By Insanul Ahmed
Insanul Ahmed is an Editorial Producer for Complex
With his second album on the way, the young rapper explains how he beat the odds and why he doesn’t care if you call him a biter.
The first thing you might notice when you walk around Logic’s barren new house in Los Angeles—aside from the moving boxes—are all the Rubik’s cubes. There’s a solved cube on the kitchen table, a cracked cube on the couch in the living room, and a neon cube by the front door. A poor math student in school, Logic learned the formulas to solving the Rubik’s cube a year ago and spent 16 hours defeating it. He can now solve one with his eyes closed, while rapping, or while he’s in the middle of a conversation without looking down.
“I just wanted to conquer something else,” explains the 25-year-old Maryland rapper, smoking cigarettes by the pool in his backyard overlooking the Santa Monica mountains. “When you wake up every day and you’re pretty damn good at your profession, it’s fun to challenge yourself in other ways. That’s why I picked it up.”
Whether or not you think he’s a good rapper, it’s impossible to deny that he’s at least a successful one. His journey began in Gaithersburg, Md., where he started releasing mixtapes in 2010, slowly cultivating a fanbase online and signing to independent label Visionary Music Group. After getting courted by Nas, he ended up being wooed by No I.D. to quietly sign to Def Jam in 2012 but didn’t make it public until 2013. Last October he dropped his debut album, Under Pressure. Despite never having a song chart on the Billboard Hot 100, he managed an album debut in the top five, with 72,000 copies sold its first week—proving his online grind could translate to real-life sales.
The album fueled his national and world tour, afforded him his fancy new house in L.A., and even caught the attention of Rick Rubin who recently invited Logic to do barefoot cartwheels and sip unsweetened tea in his backyard.
“Determination, persistence, realism, wanting success more than your next breath—that’s the key to success. I mean it’s so simple!” he says, puffing another cig. He repeats his mantra for emphasis and explains it’s based on a YouTube video he once watched around the time he started his career. “I was determined and persistent to solve the Rubik’s cube; I did it. I was determined and persistent to do mixtapes and albums and tours, to do I what I love every day, and I did it.”
“Determination, persistence, realism, wanting success more than your next breath—that’s the key to success. I mean it’s so simple!”
The next item on his to-do list is his sophomore set, The Incredible True Story. Despite the title, it’s a concept album that features a sci-fi plot that Logic wrote himself. It takes place on a spaceship 100 years in the future, but nothing he raps about has to do with the narrative, which plays out in skits. Instead the music is some of the happiest he’s ever made, but there are dark undertones to songs like “Fade Away,” a record about death, and “City of Stars,” which is a breakup record with hip-hop. He’s confident he’s made the album his true fans want to hear. But he admits this album is less autobiographical than his debut, which he felt he needed to make in order to explain himself to listeners who hadn’t been following him
“[Under Pressure] was received very well by a lot of people, but I think the cool kids circle in hip-hop, the blogs, didn’t receive me well, and I don’t know why,” says Logic, who grew up reading blogs like 2DopeBoyz and IllRoots. “With my first album, I was so worried about the hip-hop community and if I’d be accepted. Certain people in the hip-hop community just didn’t fuck with it. It kind of bothered me for a while, I was like ‘Man, this sucks.’”
Before his debut was being dismissed by those cool kids, getting hip-hop fans to even take him seriously was its own challenge. During his mixtape rise many people (this writer included) initially dismissed him as another white rapper with a fanbase that existed outside the rap ecosystem. But we all learned that the man born Sir Robert Bryson Hall II—yes, that’s his real name—isn’t what you’d expect. He’s biracial, with a black father and a white mother, just like two of his idols, Drake and J. Cole. Logic even recalls hearing Cole for the first time at 19 and thinking, “Fuck, who is this motherfucker with my story?!” Difference is, he looks white whereas Cole and Drake just look light-skinned. All of their fathers were largely absent, but at least Cole and Drake had loving mothers—Logic’s drug-addicted white mother would call him the “N” word. So anyone who has taken the time to listen to Logic’s album or any of his interviews ought to know he’s not some rich white kid. He admits the stigma of being a white rapper has faded since he dropped his debut. So why do people dismiss him? Because they think he’s something worse: a biter.