Maryland rapper Logic made his commercial debut with his album Under Pressure, released via Def Jam/Visionary Music Group, back in October 2014. It featured Big Sean and Childish Gambino, and showcased his aggressive flow over colorful beats and lush synths. The album told his story, that of a biracial kid growing up in the projects with an alcoholic mother and an absent father. It left critics unimpressed, saying he was all style, no substance. With his fair skin and blue eyes, to many hip-hop fans he was just another “white” rapper trying too hard. Although he had lived through hell, his appearance suggested different. He couldn’t win.
It's been a year since that release, and Logic has changed. “I realized that everybody is a critic,” he tells me at the Manhattan listening event for his new album, The Incredible True Story. “They're going to say they hate you, they love you, they this, they that, but at the end of the day no matter what, I have to be confident in myself as a man and an artist.” Logic no longer cares about the critics or proving his “blackness,” he has pushed these limitations aside and embraced his love for anime, science fiction, and cinema to dream up his own world.
Co-produced by his long-time collaborator 6ix, The Incredible True Story is a concept album that tells the tale of Thomas and Kai, two humans traveling by spacecraft to a planet called Paradise. In the future Logic has envisioned, Earth is no longer inhabitable. True to that theme, lyrically he addresses environmental conservation, space exploration, and self-improvement. “Lyricism is about painting a picture,” he says. “It doesn't have to be a bunch of punchlines.” You don't have to be a sci-fi nerd to jam to this album, though; Logic keeps things fun and lighthearted with tracks like “Like Woah,” placing his signature hard flow over a backdrop of a warm samples, laced with flute sounds and congos. The FADER caught up with him to to find out what drove his creative 360.
“I’m a sci-fi loving, film-going motherfucker.”—Logic
What is The Incredible True Story about?
There are a million in one things [that the album’s characters Thomas and Kai] talk about. They talk about women, they talk about unprotected sex, and they talk about how we destroyed Earth. They talk about a place that I feel we really are going—that if we don't take care of our planet, and don't take care of ourselves, [then] we are going to destroy everything that we have. I saw Interstellar in the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, it was amazing [and] it really made me emotional; it made me cry in several scenes. [It made me think] about humanity and how much we should care about each other. I want to create another world with my music.
What influenced this change in creative direction?
[With Under Pressure], I had all these things inside of me—I looked in the mirror and I looked at the color of my skin, [and] the perception other people have of me, and thought, Oh, I want them to like me. I have been through the things that can give me credibility—I have held guns and shot them, I have sold drugs, I have been around drugs being cooked, but fuck all that shit. It’s not that [I was] trying to validate it but to express that as my story; when I did, [it] wasn't even accepted because of the way I may look, or whatever the case may be. When I let all that shit go, and was like, I'm an anime nerd—[a] sci-fi loving, film-going motherfucker—that completely changed how open I was as far as lyrical content, for sure.
How did you come up with the cinematic feel of The Incredible True Story?
When I met [animation voice actor] Steve Blum [who provides the voice of Kai], I had the concept and the idea in my head. Anyone else could of done it but not the way he did it. I played him three songs and on a handshake he agreed to do it. He left my house and I wrote the script in one sitting in one night. We went to his house a couple days later [and] recorded it. Then I went on tour and placed everything. After tour, I went to Hawaii to finish the album—I figured what better way to close up an album about paradise then to go there. I had never been there, so we rented out a 17-acre house. We set up a PA system and recorded, and it was really amazing. Then we got back and really honed in, focused on the sonics of everything. Bobby Campbell—Campbell like the soup—is my engineer. His ear for sound design is amazing. We watched Interstellar, we watched Alien, we watched so many different things to create this thing.
Could you describe what the experience of listening to the album is like?
You hear the pilot to your left, Thomas, and you hear Kai, his partner, to the right—it's like you’re sitting in the middle of them in this space craft. You hear the engine and the ambience of space—how there is no oxygen and how that would sound. You hear typing from keyboards when they're typing in coordinates, and all these different little nuances. Then you hear Thalia—the ship's AI component—though both ears because she's a surrounding voice from the whole deck. The best way to describe this album is an audio-cinematic experience that mainly takes place in sonic form. I wanted to create a movie, very similar to War of the Worlds. You know, Tom Cruise and shit? Well, that’s a remake—the original was a radio show like way back in the day, and people all across America tuned in and thought that there truly was an alien invasion; they only had the radio and they didn't know it was fake because it sounded so real.