The Obama era may seem long distant in many ways, but it sure seemed like we were still in it this week if you happened to catch the rapper Logic, swinging through the very red state of Idaho halfway into a two-month headlining tour. Watching him genially command a worshipful crowd at Boise’s Idaho Center Amphitheatre, it was easy to be reminded of how he resembles a certain former chief commander, not least of all as the product of African American and Caucasian parents. Logic trades on that mixed identity more than the president ever did — his Twitter handle is Bobby Biracial — but you can see the similarities in less glaring ways, like how that inherent tension informs a vast charm that’s more hard-fought than it looks.
Anyway, that urge for bridge-gapping is going better for him than it often did for Obama. He’s riding high on the approval ratings of two successive No. 1 albums, and if it weren’t for the even wilder popularity of Drake, everyone’s favorite Jewish African-Canadian, Logic would have a pretty clear shot at being hip-hop’s centrist-in-chief.
“Peace, love and positivity,” Logic had the crowd chant with him early on in his Boise set, and it wasn’t that long ago that that kind of phrasing would have had a hip-hop guy tossed out on his ear as some kind of Arrested Development revivalist. But the wide umbrella has reopened to the point that adjectives like congenial, convivial, affable and ingratiating are no longer automatic disqualifiers, and on the basis of Logic’s set Wednesday, he might be as hail-fellow-well-met an MC as anybody working in any genre right now. A good number of the nearly two dozen songs in the set were truncated, the better to leave more time for Logic to engage with the crowd — leading a birthday sing-along (after checking the girl’s ID), borrowing a pit photographer’s camera, shooting imaginary hoops with chosen audience members as human baskets, and inviting a cancer-stricken kid backstage after spotting his “Chemo at 11, Logic at 7” sign.
He’s so fan-friendly on stage, he makes Taylor Swift look like Lou Reed or Miles Davis by comparison. Swift, for her part, has never dedicated several minutes of her nightly set over to inviting a kid up on stage to compete in the Nintendo video game Street Fighter. Not that it’s necessarily strictly about good will — Logic’s DJ claimed that Boise’s teen fan, Leonardo, was the first to ever beat him on stage, and YouTube videos of Logic regularly tromping his fans at the game seem to bear that out.
At times, it seemed like the Goofiest Show on Earth. The music itself? Not Actually That Silly… most of the time, anyway. “I am polite than a motherf—a/ But when I grip that mic I get that mean,” he rapped on “Contra,” setting up his bifurcated stage presence fairly well. And even within the songs themselves, there’s a divide. If you were to judge Logic strictly an album-maker, looking at last year’s “Everybody,” for instance, you might think of him as a reasonably self-serious chronicler of racial tensions. He’s downplaying that sober side on this tour, maybe because the album he’s ostensibly touring behind is the recent party mixtape “Bobby Tarantino II,” or maybe because he knows showmen get better word-of-mouth than prophets.
The split was addressed at the outset, via a commissioned cartoon starring Adult Swim’s profanely inclined Rick and Morty, seen arguing on a spaceship about whether Logic was escapist enough to be good cruising fare. “What Logic are we talking about here? Are we talking about mixtape Logic or album Logic?” asked Rick, favoring the former. His wishes were assuaged — the set included twice as many tracks from “Tarantino II” as “Everyday.” Some of the “Everyday” numbers were trimmed virtually in half, too, which was unfortunate in the case of a song as incendiary as “Take It Back.” But it was actually kind of welcome when it came to his biggest song, ironically, the suicide-awareness anthem “1-800-273-8255” — not because it’s a weak choice, but because Logic had no intention of dragging it out by playing a recording of Alessia Cara’s or Khalid’s parts in their absence.
Also dropped, notably: a key line in “Black SpiderMan” — the last part of “I ain’t ashamed to be white/ I ain’t ashamed to be black/ I ain’t ashamed of my beautiful Mexican wife, as a matter of fact” — reflecting the fact that Logic filed for divorce from Jessica Andrea less than four months ago. Personal asides were more upbeat: He talked about his new dog, Stoney, and the dog’s name’s none-too-surprising pot origins. Later, he spoke about taking up, giving up and then renewing adult piano lessons — his teacher has now been added as a keyboard player amid the DJs — and sat at the piano, joined by producer 6ix on acoustic guitar, to play an unreleased lost-love ballad he said is destined for the soundtrack to a novel he’s finished, “Supermarket” (Logic’s nascent singing has a ways to go to catch up with his rapping).
Logic reminded the crowd that the last time he’d been in the venue, five years ago, it’d been as the opening-opening act for Kid Cudi and Big Sean. For this headlining outing, he’s fronting a pretty strong triple bill of his own: Kyle (“iSpy”) was pure throwback to the most carefree days of early MTV hip-hop, while middle-billed NF (“Let You Down”) was all about the brooding; his positively Eminem-esque tones gave little indication of his past success in the Christian rap market, nor did the ironic Joker’s smile he initially wore across his hooded face.
Logic’s “Bobby Tarantino Vs Everybody” tour hits L.A.’s Forum on July 20 and Irvine’s Five Point Amphitheatre three nights later on the way to wrapping up its U.S. dates in St. Louis August 3.