On its Anniversary, A Look Back at Logic’s “Under Pressure”
Issue   |   Wed, 10/25/2017 - 10:21
Logic's emotional vulnerability about his past in "Under Pressure" allowed listeners to connect with him better on his album "Everybody."

On Oct. 21, 2014, Maryland-based rap- per Logic released his debut studio album, “Under Pressure.” It reached number four on the Billboard 200 and was eventually certified gold. Three years and two albums later, it remains Logic’s career-defining work and a stepping-stone to mainstream audience acceptance. Before making “Under Pressure,” Logic had released four mixtapes and achieved a cult status in the rap community, establishing an extremely devoted fan base located all over the world. These previous projects had featured his rhyming abilities and beats sampled from famous hip-hop songs. In his mixtapes, he dis- cussed his feelings, problems and aspirations but didn’t thoroughly explore his past. In “Under Pressure,” Logic takes the listener through his rough and scarring upbringing in Gaithersburg, Md. However, his stories don’t mire the album in a negative, pity-inviting rut like other music about hard times. Logic transforms his pain into art; he switches between vivid scenes from his childhood (“I was in the crib, just sittin’ on the rug / Bassheads comin’ through lookin for the plug”) and uplifting, grateful introspection about experiences from life after success, like “Conversations with No I.D. / Who made hits with [Kan]ye, got hits with Jay[-Z].” “Under Pressure” was Logic’s most complete and personal work to date, defining his sound and commencing an exploration of his artistic and thematic range in his following releases.

Logic opens the album with “Intro,” establishing his goals for the entire project: “I just wanna make these music lovers remember again / While the haters fall back like September again.” “Intro” not only sets the tone for the album, it also lays the groundwork for the rest of his career. Logic sheds expectations by stating: “I’m not defined by the sales of my first week / Cause in my mind the only way I fail if my verse weak.” Unlike many other rappers who find validation in album sales, Logic strives to create quality music with meaning. By disregarding these conventions, he freed himself to make an ambitious concept album (“The Incredible True Story,” 2015), a spontaneous, nerdy mixtape (“Bobby Tarantino,” 2016) and a controversial, well-timed album about his biracial heritage and race relations in America (“Everybody,” 2017).

“Everybody,” released earlier this year, delves into Logic’s struggles with his racial identity and his mental health. These struggles are both pervasive and significant to many people in America; “Everybody” was supposed to have something for everyone. Such a personal and momentous album did not come as a shock to Logic’s fans after its seeds were planted in “Under Pressure.” To be able to talk about issues that affect other people, he first had to open up about his past to his listeners. In “Soul Food,” the second track on the album, he raps about the hopelessness of his situation: “Can’t take no more, momma on drugs, daddy M.I.A. / What can I say? I just wanted to be a kid and play.” In “Gang Related,” he describes his home as “Beautiful by day, by night it’s hysteria.” With rapid-fire flow, he recounts frantic and disorienting memories: “Just breathe, while their mama grieve / Bullet to the dome like an Aleve.” The synthesis of the pace of his verses and their content produce a phenomenological effect; the listener is transported to a drug house in Gaithersburg, watching and hearing everything unfold in the frenzy.

Logic’s ability to capture listeners’ attentions by immersing them in a story is as impressive as his flair for quick rapping and capacity for clever wordplay. Regardless of genre, artists who grace the top-selling charts rarely possess this talent. After developing these story-telling skills in “Under Pressure,” he utilizes them in “Everybody” to address real, current issues. “Everybody” is Logic’s most important work, culturally and thematically. It is a culmination of his career to date and his most dar- ing content-wise. Unlike his past albums and mixtapes, this album focuses mainly on social issues. He urges fans with depression to get help in “1-800-273-8255,” discusses his battle with anxiety in “Anziety” and grapples with the complicated state of American race relations in “Take It Back.” As Logic has matured, he has targeted his music’s substantial message at the audience that needed it most.

Integral elements of the excellence of “Under Pressure” shine through in all of Logic’s recent works. Inquiries about the relative value of the past and future in the whimsical “Driving Ms. Daisy” can be found on “The Incredible True Story.” Logic’s free-wheeling and fast- paced flow featured in “Now” pervades “Bobby Tarantino,” especially on its hit single “Flexicu- tion.” Exhibiting his storytelling prowess on “Soul Food” and “Gang Related” prepared him to tackle the topics of race and mental health throughout his album “Everybody.” Without “Under Pressure,” Logic may not have found the courage and voice to confront his demons and share his journey to overcome his struggles with his listeners.