Meet the rapper from Gaithersburg, Maryland whose life story is nothing like you'd expect.
Written by Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)
Last week, I sexted Logic. I obviously didn’t mean to send a dirty message to the 24-year-old rapper; I was texting him to clarify a quote from my recent interview with him but got my conversations mixed up. Sitting at my desk at work, reading his understandable responses of “Lol” and “What the fuck,” I immediately apologized as my face flush with embarrassment. Logic, for his part, took it in stride, telling me, “It happens.” His next text took me by surprise: "Just gonna be really funny to remind you of this every time we talk for like ten years.”
Logic says a lot of things that are hard to believe—the least of which is his supreme confidence that he’ll last 10 years in an industry where most artists can barely last two. To most people, Logic looks like a white kid with blue eyes from the suburbs. And they’re partially right—Logic hails from Gaithersburg, Maryland, a suburb in Montgomery County (the same county Wale once called home) that’s a 40-minute drive from Washington, D.C. His government name is Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, which sounds better suited for a Game of Thrones character.
I grew up on Section 8 housing, food stamps, welfare, and dealing with social services. I never had a Christmas, I never had a birthday.
“People look at me like, ‘He’s from the suburbs and he was raised rich, and mommy and daddy pay for everything,’ says Logic, who has a white mother and a black father. “Man, get the fuck out of here. Growing up there were guns in the house, my brothers were out selling crack. I grew up on Section 8 housing, food stamps, welfare, and dealing with social services. I never had a Christmas, I never had a birthday.”
But Logic is celebrating now. In the past few years, he’s cultivated a small but significantly engaged fanbase. He’s amassed millions of hits on the YouTube page for the independent label that signed him, Visionary Music Group. The most popular video is “All I Do,” from his Young Sinatra mixtape. It has over seven million views. He's got big name fans, too; No I.D. helped sign him to Def Jam; on "Welcome To Forever" Logic raps about how Nas quoted his lines to him when they met; and Lupe Fiasco recently claimed he thinks Logic is lyrically better than Kendrick Lamar. He's even got a name for his female fans: BobbySoxers—just like Frank Sinatra.
His 231,000 Twitter followers and 410,000 Facebook fans don’t sound like much compared to established stars who routinely count fans in the millions, but Logic's devotees are committed. Although he's still struggling to command the respect of rap fans who won't look past his pale skin, for the moment, it doesn't matter. He's got plenty of fans buying tickets to his While You Wait tour, which kicked off this week and runs throughout the month.
“Robin Thicke sold six million copies of ‘Blurred Lines,’" he says, before making sure to clarify that he loves Robin Thicke. “But he couldn’t even go gold for his album. He was at a venue in Los Angeles and couldn’t even sell it out—it was only a 2,000 count. I can do that with my eyes shut.”
Anything would seem easy compared to the life of hardship he's already faced. At least part of the reason Logic’s stories sound fictitious is because they’re so outlandish. His half-brothers weren’t just crack dealers, they sold crack to their own father. One of his best friends—who grew up with a loving mother and father—is in prison serving a 14-year sentence for attempted murder after cutting another man’s stomach open and leaving his guts hanging on the sidewalk. Logic claims he was taught how to cook crack on two different occasions, once by his brother-in-law. But none of his stories compare to the ones he tells about his mother, who might be the most troubled rap mom since Debbie Mathers.
“My mother was a good woman,” says Logic, who hasn’t spoken to her in five years. “But she went through a hell of a lot of shit from drugs, prostitution—all types of shit, it fucked her mind up. My mother got stabbed, she was raped, she tried to choke me to death as a child. I can’t even begin to explain the tormenting feeling of living in my household; constant screaming, death-curdling screams, arguments between my mom and other men, her getting her fucking ass whooped. At times, there was blood all over the kitchen and fucking floor.”
Further complicating their tumultuous relationship, Logic says, is that he's the only one of his parents' kids who looks white.
“My mother was racist,” says Logic. “It’s so hard to wrap your head around that and the fact that my own mother would call me a nigger as a child. I’m not talking about ‘What’s up, my nigga,’ I’m talking in a fully prejudiced way. Here’s a woman who wants to sleep with a black man and makes babies and wants to be racist towards them. It’s extremely hard to grasp.”
My mother got stabbed, she was raped, she tried to choke me to death as a child. I can’t even begin to explain the tormenting feeling of living in my household. At times, there was blood all over the kitchen and floor.
Unfortunately for Logic, his father didn’t provide any relief. Before crack addiction took over his life, Logic’s father was a musician who played alongside acts like Chuck Brown and EU. Although he remains on speaking terms with him, Logic admits to feeling “like my father’s father.” His dad calls him Logic rather than his given name, Bobby, and keeps nagging him about letting him play on his tour.
“My father has called me and been like, ‘I don’t really appreciate you talking about me smoking crack all the time,’” says Logic. “I’m like, ‘Would you appreciate it if I didn’t say anything and induced those same drugs into my body to try to get over what you put me through? Or would you rather me do it in a positive way?’”
Unsurprisingly, Logic’s unstable household took a toll on his education. After meeting his mother, school administrators, assuming he too was troubled, placed him in classes for students with behavioral problems. When he entered fifth grade, his mother decided to homeschool him. Instead of imparting stepping into the role of teacher, she slept all day and didn’t offer much in the way of instruction beyond black-and-white movies, which led to Logic's fascination with Frank Sinatra. Eventually, social services intervened, and he was forced back into school in time for eighth grade.
“They took an aptitude test to see how much I’d learned,” explains Logic. “I went from fifth grade to eighth grade and passed it. I also took the mental test and they were like, ‘Oh my god, you don’t have any problems. You’re not crazy.'’’ I’m like, ‘I know I don’t have any problems, what the fuck you mean?’ And they were like, ‘Oh, our bad.’”
He didn’t fare much better once he got to Gaithersburg High School. He cut so often he was kicked out. He didn’t get his GED, either. He spent his days working a variety of low-wage jobs at places like Joe’s Crab Shack, Jiffy Lube, and a daycare. After an argument over money with his father, Logic moved out on his own when he was 17 and started renting a room. That’s when his rap career started to come into focus.
Growing up, Logic would always rap to himself, but only began to take it seriously around the age of 15. He studied acts like Wu-Tang Clan, the Roots, Big L, Nas, and A Tribe Called Quest, downloading their music from LimeWire and BearShare for the short stints his family could afford high-speed Internet. In eighth grade he met his friend and mentor, Solomon Taylor, who encouraged his interest in hip-hop. When Logic was 16, Solomon gave him 100 How to Be an MC CDs filled with rap instrumentals.
In his early days, he rapped under the name Psychological, releasing the Psychological: The Mixtape in 2009. In 2010, he switched his name to Logic and dropped his first official mixtape: Young, Broke, and Infamous. He’s released a mixtape every year since: Young Sinatra in 2011; Young Sinatra: Undeniable in 2012; and Young Sinatra: Welcome to Foreverin 2013. The Young Sinatra (2011) tape featured a skit called “Sell Out Records” where Satan (in the form of a record executive) tries to get Logic to sign to their label, Sell Out Records. Ironically, Young Sinatra lead to Logic signing with Def Jam. Prior to signing with the label, Logic says Nas tried to sign him, but he declined for fear of living in the Queensbridge legend’s shadow. And although it was widely reported that Logic signed to Def Jam in 2013, he actually signed to the label in 2011—five months after the release of Young Sinatra.
Def Jam hasn’t done s**t! I’m not complaining, Def Jam is incredible, but Visionary did everything for me. From tours, to mixing, mastering, graphics, artwork, I’ve done out of pocket.
“We didn’t want the fans to be like, ‘Oh, he’s going to change!’” says Logic about keeping the deal under wraps. “We wanted to show that we've done it independently and nothing changed. Everything that we’ve done has been Visionary [Music Group]—Def Jam hasn’t done shit! I’m not complaining, Def Jam is incredible, but Visionary did everything for me. From tours, to mixing, mastering, graphics, artwork—I’ve done out of pocket. By the time I did hit Def Jam and say, ‘I need your help, I need the radio, I need this, I need that,’ then they would put their everything into that rather than wasting time and money on shit I could do myself.”
For now, Logic’s eyes are set on his major label debut album, which is slated to drop later this year. The album’s title track, which will serve as the project’s first single, is a nine minute voice-mail-driven song where he details the pressures of being Logic before discussing the pressures of being Bobby Bryson Hall. The song features real voice-mails from his brother and father. Like the rest of the album, Logic says the song is meant to offer detailed insight into his life.
The voice of his family members aren't the only ones you'll hear on the album. There’s a woman’s voice that serves as his muse and runs throughout the album, an homage to A Tribe Called Quest’s classic, Midnight Marauders. However, rather than random facts about the hip-hop community, the voice offers facts about the album, like how it was made in two weeks and mostly recorded at Logic’s home. He describes the album as “extremely, extremely dark” and says it won’t have any rap features because he wants to tell his story. Though he plans on making his second album the exact opposite: a bright, happy album in the vein of OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” or “Bombs Over Baghdad” that's filled with rap features.
“This is the happiest moment of my life,” he says. “I wake up every day, I deal with hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars, I fund my tours by myself, I do merch by myself, I employ people, I have my own successful company. I’m 24 years old. I wake up every day and laugh.”
RELATED: Lupe Fiasco Says Logic, King Los and Cassidy Are Lyrically Better Than Kendrick Lamar
RELATED: Logic and Neil deGrasse Tyson Talk Concept Albums, Collaboration, and Black People in the Louvre
RELATED: Who Is ZMoney? We Spoke With The Chicago Rapper Before He Went To Jail
RELATED: Who Is Denzel Curry? The Florida Rapper, More Than the Sum of His Influences, is Poised to Break Big