Logic Focuses On Telling Stories On His Debut Album ‘Under Pressure’
After nearly a year of working on his debut album Under Pressure, Logic’s release date is finally here. Within that timeframe, the 2013 XXL Freshman has signed to Def Jam, recruited No I.D. as the executive producer for Under Pressure, and built his fan base to the fiercely loyal one we see today. The anticipation for the LP is over, thanks to lyrical gems “Under Pressure” and “Buried Alive.” Here, the Maryland MC tells XXL about whether he’s worried about T.I.'s new album releasing on the same day, the meaning of Under Pressure, his artwork and his expectations for release day. —Eric Diep
XXL: Are you sweating T.I.’s Paperwork? You guys have the same release day.
Logic: Not at all, but don’t misquote me on that. [Laughs] Me and T.I. are in two different lanes. I think it’s pretty awesome to be next to a legend on that same day. To share a date with someone like that. Arguably, the King of the South. The King of Atlanta. It’s really awesome—I’m not sweating it. My fans and T.I.’s fans are two totally different demographics. For me, I hope he does well. I hope I do great. [Laughs] I’m looking forward to it.
What does "under pressure" mean to you?
For me, it’s the duality of who I am. Being Bobby and being Logic, being under pressure personally in all the things that I go through in my life. Just as a regular dude, 'cause outside of music, there’s people who look at me like I’m not shit. I’m just little Bobby, dealing with the pressures from my family, where I come from. All that. Also, being in the rap game and just being under pressure to sell whatever you gotta sell. To do this and this. For me, it’s like stripping all pressures away. I feel like a diamond in the rough. Coal, under pressure, makes diamonds. I feel like this is my diamond. I finally have ripped from the underground and pulled it up above ground. That’s what it means to me.
"My soul, my blood is hip-hop. It’s Nas, Tribe. Wu-Tang. Big L. Big Daddy Kane. That’s my soul." —Logic
I thought the album title fit you perfectly. What else do you have to prove?
I definitely have to prove myself. I think people who know hip-hop should know my name by now. When they think Logic, people are like, “That dude spits. He can spit. He can rap, but I don’t know why I should like him. What makes him different?” And I think this album is a thing that they are going to realize because I feel like the music is great. It’s good. It’s awesome. It’s the best I have ever done.
So I’m not really here to sell people that I am a good artist or rapper. I think it’s moreso my story. Now, really, who is Logic and why I should I root for him? Not only in these interviews—which is incredible—but in the music and the story on the album they’ll grow to understand.
Why are you so comfortable on this album to share so much of your life to listeners?
I think with the mixtapes, I just peppered in my stories. “Alright, they know I’m Black and White. My dad was an addict and my mother..." All that. They know all that. If I could amass a fan base from just telling them a portion of what I’ve gone through, in my mind, imagine if I told them a whole a lot more than just a little bit? How much more they’ll relate or understand or vibe or just love the music? So I think it's just about being honest and open. I think I didn’t tell my story to this extent like I did on the album 'cause maybe I don’t think people believed me 'cause it is so unbelievable or I do look a certain way so people won’t believe.
“Gang Related” is one of my favorites. It’s produced by 6ix. It’s like the duality of where I'm from. Little Bobby in the house and everything he witnessed and saw. From narcotics to violence and guns. You know, all that crazy shit. The second verse, I'm rapping from the perspective of my brother, who is in the streets and is selling crack to our dad and all this crazy shit. Hence, the title "Gang Related." So you have two people born in the same place that went through the same things, but one made it out. Why? So it’s kind of me explaining that and telling that story. So on this album, I just wanted to be as open as possible and whether people believed it or not, it doesn’t matter 'cause it's authentic and it's honest and it's my tale.
What sparked you to be so open?
I think “Under Pressure,” the nine-and-a-half minute song. I think that’s the one that let me know, “Okay, this is the album that I want to create.” Just on the mixtapes, I wouldn’t use the word cohesive. Definitely not. It was some boom-bap shit. And some radio type record, and then this and that. I was finding myself. Miles Davis said you play a long time before you learn how to play like yourself. That was me trying different styles. Just being a fan of not just the sub genres of hip-hop, but all music in general. So just trying different things. So I could have went the radio route, or could have went this.
My soul, my blood is hip-hop. It’s Nas, Tribe. Wu-Tang. Big L. Big Daddy Kane. That’s my soul. I think on the album, I decided to go this route because my fans know that I can do all types of music. I think people in hip-hop are starting to realize that I can do all types of stuff on mixtapes. There’s a lot of people that have never heard my name or just only heard my name. A lot of people, the first thing they are ever going to hear from me is this album. For me, I wanted to give them a product where they’ll go, “Okay, he’s that guy. He’s a rapper.”
Do you consider hip-hop your livelihood then?
That’s what's difficult. A friend of mine, Nick Huff, he does the HardKnockTV interviews. He told me, “It’s different for you. You just have to prepare yourself and be expected 'cause there is going to be a lot of love, but there is going to be hate. The difference between the hate with you and a lot of other artists [is] 'cause a lot of other artists put on a persona. Something that is fake.” Some drug dealer. Whatever. When people hate on that person, that rapper is like, “Man, that shit isn’t even real. Who cares. It’s what they think.”
But with me, I can be talking about coming up Section 8 housing. My mother and sister’s being raped. My father’s addiction. All this shit. And some 14-year-old kid in high school can be like, “Man, this shit is wack.” I can just pour my whole heart and soul on a song for somebody to just shit on it. So that just happens all the time. You can’t take too much of the love or you’ll be big-headed and egotistical. You can’t take too much of the negativity because it’ll drive you down and then you’ll try to make your haters happy. You can’t make a hater happy—no matter what you do you're going to get hate.
The last time we spoke, you were working with TDE producers and outside features. The album is slightly different now. What changed?
6ix did the majority of the production on the album. I did like four records. It just felt right. I had a conversation with Don Cannon. I told him at the time how there [were] certain people... like, I have never met Kendrick. He’s awesome. Drake is someone I haven’t met yet. He’s awesome. Cole. Super dope. I fuck with him. He’s a good dude. Different artists that I thought would sound amazing on this album. I remember talking to Cannon about it and he was like, “Man, fuck that.” But in a respectful way. “Fuck that man. This is your story. This is your first album. You need to just tell your story, don’t let nobody on your shit.” I was like, “Yeah!” I started thinking about it and I was like, “Man, that’s real.” 'Cause in my mind, it doesn’t matter.
Drake is king. It doesn’t matter if I have Drake on my album, Drake isn’t going to help people sell my album. People are going to buy my album because of Logic. Drake, that’s just a bonus. That’s just a cherry on top. 'Cause that’d be awesome to work with him one day, too. But for me, I just want to hold my own. I never wanted anybody to say that six superstar features is the reason why Logic has fans, or this or that. I just wanted to give the world my story. I don’t want nobody to tell their story on my shit. This is my introduction. Later albums, everybody come on. Let’s have a good time.
Let’s talk about your cover artwork. How did you come up with that?
It was in my old basement. Lenny’s basement, where I used to stay. I think that’s another metaphor in itself. The fact that you see back in the basement where I was. I’m not in that basement anymore. Back then, I was that underground artist. I was a diamond [in the] underground. Then on the deluxe [edition], it’s the mural of me in Maryland. For me, it’s almost like the face of Maryland. I wanted my homie Castro and I had 6ix on there as well because I wanted people to know that it wasn’t just me, it was just me and my homies. I wanted the person looking at and seeing it and viewing it to feel as though their homie just put out an album. Their homie from the basement or their homie who used to have the home studio at their crib. We all have people that we want to see win. That’s why my story is so important to the music. Even if you are not a Logic fan, which is totally fine, even if you are a hater. Deep down, you know the music is good.
"Drake is king. It doesn’t matter if I have Drake on my album, Drake isn’t going to help people sell my album." —Logic
Why did you choose to listen to groups like OutKast and A Tribe Called Quest while making this album?
My biggest influences come from the legends. I mean, look at Drake. Like I said, Drake is king. Drake takes from Migos. Drake takes from A$AP [Rocky]. He turns it into his own and he makes it special. Nobody gives him shit about it because he is the king. But if you have somebody coming up, “Oh, he’s biting so and so.” Like for example, J. Cole on the “TKO (Remix)” did the kind of “Versace” flow. You can kind of tell that he was fooling around, but people wanted to give him shit for it. “Oh, he took Drake’s flow.” I’m like, “Hold on, he took Drake’s flow? You mean the flow he took from Migos?"
So for me, hip-hop is built upon sampling. I mean, Kanye West is the greatest sampler, interpolation player of all time. He’ll take from hip-hop, he’ll take from oldies. He’ll take from everything and have someone re-sing this in a hip-hop form or flip a beat like this and that. So for me, I love Tribe, I love Wu-Tang. There’s a skit on “Growing Pains III” in the beginning about the first time I heard gunshots. And so I re-created the skit in my mind as, “I wonder what they were talking about outside before I heard gunshots as a child.” So I recreated that. For me, that was inspired by the Wu-Tang Clan. Wu-Tang Forever, where they would do all their skits outside on the block. That’s where it comes from.
Your friend said too that this album was like Graduation meets good kid, m.A.A.d city. Do you agree?
I think all they meant by that was the fact that...'cause sonically it's a Logic album. I feel like I found my sound with this. I think the only thing that they could say is the live instrumentation of a Graduation, with the synths and the live strings. I think that’s what he meant when he said that. Just the live instrumentation and the grandness of Graduation. I think the m.A.A.d city [comparison,] it wasn’t necessarily Kendrick, but it was moreso the storytelling. 'Cause there really hasn’t been somebody who has been telling stories in a long time.
Before, I used to think a good lyricist is someone with a million punchlines like Fabolous or Drake or whatever. It’s just a whole bunch of punchlines after punchlines. And then I really just got awoken when creating this album. It’s so much more than punchlines. It’s also just about telling a story, not just about being witty. And there’s that in there, but just being honest.
What do you expect from this album release?
Anything can happen. Macklemore sold 75,000 first week and went on to go platinum. Anything could happen; I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I do know I will be revered. I will be respected. I will have an incredible career. This is the beginning of it. This is where everybody takes Logic seriously, but it's a marathon not a sprint. Just because my album comes out doesn’t mean that’s it. It’s game over. I can throw my feet up. I’m gonna have to battle for a long time.