Self-defined and refined to have the soul and swagger of Ol’ Blue Eyes (even going so far as to name his early mix-tape series “Young Sinatra”), Logic started his hip-hop story as a rakish rapper with a deeply sad personal story to tell, a rapid fire manner in which to tell it and a novelist’s approach to its overall conceptual-ism. To go with that, Logic’s music was (and still is) complex, celestial and snaky as it serpentines spryly through low trap rhythms and big break beats.
By the time of Logic’s more dramatic breakthrough, 2017’s “Everybody,” the flinty-voiced Maryland rapper-producer took on and brought into clearer focus the ills of those around him and within himself: a violent, racist mother, a drug-addled father, anxiety, depression. Slowing things down from his stalwart sonic companion of hyper, musically complicated soundtracks, the lushly orchestrated “1-800-273-8255” (named for the number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline) turned things around for Logic and transformed him from an observational comic to the king of pain, an epic representative of those in need, especially where millennial mental health was concerned.
From that success forward, everything Logic did had to be writ large and cut mightily. So he saved the light-hearted raps and more languid tones for his strutting mixtapes, such as those within the Bobby Tarantino series, and held a hard, overeager line for rapier, fast-rhyming-filled albums like “YSIV.”
“Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” Logic’s fifth studio album (and his second release of 2019 after his debut novel, “Supermarket,” and its grungy alt-rock-hop soundtrack), does its very best to combine the light and the dark — the hard lines and the soft shuffle — while looking at the social side of social justice and righteousness.
An overarching aspect of Logic’s outlook now — the big concept behind “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” — is that everything that is great and ghoulish about the world and its mental and spiritual health stems from social media. There’s nothing revolutionary in his portrait of the bicameral nature of a digital realm that brings the world together only to tear it apart with its divineness. That he’s stating the obvious at all — on blunt tracks such as “Clickbait,” with its mantra of “You are incredible, you are incredible, you are incredible, you ain’t shit” — is tired by this point. Lines like “I always post that I’m having a good time / So my life looks perfect online” sound so rote as to lose their cutting verve.
Even Logic’s tip of his soft-brimmed cap to the late Lil Peep (“I should empty the whole bottle in my mouth like Peep / And overdose, immortalize myself / While the media use my death, monetize they wealth”) seems self-serving, more a part of Logic’s repetitive inner monologue than it is something healing for the masses. When Logic attempts to enjoy and engorge the fruits of his labor (“Bobby”), he slaps himself back down with sly asides like “I guess when you make it this big / People assume your head this big.”
Even when Logic is winning, he’s losing, and this psychic fugue state is understandable. We all have troubling insecurities and believe we are undeserving of love and money. If you didn’t know Tony/Oscar/Emmy award winner Bob Fosse’s backstory of drug addiction and institutionalization the same year he hit that triple crown, watch “Fosse/Verdon.” That televised tale could be the textbook for Logic’s “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” title track and its drone-like venting, his mopey insecurity ratted by Twitter feeds making him more manic the more successful he becomes.
You keep listening, hoping to find something audacious in his topic, if for no other reason than he almost gets it right. Example: That Logic managed to bring Eminem, his rap hero and now hip-hop contemporary, into this with their duet on “Homicide” is no surprise. Each man has ruminated in rough-and-raw fashion on the subjects of the self and mental health. Perhaps, together, they could have cooked up something brusque and original on the topic. Instead, through some genuine spitting and rapid-fire flows, all they do is pretend-murder their detractors. Really? Ugh.
That doesn’t mean that Logic’s “Mind” is empty or bereft of vibe or funk or even originality. But you do have to sift through the silt to get to the gold. Several of his guests fall flat in serving Logic and their respective tracks — a surprise where the garrulous Gucci Mane is concerned, not so much with the always lame G-Eazy. Oddly enough, it’s Will Smith who saves the day, with the oversized, Jeep-beatin’ PSA that is “Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different.” No joke. Take its silvery tones down a notch, and the Logic/Fresh Prince pairing could’ve existed during Smith’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand” phase. From West Philly to the streets of Maryland, this is an east coast balling thrill ride.
The album’s overall production by his longtime main man 6ix sparkles like never before, and lends itself to the loosely thread, sharply needled conceptual-ism handsomely. Particularly radiant and intriguingly foreign is “Cocaine” and its silken-to-steely soundtrack provided by the German bros of CuBeatz along with 6ix. “Keanu Reeves” actually sounds as jittery and fun as Logic’s lyrics, as the rapper-writer has a laugh at his own expense. Being biracial and having a hit with a suicide prevention song never sounded so hysterical, and that’s a great sign going forward.
So too, is the last “Confession”-al on the album, “Lost in Translation.” Sure, it might be little more than a gruff grocery list of stuff that Logic has planned for the immediate future with nods to Tokyo cinematography and spiritual tattoo arts leading back to his dueling obsessions with Quentin Tarantino and Japanese culture (what, is he RZA, now?). But at least he sounds pleased to be himself without pause and remorse, and able to brag without wincing on that final funky tune.
“Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”
Def Jam Recordings/Visionary Music Group