If there’s one thing sports has taught us it’s that stardom at the collegiate level does not always translate when it comes time to play with the pros. Similarly, in hip hop, dropping a fire mixtape is great for creating a buzz, but releasing an album is where reputations ultimately are solidified, for better or worse. But for Maryland MC Logic, the greatest expectations come from within.
The 25-year-old dropped his debut album, the aptly titled Under Pressure, late last year on Def Jam Records. And while many people may have previously wondered if the rapper known as Young Sinatra could live up to the hype created by his mixtapes, first week sales of 77,000 put all doubts to rest. Now the only question is, how will this rookie sensation follow that up?
In an exclusive interview with BET.com before his sold out show at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, Logic opened up about making the jump from mixtape standout to mainstream stardom, branching out into acting and working his way to becoming a “stadium rapper.”
BET.com: With Under Pressure there was a noticeable improvement in your song structure and your deliberate versatility within songs. Was that a conscious thing or just natural progression?
Logic: I think with the mixtapes I was just showing face with how versatile I could be. I’d have upwards of 20 songs and four of those songs would be about the same thing but they just sounded different. I’d jump on something that sounded kind of like a Drake beat or jump on something that would sound like some Nas s**t. I was just showing my versatility and honestly I was finding myself as a technical rapper. I’m not saying like, “I found Logic,” 'cause I know who I am, but you’re never gonna get another album like that from me again. Ever. I’m not gonna do the same album over and over and over again. Anything that may come is gonna be completely different even though I will always do my best to make sure the quality surpasses what you’ve already heard. But I’m kinda past the, “Yo, this is my story, this is who I am this is where I come from,” I don’t gotta prove anything to anyone.
Expectations-wise, did you feel more pressure on yourself now that a label like Def Jam is backing you?
I think me and the people on my team had expectations of the label, not of myself. Me and my man Chris [Logic’s manager and founder of Visionary Music Group] always had expectations of ourselves, like I expect this motherf**ker to promote me 'cause he’s not just a manager. That’s something that’s different nowadays. A manager isn’t just a manager. He’s got to market you and promote you. He’s gotta put you where you need to be and introduce you to the right people. We had expectations for the label and we found that a lot of things we had to [pause] continue the grassroots [movement] ourselves and then when you realize how things actually are, you kind of wake up. I used to think when I first started that just because I was signed on Def Jam I could get the hottest beats from so-and-so or everybody would wanna give me a verse but it really comes down to personal relationships, so as far as me and my own expectations I’d like to think that I delivered.
There was a lot of controversy over Iggy Azalea being nominated for a Grammy. Do you feel there’s a disconnect between hip hop and the award shows like that?
I didn’t watch but why do you think people were mad about that?
The general feedback was that her hits fall more in the pop arena and the character in her music lacks authenticity.
There’s a lot of other rappers that aren’t what they claim to be and they get a pass because they’re Black. I think at the end of the day she raps, it’s a rapping category, for me, and this is not in her defense. She’s her and I’m me. When it comes to award shows, I think it just all comes down to the facts, 'cause you got somebody like Common, who was nominated for a Grammy off his last album that commercially may not have been as “successful” as society and the whole industry would deem, but in the neighborhoods and for the culture it was awesome. So when you have somebody like Iggy, who was also nominated, she had a universal hit smash single. You have to respect people for what they do. Just because you don’t like it, it’s like I don’t like heavy metal too much but I can still respect it. I think if you pick up a microphone and you rap, you’re a rapper. It’s all about preference. Your favorite song is somebody else’s least favorite song and vice versa.
Now that Under Pressure was a success, do you feel more pressure to top that next time around?
Not at all. I freak myself out sometimes, like with the mixtapes I’d always feel like, “I hope this one’s better than the last one,” but end of the day I know that I’m making music first and foremost for myself. We live in an era where everybody is all, “We want the next one.” I remember my album leaked and the day before it [officially] came out people were already saying, “I can’t wait for the next one." And that’s great, but it’s like, “Come on bro, my s**t isn’t even out yet and you’re already expecting the next one.
On that note is there anything you can talk about that people can expect from your next album?
Right now I’m still on the Under Pressure Tour and still focusing on what’s in front of me. Just know that I’m always working, and that’s all I’ll say on that. I hope I don’t sound like an a**hole.
Not at all. Is there anything in general you’re looking to add to your sound moving forward?
More elements, like ballads, big strong records. Arena rap. One day I will be in stadiums. We’re at the Wiltern, this is incredible. 2,500 people here, sold out, I’m so excited but I’m not complacent. I’m so happy, like it’s f**kin’ weird man. Seeing so many people here that know my songs. That s**t is crazy as f**k, but I wanna go to the Greek, and then Staples one day, and that will happen if I make music to be able to perform in those situations, like Foo Fighters, and like ‘Ye and like Beyoncé, just incredible huge music that’s grand and that’s a soundtrack for people’s lives.
You’ve said that one of your heroes is RZA. I know you produce as well, but have you ever thought about scoring movies the way he does?
I’m open. If somebody came to me and was like, “Score this movie,” I’d be like, “Alright, cut the check muthaf**a and let’s go!” I do want to act one day, but I believe you should master one craft before you move onto the next. I spent almost 10 years just rapping and honing my craft and then the year before my album came out I spent that entire year producing like a motherf**r to the point where I wound up producing four of the records on my debut album, which is crazy because I felt comfortable enough. I didn’t wanna just be like, “I made these beats,” I wanted them to sound like they were great and so I’m not saying I’ve mastered production, I’m not even saying I’ve mastered rapping because I’m a student of the game and you learn everyday, but when I feel like, “Alright, I’m a couple albums in. I’m feeling good, I’m feeling strong,” then I’ll go act.
You came up as a lyricist. You’ve proven you can hold it down in a cypher. When it comes to battling, which commercial artist today do you think would be the toughest competition?
Probably Kendrick. That’d be fun. People always ask me who I’d want to collab with, I say Kendrick, Drake, J. Cole would be fun, cause those are people I used to look up to. I still respect them beyond belief, but now I see those guys as competition 'cause we’re all in the ring together, we’re all putting out albums, so it’s like I’m coming for everyone. In a very positive way. Don’t twist my words please. I’m coming for everyone in a brotherly manner 'cause these same guys inspired me so much. I hear their albums and I’m like, “F**k, why didn’t I do that?” So when I write I want them to be like, “F**k, why didn’t I do that?”
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(Photo: Ryan Jay/Def Jam)