In the 21st century rap world, Logic is an anomaly in more ways than one.
He’s from Gaithersburg, Maryland, hardly a hip-hop hotbed. His father is black, but his skin tone is much closer to his white mother’s. He doesn’t drink or smoke weed.
Musically, too, Logic is an unusual rap star. He’s in love with technique, often spitting fast and concocting tricky rhyme schemes. He’s probably the only hugely popular young MC who'd think to invite Chuck D and Black Thought and Juicy J onto the same album – they're all featured on his latest release, Everybody. In fact, Logic has more in common with most alternative rappers than he does with hip-hop superstars, except for one important thing: He sells a whole lot of records.
The 27-year-old took the stage at the Roy last night a little more than a week away from the end of his current tour, which began in early July. The tour is in support of Everybody, which debuted earlier this year at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, moving 247,000 album-equivalent units during its first week (196,000 of which were pure album sales). The 70-minute album is a little on the bloated side, with Logic delivering spoken interludes again and again so listeners know that its songs are about things, from Trump to race to depression and anxiety. But it also offers some of the most immediately likable music of Logic’s career, with big, explosive songs like the title track and “Killing Spree” that are best experienced live.
Shortly after the 11-song opening set from 22-year-old Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$, primarily featuring songs from his pointedly political latest album, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, Logic stepped onstage at 9:00, his everyman image intact. No neck-freezing chains, designer clothes, $220 Jordans -- nothing like that. He's just an ordinary guy who happens to be able to rap like a motherfucker. Throughout his 90-minute set, Logic seemed to derive the most joy from showing off his skillset as a rapper, whether nailing one of his recent songs' intricate flows or resurrecting “Wordplay,” the 2010 mixtape cut on which he fast-rapped over Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” (with an MJ-style white glove on his hand as he did so).
Highly technical MCing alone doesn’t sell records -- clearly, there’s more to Logic’s sound. The biggest thrills of his set were high-energy, hook-oriented bangers like Everybody’s title track or “Flexicution,” off last summer’s Bobby Tarantino mixtape. But Logic's most popular song right now, is something much different: “1-800-273-8255,” featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid and named for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline phone number. Thousands of kids powerfully sang along to the uplifting and encouraging single.
Everybody’s interludes made me expect that Logic would spend too much time talking onstage -- maybe explaining the inspirations for his songs in interminable detail, maybe spending 10 minutes opining on Charlottesville or Trump. As it turned out, the breaks in the music featured more playful than serious moments. He brought out one of his security guards to settle a bet over who could win a game of Mario Kart. (Logic won.) For his encore, Logic invited a 17-year-old fan onstage to rap what might be his most lyrically impressive song, the conceptual “Gang Related.” The big surprise of the night, then, is that Logic is a better entertainer than he gets credit for – a nice complement to his sometimes too serious artistic ambitions.
The crowd: The largest demographic was probably white boys between the ages of 14 and 21. About one-third of the audience started to leave after Logic finished “Confess” -- presumably because they hadn’t yet been to enough concerts in their lives to expect an encore.
Super Mario World
Take It Back
I Am the Greatest
Joey Bada$$ setlist
Land of the Free
For My People
Y U Don't Love Me? (Miss Amerikkka)
Ring the Alarm