After an incredibly prolific run from 2014-2020 that included critically acclaimed underground classics, mainstream success stories, a string of albums where it seemed like he had lost direction completely and an announced retirement after becoming a father, Logic’s story has consistently been one of the biggest rollercoaster rides in hip-hop. Already on his seventh studio album – not including the numerous mixtapes dropped along the way – Logic returns with Vinyl Days after two years out of the public eye since the release of No Pressure, a sequel to his debut billed as his final album that many saw as a return to form. Confessing in interviews that his retirement was a result of letting criticism get to his head, the topic comes up quite a few times through his typical stream-of-consciousness rap style, the instrumentals behind him providing a backdrop of his beloved boom-bap and old-school flavours. Logic’s heart and his technical skills as an MC are indisputable at this point, but standing at an overwhelming 30 tracks, most of which are rather unstructured, it’s a wonder that he doesn’t have much new ground to cover in all that time. Despite the unshakeable feeling that this doesn’t do much more than cheapen the “retirement” cycle, hearing Logic go toe-to-toe with some of the genre’s finest delivers some classic thrills.
After a brief interlude – the first of many – from Morgan Freeman, as he appoints Logic “the G.O.A.T.,” the first track “Tetris” sums up Logic as a whole pretty well. He hits listeners out of the gate with a great line like “Logic stays connected on the block, I’m Tetris,” but the song itself feels like something we’ve heard from him twenty times over. It feels like Logic belongs in an early rap collective at the genre’s genesis, and in a modern context the rhyme schemes and lyrical content can sound extremely surface-level. it sounds like he favours the concept of rapping more than rap itself. “In my lifetime” sees Logic teaming up with Action Bronson for a highlight of the early goings – Bronson’s gritty vocals especially fit with the darker, cinematic boom-bap palette – but the disjointed nature of the album keeps the track under two minutes, again demonstrating Logic’s overwhelming tendency for inconsistency.
It’s so easy to root for Logic because of his obvious earnestness, heart and awe at the position he finds himself in, but it can really affect both his instincts and his image at times. “Decades” finds Logic abruptly interrupting the song for a tempo-switch and a verse that he wrote ten years ago, the unseasoned flows made obvious. Tracks like “BLACKWHITEBOY” – title aside – and “Quasi” showcase some of his best technical skills and beat selection on the entire project, but shamelessly being a goofy rap nerd diminishes the coolness factor and mic presence that these beats deserve. Part of it is commendable because Logic is clearly owning the things that many have criticized him about – like when he namedrops influences for the umpteenth time on “BLACKWHITEBOY” – but these things were criticized for a reason. “Quasi” finds Logic begging for legendary producer Madlib’s return to the game, instead of what’s special or interesting about Logic.
While Logic does proclaim his love for the Kendricks and Coles of the world, what isn’t quite as understandable is what happens on “Bleed It.” With a Beastie Boys sample, blown out mixing and an echo effect on Logic’s vocals, it’s evidently the last of Logic’s influences that he’s paid direct homage to because it’s the style he fits into the worst. While the track is uncomfortably mixed, what’s even more uncomfortable is “LaDonda,” where he reignites a back-and-forth with online music critic Anthony Fantano. Going against Fantano’s wishes despite now openly considering him a friend, Logic goes back to one of his favourite tactics and acts as if something incredibly surface-level is incredibly deep while overemphasizing advice that he was given to simply stay true to himself and not pay attention to critics – but not before revealing he fantasized about killing him. Rapping on and on about nothing is one of Logic’s worst tendencies, but at least he’s doing it about self-betterment instead of social issues this time. Still, it just makes me wish Logic would get help instead of rapping about it.
A track called “Therapy Music” thematically follows, and Logic and Russ genuinely do bring out the best in each other. The track’s longer space gives them time to dive deeper into all the things that they need the therapy for, and Russ covers quite a few notable topics well in a single verse with some great internal rhyme schemes while Logic offers some compelling insight on his retirement. “Clouds” and “Rogue One” round out the album’s opening half, the former showcasing some of Logic’s quickest flows and great chemistry with rappers both old and new as Langston Bristol and Curren$y drop great verses while the latter cuts off criminally short despite one of the best beats on the project reminiscent of the classic Jaws theme.
The album’s second half is significantly stronger than its first, mostly due to how much fun it is to hear Logic step in the ring with some rap icons. “Breath Control” features a familiar duo of Logic and Wiz Khalifa, who have always been a perfect match because they’re so unexpected. The vocal samples and funky bassline in the instrumental make for a nice backdrop for Logic to flex the breathless flows the title suggests. It can never be said that Logic doesn’t love every single facet of hip-hop – from here we get a couple tracks platforming both legends and relative unknowns. Logic does battle with both Royce Da 5’9” and RZA on back-to-back outstanding tracks, bringing some engaging voice modulations and what sounds like an upright bass into the mix alongside Royce’s classic energy and social commentary on “Ten Years” while finding another great complementary voice on “Porta one,” not sounding out of place in the slightest as he enters the territory of titans. Sandwiching these tracks are “Kickstyle,” where Logic platforms his Maryland Rattpack and barely raps himself, and “Introducing Nezi,” where he takes a full verse simply to introduce a newcomer who he discovered on TikTok – and she genuinely has the best verse on the entire album. Nezi Momodu’s conviction and personality makes her sound almost like a female RZA herself.
The blending of hip-hop worlds continues as the album winds down. The track “Orville” recruits some indie heroes in Blu and Exile for a spacey, The Incredible True Story-style track that fittingly contains a number of bizarre references to Seth MacFarlane’s similarly-titled sci-fi show. The gang vocals on the chorus bring new energy to the project, and the next voice we hear is The Firm legend AZ’s on “Carnival.” Logic always proves his old-school cred, but he might actually outshine AZ with an extended verse containing some of his funniest bars and impressive flow switch-ups on the album. By the time we reach “Vinyl Days,” things start to get a little stale once again with so many tracks with similar ideas, but it’s still a treat to hear the orchestral beat and DJ Premier scratching on the back-end. Some of the cheese returns with “I guess I love it,” featuring a hilariously reluctant verse from The Game – it seems Logic only recruited him for a reference’s sake, as he brings up his “Hate It or Love It” while talking about how he couldn’t stay away from the rap game – before things close with the 10-minute “Sayonara” as Logic thanks Def Jam for all they’ve done for him in “Last Call” storytelling form, promising independent releases in the future.
It’s crystal clear at this point – Logic is who he is, and he’s not going to try to change for anybody. He wears his personality on his sleeve as much as his influences, and it’s up to the listener to decide how much they relate or feel a certain kinship. That element has always been a little strained for this listener, but as always – there’s no question he can rap.
Favourite Tracks: Ten Years, Introducing Nezi, Orville, Carnival
Least Favourite Track: Decades