ago, but you can’t take something from Drake. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a difference between taking exact words, but I’m just very open with it.
The album is along the lines of good kid, m.A.A.d City more than anything else because it’s a dark story, that’s just what it is.
“The inspiration comes from the old legends to the new legends; from A Tribe Called Quest to OutKast, from Drake to Kendrick Lamar to J. Cole, even underground cats like Goldlink and Michael Christmas. I got KRS-One-Mad Crew vocals on there, all types of crazy shit. It’s all over the place.
“The album is along the lines of good kid, m.A.A.d City more than anything else because it’s a dark story, that’s just what it is. Stankonia, Nothing Was the Same, Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon II, Midnight Marauders, Wu-Tang Forever, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Born Sinner, these are all things I took elements from. I was like, 'These are the things that I love, these are the things that inspired me, that’s what I’m going to do.'
“I don’t give a fuck about comparisons. Does it sound good? Yeah. Are the raps good? Yeah. Are the beats good? Yeah. Is the story real and authentic, does it check out? Yeah. OK then, shut the fuck up!”
The album opens with a lot of double-time rapping.
Andre 3000 personally cleared an OutKast sample.
The album is much darker than his mixtapes.
He avoids talking about race, but uses the "N" word on the album…once.
“The entire album I don’t talk about being black and white, because I’ve established that on my mixtapes and all my interviews. Motherfuckers ask, ‘Oh, what’s it like being a white rapper?’ I say, ‘Nah.’ Other people say, ‘We get it Logic, you’re black and white.’
There’s a line on a song where I’m on a plane flying first class and I say, ‘This racist white bitch looking at us like, "who are all these N*****?"’
“There’s a line on a song where I’m on a plane flying first class, and I say, ‘This racist white bitch looking at us like, "Who are all these niggers?"’ I’ve talk to Sway and everyone about this, that’s a word I use. I was raised in a black household and grew up with black homies. But publicly, I wouldn’t walk down Crenshaw and say, ‘Hey what’s up my…’ because people don’t know me.
“But that’s the only time I use that word on the entire album. I did it for one of two reasons. One, because it really happened. And two, because it will cause controversy in a good way. People will say, ‘What the fuck did he just say?’ And another will say, ‘Nah, he’s black though,’ and then people will start talking. Then they’re talking about it, and then more people are informed.”
He raps from various perspectives on different songs.
He goes into detail about his family history.
“Nick Huff from HardKnockTV is a good friend of mine. Me and him sat down, and I asked him in the very beginning process of the album, I said, ‘What do you want to hear on a Logic album, not like mixtapes?’ He said, ‘I want you to show me. On your mixtapes, I loved that you were telling me a story. It made sense and checked out, but you never really delved in and really showed me, let me be in your bedroom and be there and feel it.’
I see a therapist right now and I don’t understand why people think it’s so crazy to see a therapist.
“When he said that, the movie lover came out of me. It’s almost like as I was writing raps like I was writing a screenplay. This is the first time I am really storytelling about all of my experiences. My entire family is fucked up. I talk about it on the album: My sister is getting raped, witnessing my father smoke crack, seeing my mother get her ass beat right in front of me as a child.
“Honestly, who wants to admit their mom and dad smoking crack? Who wants to admit being on Section 8? Who wants to admit having to wait 'til the 6th to get $200 and food stamps to last you the next 30 days? Nobody wants to, but I do it not for me, I do it so that others may feel some sort of camaraderie, and say, ‘Damn, I’m not alone.’ But don’t get me wrong: It helps me vent and is the best form of therapy.
“I see a therapist right now, and I don’t understand why people think it’s so crazy to see a therapist. I went to my therapist, and the first time I ever sat down with her she said, ‘Why are you seeing me?’ I told her everything, and she said, ‘Your shit is so together, you seem normal, why do you want a therapist?’ I said, ‘Because I want someone to talk to who has no idea of my life and can give me an unbiased answer, that’s it.’ She replied, ‘I think that’s healthy.’
“That’s why I talk about the things I do because it’s healing, and I don’t give a shit, it's me! It’s honest. I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not. That’s the realest shit.”
His father threatened to sue him over the album.
He helped to engineer the album.
“You got to know your shit, bro. Motherfuckers come in [the studio], and they don’t know nothing, man, it’s annoying. There’s still a lot I don’t know, because I rap and I’m an artist, and there’s only so much I should know. For example, I know how to use my Pro Tools. But I don’t know how to do the compression and the EQ and all that—I just use a template that my engineer gives me.
Everything I’d done before that was pretty safe. But I wanted to bring something different to the table.
“I used to engineer all my shit for years. When I signed to Def Jam, and put out my mixtape, everything was [engineered] by my homie Bobby. I’m not an engineer, and I don’t want to take the time to learn how to be an engineer and learn everything my engineer knows, because that’s his job. I want to continue to work with him, but I’ve learned so much about Pro Tools that he’ll get out of the chair and let me edit.
“So a lot of the things you hear on the album, like the echoes or effects on vocals, I did a lot of that at my house. Bobby did it too—don’t get it twisted. Bobby’s the man. I’ll say, ‘Could you do this, because I missed it.’ He mixed the album, but I was there for a lot of the effects and different things I wanted added.
“But I was there for every tiny thing. [There’s a song where] I did like 20 versions and mixed it and panned it to the right and left, like 25 percent here and 75 percent there. I did all this shit to make it sound this way. I’d never done anything like that before. Everything I’d done before that was pretty safe. Like, I’m going to rappity rap. But I wanted to bring something different to the table, that’s why OutKast was such a big influence.”
His goal is to sell 100,000 his first week.
“For me, a good number is a 100,000 in the first week. J. Cole told me not to worry about the numbers. But even if it doesn’t do that, is there money in my pocket? Yeah. Am I providing for my friends, family, and homies? Yeah. Is the company I’m working for going to be thriving? Yeah. Can I travel the world and do what I love? Yes. Can I make another album? Yeah. Then I’m good, I’m happy, and that’s all that matters. It’s just goals I have. There is a lot of beauty to this album because ultimately it’s about overcoming.”