The relationship between hip hop and society has played a pivotal role in the direction of the genre since its inception. Being traditionally centred around African-American artists from lower class sectors of society, rap has long since provided a medium by which this lifestyle can be reflected and commented on, with race understandably assuming a predicating role in the ensuing discussions. Today, however, as hip hop now lies at somewhat of a societal intersection, with people of all races amongst the younger generations being engaged in the style of music and its associated culture, many have begun to raise questions concerning the place of non-black rappers within this racial discourse. Of the many multiracial MCs to have emerged in the past decade or so, few have engaged with the sociopolitical issues surrounding race relations in a particularly significant way, or at least not to the extent that a great deal of their black contemporaries have. Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, more commonly known by his more succinct and less fustian stage name of Logic, is one such rapper who has seemingly made it his mission statement to address his position in society as someone who was born to a white mother and a black father, and his struggles identifying with, or assimilating into, either one of those two broader demographics. Such personal conflicts have provided the subject matter for a handful of songs from the artist’s back-catalogue, but his latest album, Everybody, is wholly dedicated to an overarching narrative on the topic of race, and not solely from Logic’s perspective, as he attempts to comment on race relations in modern society beyond merely his own experiences.
Logic’s previous album, The Incredible True Story, established him as an artist who was willing to weave audacious, non-linear story arcs into his music, with the record chronicling an elaborate sci-fi narrative that contained an impressive amount of backstory, following a spaceship crew on their journey to Paradise. In a rather meta fashion, the characters of this plot are listening to The Incredible True Story on their expedition, interacting with the music and lyricism presented on the album as a means of explaining their individual concerns about life. As someone who wishes more musicians were motivated to incorporate detailed story arcs into their projects, I respect The Incredible True Story more than I personally see merit in its plot, which I found to be lacking in many regards, particularly as a result of its contrived self-service and expository character development. Nevertheless, the concept itself was very well-detailed and interesting on paper, and I found myself particularly drawn to the fact that Logic was actively seeking to incorporate his non-musical influences into his work, with the films of Quentin Tarantino being an obvious touchstone for the artist on the album. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of The Incredible True Story, however, was the fact that Logic, despite seemingly attempting to set himself apart from his contemporaries with the record’s story, showed no interest in developing a definitive musical identity for himself, rather he was quite clearly playing off the styles driven by his most potent inspirations, primarily Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Drake. With so many mixed feelings directed towards his previous album, I was unsure what to expect from Everybody. As much as I hoped it would see Logic grow as both a storyteller and a rapper, I had no real reason to suspect that this would be the case. Ultimately, Everybody undoubtedly has its shortcomings, but said shortcomings are very different to the ones to have appeared on The Incredible True Story. In terms of the overarching narrative of the album and its racial undercurrents, Logic presents somewhat of an ill-thought-out concept that succeeds in few of the regards that the rapper intended it to, bringing more attention to the discrepancies in his worldview than to the issues he wishes to highlight. On the musical side of things, much to my surprise, Logic finally crafts a more individual style for himself, both in terms of flow, delivery and instrumental arrangement, that references his influences without completely reiterating their pre-established motifs. Despite the flawed logic contained within Logic’s bars, his performances are consistently entertaining across the tracklisting, just as the jazz rap beats over which he is rapping sound rich and luscious, whilst complementing his flow rather well. All this being said, as much as I resent the poorly conceived narrative of Everybody, the record has a lot to offer from a sonic perspective and, although this doesn’t completely redeem it, given how imperative the underlying concept is to its very raison d’être, I can only praise Logic for the steps he has taken to growing as a rapper.
As for the narrative of Everybody, at its core, the album is an attempted analysis by Logic of the divisions between white and black communities in the US and, in particular, the place of multiracial individuals within these relations, with the rapper going into far greater detail of his personal history than ever before. At least, this is the general gist of Logic’s lyrical content across the album, but a great deal of the overall message of Everybody arises from the skits interspersed throughout the tracklisting. These spoken word scenes, featuring America’s darling of astrophysics, Neil deGrasse Tyson, detail an interaction between a man named Atom, who recently died in a car crash, and a god figure, who is not necessarily the god of any world religion. In brief, this deity-like character explains to Atom that he is the only soul in existence within his own particular universe, and that his purpose is to live as every single human being before he can become a god himself. The “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” idiom is taken to the very extreme, in that all bad deeds done to others are done to oneself, just as one will eventually reap the benefits of all good deeds done to others. As the pair discuss in the dialogue, just as Atom will live as Hitler, he will too live as all those who died under his hand. Some might recognise the skits across Everybody as identical to the concept of author Andy Weir’s most famous and lauded short story, The Egg. This is true even of the minute details, with the god figure saying that the last time he spoke with Atom was when he was a Chinese girl, which corroborates with The Egg, in that the “Atom” character in Weir’s version (who is nameless and addressed in second person) is set to next be reincarnated as a Chinese peasant girl from around 540 AD. Essentially, it appears that Logic has lifted The Egg in its entirety and simply forced it, incongruously, into his record. In completely setting this plot apart from the rest of the record by presenting it in the form of several skits, this rendition of The Egg is given the position of the album’s central arc, but this isn’t really the case. Despite the message of universal equal treatment coinciding with Logic’s pleas for human unity across the lyrical content of Everybody, the rapper makes no real references to this story in his bars, and this makes sense given that his primary concern is race and multiracialism. As such, these two fundamental concepts don’t interact with one another more than they simply exist separately within the same all-encompassing narrative. I find this to be particularly disappointing based on the fact that Logic could have quite easily woven issues of race into his retelling of The Egg, which would have not only given the skits an actual purpose, besides providing what is essentially some strange audiobook version of an already-existing short story, but it would have also connected these two arcs in a more meaningful way than simply endorsing a similar ideal. Instead, the only mention of race across these skits is the point at which the god character says to Atom that he is next to be reborn as a slaveowner, to which Atom raises protest, citing his status as a black man. This brief touching on the subject, however, doesn’t serve to comment on race, rather it acts as a set-up for the explanation that Atom will eventually receive all his extensions of kindness and inflictions of cruelty. Ultimately, given that these skits are placed in such an important position on Everybody, with the artist somehow even managing to employ one of the most famous and beloved scientists alive today, they are disappointingly inconsequential to the purpose of the album, whilst their very usage shows that Logic has regressed in his willingness to marry his music with his interest in storytelling since the release of The Incredible True Story. Although the extent to which all of this will factor into my final score of the album is limited, and I must point out that the skits themselves were rather entertaining and well-performed, especially on Tyson’s part, I simply feel that this suggests Logic is not as committed to growing as an artist as he has been throughout his career thus far.
As for Logic’s lyricism, his attempts at commenting on broader, sociopolitical, racial issues, rather than solely his own experiences, lack sufficient depth. The ideas presented by Logic across Everybody barely even scratch the surface of racial divisions in modern America and focus on rather superficial contrivances, with the album’s message essentially boiling down to a plea for us all to get along with one another. This simplistic, admirable view could happily be the central concept for an album, but the way in which Logic presents it appeals to the most intellectually naïve of ideals, some of which exist in complete contradiction to one another, whilst aggrandising himself as sticking his neck out for making such supposedly honest and divisive statements. Such issues are most evident on the track America, which marks Logic’s first explicit tackling of politics during his career so far. Despite proclaiming, during the chorus, that everything he’s saying on this cut is “real as shit”, Logic merely recites platitudes — “fight the power”, “fuck white power”, “make America great again / Make it hate again” — most of which he could have picked off signs from any number of protests to have been happening around the US recently. There are most definitely some stand-out one-liners, such as Logic’s disparagement of Kanye West for criticising George Bush but supporting Donald Trump, or the line, “Don’t run from Trump, run against him”, but such satisfying turns of phrase add little substance to the artist’s narrative. What’s more, a song such as Black SpiderMan stands as a rather blatant misstep in Logic’s reasoning, with the fundamental premise of the song — that being that Spiderman, or any white fictional character, should be made black — completely contradicts the rapper’s desire to have people look beyond race, rather he himself is passing judgement on skin colour in a way for which he criticises others for the majority of Everybody. Moreover, such shallow suggestions simply serve as tokenism, with a far more rational approach being to create characters of minority status who are not defined or tied down by their race, rather they transcend it, and such a proposal is much more in agreement with the rest of Logic’s philosophy across the album. Indeed, as one would expect based on Logic’s previous output, the most compelling lyrical moments across Everybody come in the form of his reflections on his own experiences, suffering from being mistreated by white people who saw him as black, and for being doubted or disregarded by his black peers who saw him as white. The profound detail which the musician goes into on Take It Back make this song one of the most compelling moments on the record, with Logic pulling out one of his most fiery performances, as he rattles through his childhood experiences of racism that led him to be committed to having people view others beyond their skin tone. The title track is similarly cogent, and Logic manages to evoke deep sympathy in the listener with his memories of enduring racially-driven verbal abuse from his mother, and of being looked down on by his black contemporaries for being a biracial rapper, whilst his ability to use these experiences to evolve as a person is incredibly engrossing. Ultimately, it should go without saying that there is nothing wrong with the basis of the album’s narrative, rather the problems stem from Logic and his ability to provide substantial and meaningful insight into such convoluted issues, whilst remaining logically consistent in the process.
Although the entire premise of Everybody is to spread a message and, as such, a great deal of attention is to be given to its narrative, it’s on the sonic side of things wherein Logic really shines and comes into his own, with both his flow and delivery improving significantly since his last handful of releases, whilst also distinguishing him from his obvious inspirations. The fact that Take It Back is the song in which Logic goes into the most personal detail across the tracklisting is especially fitting, given that his performance across this cut is consistently packed with energy, enthusiasm and a genuinely palpable passion. The consistent, buzzing, trap-infused beat provides the perfect backdrop for the rapper to explore all manner of fast flows performed with varying dynamics, and it even accommodates his purely spoken word delivery towards the centre of the cut. The lead single and title track from Everybody doesn’t quite distinguish Logic from his idols in the same way as the rest of the record, rather the instrumental, the song’s structuring and the rapper’s flow are all unequivocally evocative of Kendrick Lamar’s stylings, but given that this song was unveiled all the way back on the first day of 2016, this is understandable. Plus, Everybody stands as one of the best singles that Logic has ever put out, regardless of whether or not he wears his influences on his sleeve, with the musician steamrolling through fast flows above a hard-hitting beat and rich vocal sample. Despite its questionable lyrical content, America is undoubtedly a remarkable moment on the record from an instrumental perspective, with Logic displaying fantastic chemistry between all of the track’s guests over a gut-punching, bassy beat. Black Thought’s feature is particularly incredible, with the MC riding the instrumental really effectively, whilst it keeps intermittently cutting out as to accentuate the most pronounced bars of his verse. On the other side of the spectrum, the smooth and soulful arrangements of tracks like 1-800-273-8255 and Anziety are played to especially good effect, given their serious subject matter of mental health, which Logic actually handles very well in his verses, managing to appeal to the problems of others without the contrivances or self-service of other tracks on the album.
Ultimately, as someone who has previously been rather lukewarm towards Logic both in terms of storytelling abilities and his musical identity, I found myself incredibly impressed with the overall sound of Everybody. From Logic’s rapid-fire flows and expressive performances to the consistently vibrant and indulgent production and instrumental arrangements across the album, the sheer listening experience of Everybody is thoroughly enjoyable. I must admit that my infatuation with the artist’s improvement on all sonic fronts perhaps works against my better judgement. Undoubtedly, the overarching concept of Everybody is lacking to say the least, and categorically contradictory at times, but the occasional flare of a witty couplet or amusing one-liner just about prevents Logic’s lyrical abilities from being utterly unconvincing. Given how promising the artist’s growth from a musical perspective has been since his previous projects, if Logic committed himself to developing his lyrical chops to a similar degree, future releases could see the MC carve out a genuinely definitive identity for himself amongst his contemporaries. In this sense, in spite of the rapper’s regression from a lyrical standpoint since The Incredible True Story, I can’t help but see Everybody as a promising project, because Logic has proven just how much he can develop as an artist. Ultimately, I just hope he puts his efforts into advancing his storytelling capabilities in the future.
The Vinyl Verdict: 6.5/10