Feeling under pressure to succeed is common. When you look at Logic’s career so far, his quest to prove himself after releasing four years worth of quality mixtapes means his next effort has to make an impact. Since the release of his breakout tape Young Sinatra: Welcome To Forever—which came right after making 2013’s XXL Freshmen class—Logic has stacked up some key milestones within a year. The Def Jam signee went on a 32-stop nationwide tour, joined Kid Cudi on The Cud Life Tour, and quietly worked on his debut album Under Pressure with his Visionary Music Group team and executive producer No I.D. A year later, Logic’s status in rap is growing fast. He’s been co-signed by veterans like Lupe Fiasco for his lyrical ability, and showed he’s a top contender in this year’s BET cypher. The pressures of fame are completely normal for a young rap star, especially when his dedicated fan base is right there to support him every step of the way.

The Maryland MC is more than ready to take it to the next level with Under Pressure. “Making a single before your album is like putting together a trailer for a movie you have yet to shoot,” says Thalia, the LP’s behind-the-scenes narrator of its creative process. From out the gate, Logic takes an uncommon approach to tell his story, using the entire project as a whole to introduce his rough upbringing, troubles with his family and difficulties breaking new ground as an artist. It’s darker than his previous work, yet invigorating to hear a 24-year-old willing to be so open about his life. Shades of Drake, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole’s free expression come to mind, but Logic’s subject matter is just as eye-opening. The best example is “Gang Related,” where Logic is rapping from the alternate perspectives of himself as a kid as well as his brother while growing up on Section 8 housing. “Selling crack to my own pops, pushing this weight on my own block / If I sell a brick, I can buy a house / If they find a key, they might lock me up,” he raps from the point of view of his brother. He’s similarly reflective on the nine-minute “Under Pressure,” where he touches on life and career stresses, even interpolating real voicemails from his family. And “Nikki” finds him alluding to his number one vice: Nicotine.

In the center of Under Pressure, Logic‘s lyricism paints an unsettling picture on “Growing Pains III.” His past installments of his mixtapes laid everything on the line. Here, Logic continues the tradition, describing the first time he heard gunshots, which leads into more rhymes about the pain he experienced as a teenager. “End of the month is the worst of the month / But the first of the month, put the weed in the blunt / That welfare check, won’t never bounce like my daddy did / But I’m glad he did 'cause it made me strong,” he laments. Although he’s accepted his family’s flaws and shown he’s matured in interviews, it’s his honesty and vulnerability on record that shows anyone can grow from it, too. On the radio-friendly “Buried Alive,” an internal battle of doubt to chase bigger dreams results in a golden motivational anthem.

Logic chose to have no features on his album in order for casual listeners to fully understand his life and mission in hip-hop. His lyrics are aided by his longtime producer 6ix, who is on the bulk of the LP, and a few outside contributors (Dun Deal, S1, Tae Beast, Skhye Hutch, DJ Dahi). Together, Under Pressure feels like a roadmap to the influences he states on the album—OutKast, A Tribe Called Quest, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Quentin Tarantino films. 6ix laces up “Intro” and “I’m Gone” their bright textures, but truly shines on “Nikki” by giving its haunting sound that enhances Logic’s cravings for his addiction. In a broad sense, the production brings alive his words that focus on moods and vibes.

Logic’s biggest concern is if listeners can finally take him seriously as a rapper, but he’s incredibly appreciative that more are tuning in to his movement. On songs like “Now,” Logic scoffs at his haters and doubters, using their negativity to fuel his passion to be the very best among his peers. The closing track, “Till The End,” draws comparisons to when Kanye West needed to explain why he should earn respect for his ambitions of being a rapper. Filled with persistent rhymes about his grind, it's a final warning that he's not going anywhere. For Logic, alleviating the pressures of critical acclaim just got easier. —Eric Diep

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