Try as he might, Logic can’t escape his corniness. He’s not exactly mawkish, just not as charming as many of his pop hits immediately paint him out to be. He’s cultivated an entire fan base from his shtick of being the relatable, slightly conflicted, guy with a conscious who knows your pain, so he sings your song. But that very image is what seemingly pushes him away from the rap culture he’s so anxious to become a part of. Sometimes he’s too sweet to digest without feeling remorse for the impending dentist visit.
It’s why his Young Sinatra project breaks make for thrilling escapes from his thematically heavy cuts or his jabs at mainstream entertainment – like two servings of stuffing at Thanksgiving instead of a nice slab of yellow cake. YSIV is gaudy, confident, and cocksure; Logic talks his shit without filter, crafting mesmerizing narratives, witty punchlines, and out-of-his-comfort-zone experiments – often on the same track. It amounts to an absorbing final installment of a series that already functions as an inordinate quantum of comfort food. We’re finally stuffed.
Within the semi-facile public face of Sir Robert Bryson Hall II resides two distinct individuals – the torch-carrying Logic who’s here to save the day, and Young Sinatra, the rapper’s rapper, content with speaking his piece and not much more. Sinatra’s a little more ig-nant. He’s calling for JAY-Z to hop on a song with him and he doesn’t give a fuck whether the iconoclast responds or not. He’s popping shots at coppers chasing him that are unknowingly preventing him from saving his damsel in distress.
He’s impulsive and arrogant – two toppings I like on my rappers when I select a fresh scoop to devour. Logic stays in character throughout the album and nearly doesn’t break; as much as you can feel the tension making him sweat to break into introspective, educational territory, he keeps the snapback tilted low, legs hanging off the hammock tied between the trees. Logic is Sinatra, but Sinatra is not logic. And it’s beautiful, if not brilliant.
A brief hiking conversation starts the album off with two brief revelations: first, this is the final Young Sinatra project; the three previous mixtapes paved the way for Logic’s biggest, boldest vanity project to date. Second, it’s “back to that boom-bap shit.” Boom-bap. The stuff of Golden Age rap legend; when crews like A Tribe Called Quest and the Wu-Tang Clan let the sandiness of grassroots bass shock their vocal chords into complex verses akin to bursts of fiery kinetic energy.
Logic’s one of the only purveyors of this style that has the skill to sufficiently do it justice. “Thank You” is s luxurious album opener; you can practically see glowing rivers and neon butterflies radiating from the speaker’s forest floor. Logic, as Sinatra, says “Thank You” in the most lyrical way possible, throwing in some smooth crooning before returning to showing his gratitude. The album then immediately yanks you by the chain into “Everybody Dies,” cranking up the boom bap to an eleven. Logic puts the pedal to the medal as his demonic flow twists and turns, spitting fresh whispers of ember into the speaker. This is peak Logic as Sinatra – he’s not just talking his shit, he’s living it. He’s throwing silky smooth shots that let the recipients know who exactly they’re for, but they can’t even be mad because it’s not sloppy. This smoothness isn’t just learned overnight.
Through Logic’s iPhone-like flow, one in need of yearly improvements but underneath is a very capable and high-end creation, one thing that’s seen the most improvement is his storytelling abilities. Logic has the technical skills downpat, but now he’s the Clint Eastwood of rap tales. On “Street Dreams II,” the listener is placed into a chaotic scene in media res, with Logic on a desperate mission to save his wife from a mysterious kidnapper. The story unfolds at a breakneck pace thanks to Logic’s stellar choice of words and framing. With every line, we’re subtly pulled closer and closer to the action, with gunshots and other vocal effects adding the kind of world building that makes you feel as if you’re in a 4D Theater at an amusement park, battling the shaking chair and mists of water. The track’s ending is a little anticlimactic, but the ride there is hectically rewarding.
“Legacy” trades in the theatrics for a more emotional story. Logic’s a workhorse of a father, creating the financial atmosphere for his family to relax comfortably while he misses the biggest events in his children’s lives. As cancer spreads through his lungs, he realizes that maybe he should have been more cognizant of the quality of life and experiences that he had in front of him. This kind of emotional trick is hard to pull off without feeling preachy, especially as Young Sinatra, who’s doing his best not to be Logic. But this tale is executed to perfection; the lowly delivery, the wandering inflection to his voice as he ponders his choices, and swelling sadness that takes over the last verse are all gorgeous stylistic touches that make that leaden feeling in your heart feel all the more worth it.
Logic’s deeper cuts only comprise a handful of the album’s fourteen tracks, for good measure. He leaves all of the heavy stuff to the other guy; Sinatra’s here for a good time, not a long time. On “ICONIC” with Jaden Smith, Logic falls into the comfortableness of rapping about a whole-lotta-nothing, and it sounds good on him. It allows him to just boast in ways that he seldom does, getting his brag and complain on, equal parts Sinatra and Wale. Speaking of the latter, he appears here on “100 Miles and Running,” a track that stands as the Blaxploitation theme song you never knew you needed until now. Any initial skepticism melts away once Logic sets into a flow that manages to successfully ride the bull and make it his own. Wale’s stepped it up in recent months, and his verse here is further proof that he’s a mountain of untapped potential. Logic used the same sample that Wale used on “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.” from his 2007 mixtape 100 Miles and Running, so checking in with Wale here is a way to gauge how much the DC-native has improved over the course of eleven years. It’s clear that there’s no rust on Wale’s machine.
Inevitably, Logic can’t resist the urge to be, well, Logic; there’s more than a little saccharine aftertaste here in the form of obvious pop radio catering. “One Day” largely eschews the laidback coolness that YSIV tries to cultivate, sounding like a slightly profane entry in Kidz Bop 39, while “Ordinary Day” carries the sonic hallmarks of shopping mall music. Crafting an entire album of boom bap probably wouldn’t sound as consistently original as the modern rap fan makes it out to be; departures from that sound serve to break up the monotony and inject some fresh flavor. But the attempts to step away are so jarring that it throws off the album’s equilibrium in spots. “One Day” is only the fifth track in YSIV’s tracklist, and its Ivy League upturned nose so early in the album’s sequencing threatens to dismantle the illusion that we’re here hanging out with fun Young Sinatra instead of sometimes-preachy Logic.
Blemishes aside, YSIV is a wondrous body of work that succeeds largely because it puts Logic’s obsession with thematic content on the back burner. It’s loads of fun with only a few choice messages and pop-wanna-be radio hopefuls that spill punch on its clean shirt, but it’s still very much wearable. Being the last of the Young Sinatra series, it deserves to be celebrated. Hopefully now elements of Sinatra bleed over into Logic’s angelic facade and create a more charismatic iconoclast with believable shades of grey.