Wednesday, May 15, 2019

album review: 'confessions of a dangerous mind' by logic

I can pinpoint the exact time when I stopped actively looking forward to new Logic projects.

And believe it or not, it was actually earlier than Everybody, his famously polarizing 2017 release that took its concept and angst into messy territory across the board. No, for me it was the first Bobby Tarantino tape in 2016, a trap-leaning project that seemed unlike the high-concept textured hip-hop that had been his bread-and-butter... but it snagged chart success. And indeed, outside of the suicide hotline pop crossover riding the misspent star of Alessia Cara and the genuine rising tide of Khalid, the songs from Logic that have attained success have arguably been him at his least interesting or potent, mostly on trap production where he'll flow his ass off and say so little along the way. And while discussions of what caused that switch in sound and approach have been interesting, spanning from allegations of being an industry plant to just the wrong industry influences pushing him away from his organic following to even just Logic having bad creative instincts... at the end of the day the music has stopped being good or interesting enough for me to care all that much.

So yeah, I skipped over his reportedly terrible alt-rock soundtrack dalliance with Supermarket earlier this year and I was seriously considering skipping over this too - it's not like he wouldn't have chart success with it, and I did know coming after the conclusion of his Young Sinatra series that he'd probably skip away from that old fanbase forever, so there wasn't that much incentive to cover this... but I figured why not. Even on most of his worst projects he's delivered at least a few songs that are decent, so what did we get from Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind?

Well folks, we're here - and somehow there's deeper depths of disappointment that can be hit thanks to this project. And as much as I don't just want to blame Logic for this - 6ix and the rest of the crew deserves blame for some of this production and I want to fire the entire team at Def Jam who convinced Logic this was a good idea into the sun - at the end of the day the buck stops with the MC and the fact that Logic morphed into such a shameless and borderline parody of himself that it makes you wonder if this project was intended as satirical. But if this is Logic's KOD or These Days, it's stripped away the questionable ideology or trickster spirit that could at least redeem those projects in some eyes, leaving something just as soulless as the industry Logic is now thoroughly planted in.

And no, I don't give a shit that Logic can flow for ages and sounds fine enough on a beat, and it's for the same damn reasons I've been highlighting for years now: if you're going to jack so many flows from Kendrick, J. Cole, Eminem, and especially Childish Gambino without even the visceral intensity that made those acts work in today's day and age, as well as some of the most excruciating attempts at melody and singing that I've heard on a hip-hop album, why would I not just listen to the original article? And make no mistake, I've been dreading Logic continued steps into this side of trap for years now, and all of my fears are realized here - how in the Nine Hells do you have such breath control to spit double time and yet have such a weak command of your vocal tone, as well as the worst falsetto on record since Future on 'King's Dead'? I'm honestly surprised he doesn't use more autotune like Drake outside of the most blatant copycat on 'Limitless', it's not like he'd get castigated for it. And hell, even when you're rapping why did you abandon any attempt to inject bass or commanding presence into your voice that you had across Under Pressure - I'm not saying that Wiz Khalifa's verse is better than Logic, but I'd rather listen to him than Logic on 'Still Ballin', especially given with Logic's style of delivery you'd normally expect better wordplay! Hell, I get getting outshone by Eminem and even the endless charisma of Will Smith that excuses some really questionable wordplay, and I'll give props to YBN Cordae for dropping in out of nowhere and delivering a really well-structured verse on 'Mama / Show Love', but how the hell do you get beaten by G-Eazy and Gucci Mane, with in the last case on 'Icy' you dropping possibly one of the worst hooks of the year!

Now of course the larger point is that even if you have such great flows, I've always held that as the baseline - you need to actually be saying something to make good rap, and this is where I have questions about Logic. Because while we could rattle through some of the more atrocious lines on this project, it's important to consider the bigger picture and themes - because on some level, this is a heel turn. This is Logic freeing his worst possible impulses and putting them on display for all to see, which in theory doesn't have to be a bad thing provided the framing makes any sense in context. And let me stress that you can't escape that context of Logic's larger career, because on 'Keanu Reeves' he outright references his suicide hotline song - he's at least self-aware enough to know that it might be a 'going bad' moment because puts in the context of talking about suicide doors on his car, which given how emotionally sincere that Logic was trying to frame that song is a pretty dark twist. But this leads me to my first hypothesis: when it comes to mental health, at the very least Logic doesn't seem to grasp the severity of these issues and it comes across as unbelievably trite when he references it in his lyrics. Right from the title track there are points being made about rappers self-destructing and abusing drugs in their homes, but when it comes to Logic's angst, it's embodied in... social media backlash to the decline of his music, and his response to it are the cheapest of self-love platitudes. And while I've said before how I hate the swollen backlash to social media, I really hate how trivial it's framed coming from Logic on songs like 'Wannabe' and especially 'clickbait', with its confused callout of Charlamagne for homophobia that he claims will be misquoted and excuse the 'mental health' - I get how that song is at least trying to call out the cheap ways to draw attention to your content, but it doesn't excuse the fact that you're doing it here and how you've played that card yourself in the past. Hell, you do it on this album: how is it not trivializing of the issue when you say on 'Pardon My Ego' how 'I ain't bipolar, Kanye make me wish I was'? And more to the point, how does any of the angst work when it defaults to increasingly limp flexing surrounding how great of a rapper he is or how much money he has, or in the case of 'Icy', how good of a man he is? How the hell can you make that brag when you have the string of insults towards women on the same verse, or how you immediately pitch the 'respect women' line to the side to talk about the bitches on 'Mama / Show Love', or how you frame your suicide hotline song by how much it's bought you on 'Limitless' and 'Keanu Reeves', or really how vainglorious and self-serving this entire album feels in its flexing, even down to its ending moments!

And here's where I don't buy that this album is 'satire', or if that intention exists somewhere, it's really bad satire because it doesn't expose any hidden depths or dark secrets or even deeper subtext surrounding Logic or the genre of trap in which he's working. And 'Homicide' with Eminem is a prime example - it's self-aware by grabbing the sample for its ending, but it's on the tier of Family Guy lampshade hanging that mistakes a self-aware reference for a punchline, and it utterly hollows out the experience, especially when Logic's going to hop on the same luxury rap he disparages on that song! That's the only thing close to an excuse I can see to justify 'Cocaine', the sort of ignorant drug rap that Logic tries to flip to glorify in the clumsiest way possible, and even then, when you have songs that 'Out Of Sight' and 'COMMANDO' and 'Still Ballin' that don't have a trace of subtext or genuine self-awareness, what excuse can you have; hell, 'COMMANDO' even has him saying he doesn't sell drugs, so what's really going on here? He even tries to flip the biracial lines into a joke on 'BOBBY' as he calls himself 'biracial only in his penis' - way to try and invalidate the emotional throughline of one of your own albums - and never have I heard him try harder to flex the slave connections to his blackness, which draws a heaviness that I'm absolutely certain he's not equipped to handle here! But the line that told me I was giving this album too much credit didn't even come from Logic - no, it came from Will Smith on 'Don't Be Afraid To Be Different', where he references Fortnite and the Carlton dance, where Epic is currently getting sued but Will brushes it aside by saying 'come on, it's just different man', the sort of shameless corporate shill move to which I've always expected from him... and now I guess I have to expect from Logic too. 

And hell, after that, what is there even to say about the production, which is exactly what you'd expect from Logic over trap beats? I'll confess that my expectations were down considerably for 6ix and the rest of Logic's crew about these beats - because in truth, the cheap percussion, blurry melodies, and atonal progressions are exactly what you'd expect from him with all the old opulence and sample-driven flair long gone - but they continue to disappoint by providing production that's as devoid of texture or flair as ever. For as dusty and drab as KOD was, there was least some form of grit to it, but with this project we can't even get that across the drab annoyance of 'clickbait' or the lumpy atonal clunker of 'Cocaine', or the protracted farting tones plus chipmunk embellishments on 'Mama / Show Love' before flipping into a faster keening mess. Then we get the obvious Drake pulls for the trap sounds of 'Out Of Sight', 'COMMANDO', and 'Limitless', but then we hit new lows with the odd gummy flutes, rattle, and beeping tones on 'Pardon My Ego', or the weird pluckiness surrounding the ugly high-pitched vocals and cheap percussion on 'Icy' - which might be one of the most annoying instrumentals I've heard all year, or the goddamn airhorns punctuating 'Still Ballin'? Hell, I'd like to shoot some bail to 'Don't Be Afraid To Be Different' with Will Smith or 'BOBBY', but the former's bassy knock doesn't have much in the way of melody and it never evolves the way it should beyond some really ugly chiptune, and the latter might have one of the ugliest flips of that sample against the blocky beat that I've ever heard. The closest this album ever gets to the old texture and melody that made Logic comes on the opening title track and the closer 'Lost In Translation', but in the latter case Logic tries to work a Kanye impression before the beat switch and I just sigh with exhaustion...

Because there's no deeper subtext of subversive edge to this, because that would compromise the stacks of money that are clearly all Logic really cares about anymore despite his appearance of beliefs before - because hey, it's not like anyone, especially his fans, is going to really call him on it, right? Well, you know what, for as much Logic continues to profess at length none of the backlash bothers him that much, he wouldn't keep bringing it up if it didn't, so I'll say this: this is his worst hip-hop album to date by a mile. I kept trying to put this album on when I was walking to and from work and I felt embarrassed, though nobody else could hear it but me. There were songs on Everybody and YSIV I'd revisit, but I don't want to return to a single one; this is a ghost town of trap skitters and ideas that are either hollow, offensive, or just disingenuous. And if this was a genuine satire about the pitfalls of fame, a Kamikaze in disguise, then the only success this thing deserves is career-breaking failure - thanks to the label it won't happen and I never want to wish that on an artist - but even the title of this album professes its failure: there are no confessions, nothing close to danger, and at points it's damn close to mindless. So yeah, light 3/10, no way in hell this gets a recommendation, and Logic... you've regressed to the point where I don't have any expectations you'll ever make an Under Pressure or Young Sinatra II again. And sadly, I predicted this just a few months ago... so yeah, nothing left to say, I'm moving on.

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