Logic is ready to do things his way
Two years ago, the rapper Logic announced he was retiring – right at the point when it seemed like he had it all. There were sold-out tours, hit songs with famous peers and solo, a performance during the Grammys. But there was, he explains, also real life: he became a father.
"Continuing to chase things like number ones, on this hamster wheel that inevitably never stops unless you step off of it consciously," Logic tells A Martínez. "I wanted to be there for his birth. I wanted to be there for his first steps, his first words."
So he did, carving out the time to learn how to parent and be present — he wouldn't have learned from his own, he says — while continuing to work, at his own pace, on various projects. Now, with that new perspective front and center, Logic is back with a new album, Vinyl Days, which also marks another big change: the end of his contract with the foundational hip-hop label Def Jam.
"I would rather have amassed the financial stability that I have, take a U-turn, and make music that maybe isn't so popular and take a quote-unquote 'dive' in my career on purpose," he says, in order, "to go out on a stage happy and proud of what I'm doing."
This interview has been edited and condensed. To listen to the broadcast version of this conversation, use the audio player at the top of this page.
A Martínez, Morning Edition: Let's get into the name – Vinyl Days. Why did you choose that?
Logic: I chose Vinyl Days because we actually recorded the entire album in about 12 days, for a wild reason that I'll explain another time. I hit up my homie Egon [Madlib collaborator Eothen Alapatt] and he literally overnighted me, like, one-hundred-and-fifty vinyl so that I could get on this mission of recording this album. I sampled the entire thing from vinyl.
You just kind of whet my appetite there. I mean, "12 days for a wild reason?" I've got to know.
Sorry, I'll tell you in the future. It's pretty political.
OK, so since we won't go to the future quite yet, let's go back in time. It feels like a bit of a '90s throwback – you mention Wu-Tang Clan, Mos Def. It's clear that you have a real love for that era of hip-hop, right?
Yeah, without question ... I appreciate contemporary musicians, but there's just something about that era that I really loved and still love. I think there's not a lot of people who can make music like that and do it well. Or at least care to in today's modern sound. And there's nothing wrong with that by any means ... I mean, I've literally made trap music and pop music and it's paid for my house, you know what I mean? So I love it and appreciate it, but I also appreciate a good return to form every once in a while. My last album, No Pressure, was also very hip-hop, but even though it had that homage to it, it wasn't like this. This is literally just vinyl, MPC, break beat, raps. Like, that's it!
And what better way to go out on Def Jam – because it's my last album on a major – than giving them what Def Jam was built upon: just straight hip-hop.
What is it about the '90s though? Because Gen Xers give the '80s a lot of run on social media, on TV, everywhere you hear Gen Xers talk about the '80s. So what is it about the '90s that people are tuned in on?
Well, first of all it's the greatest era because I was born in it. For me it's just nostalgia, it literally is my childhood, from the music to Seinfeld to whatever I was into. I think it was a really great era creatively, especially in cinema.
But, like, don't sleep on the early 2000s too! You know, Rhymesayers and Stone's Throw and all these really incredible labels and artists. Obviously James Yancey [a.k.a., J Dilla] and Slum Village – they had their demos in the '90s but they really were poppin' in the early 2000s, which is cool on a quote-unquote "underground mainstream level."
So when you write, do you feel that you're dancing on this line, where you're writing from what you love — the nostalgia of the memories of what you love – to this generation of people that maybe won't get what you're writing about?
No, I don't think my lyrics are, like, too abstract. I think they're pretty to the point. Sometimes I might rap a little wild, or this or that. I think if anything, this style for me is actually more simplistic. If I'm being honest, it's very in-your-face. It's still dope. I'd like to think that it's matched by the flow and the technical skill and ability of how I'm presenting such a message. And on Vinyl Days, the message is: I rap good! Let's just be honest here.
I wanted to do something that was fun. It's not that serious. I've made songs about anxiety; I've made songs about mental health. I'm kind of the guy who does that, I guess. I have been labeled as this guy, and I love it and it's amazing, but sometimes you just want to blow off steam and have fun, whether it's on a trap record and you're just making music that people can enjoy at the party, and then there's records like this for cats to listen to in the basement or in their car. You don't have to overthink it. It's not that deep. And then you have deeper records or conceptual records that I've made in the past, like Everybody.
I think a lot of people are going to like that you said that "it's not that deep." Because I think everyone thinks that they want to listen to things that make them think and reach deep into their soul and have some kind of reveal, but when you say it like that, it sounds like this could be a fun listen for someone that maybe hasn't listened to you before.
Yeah, bro. If you want to be sucked into an intellectual black hole, go listen to, like, nine of my other albums. It's not that deep.
Artists, in a way, we're painted to do the same thing over and over and over again. You know, look at [Bob] Dylan. On Highway 61 Revisited [he] went to London and got booed off the stage. He was there a year before, and they loved him. He went with something new, experimental – he literally had The Band behind him performing – and people said he was corny, he sucked, he was wack. And at the end of the day, he just did something completely different, something completely outside of his own box. And now, that album of Dylan's is revered as one of the greatest albums that he's ever made. And, I think, one of the greatest albums ever made. So time will tell.
At the end of the day, I refuse to be a slave to people's opinions. And that doesn't mean that I'm not human. I'm an artist and a human being. I want to be loved by everybody. That's completely unrealistic. That's not going to happen. And now, as a father and a businessman and a musician in his thirties, I've come to that realization that I really don't give a damn about what anybody says. So if you want to over-think it or if you feel this isn't deep enough and you want to be upset about it... well, cry me a river, bro.
Director J.J. Abrams, in one of these skits that you have on the album, calls you and says how good Vinyl Days is. I mean, he was just raving about it. You also have Morgan Freeman and Aaron Judge, the Yankees slugger. Other than just flexing with how cool your friends are, Logic, why include them on this?
I was like, "Why not?" You know, I thought it'd be fun. I thought it would give it a little flavor. Just to kind of open up the Rolodex and... I don't know, I thought it would just be funny. Like, even Tony Revolori calling me or Michael Rapaport making fun of me, in a loving way. I just thought it'd be a fun thing. I literally added that the last day before we turned it in to get mastered. I just sent out a text to my friends, and we're like, "Hey, can you send me a voice memo?" And they did. And I was like, "OK, cool!"
OK, so I want I want to set the scene here: In 2020, you were a few years separated from the biggest hit of your career – "1-800-273-8255" – named after the number for the suicide hotline. And it seemed like your career at that point was reaching new heights. Then you announced that you were retiring. So take us back to what was going on in your life.
Well, I had a child, first and foremost. And I will always be willing to drop everything for my son, for my wife, for my family. I think there's a lot of musicians who can't do that, and they may sacrifice precious time, memories and years continuing to chase things like number ones, on this hamster wheel that inevitably never stops unless you step off of it consciously. And that's what I did.
I wanted to be there for his birth. I wanted to be there for his first steps, his first words. I wanted to hold him and love him and change his diaper and learn how to install the car seat and be there for my wife, and I did that and I am still doing that. I've adjusted and changed priorities in music to continue to be able to do that. That's why I stepped away.
And it's just like, dude, how much money can you make? How many plaques can you have? When does it stop? It never ends. I think I kind of had that realization. And I needed to do the best that I could to essentially look back from the future and say, "What would I regret if I was an old man dying in his bed? What would I be proud of?" And I'm trying to do the best that I can to live my life and make my decisions daily based upon this geriatric version of myself.
So did you think that you had to stop working?
I didn't stop working. I was constantly working. I made hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of songs. I wrote scripts, books, did seven-figure deals, everything in that time. I think being a slave to entertainment and media and having my face everywhere all the time and trying to be relevant and loved and funny – I don't even care about this anymore. So it was really that that was not important anymore to me.
So many people don't do that. And maybe they can't afford to, right? To be able to stop and say, I need to do this. I mean, that's something that many people don't ever stop to even consider.
Well, you know, I look at my baby and I think about the guns, violence, screaming, shouting, drug abuse. When I look at my boy, at 2 years old now, what I went through... It's kind of insane how simple it is to actually be a good parent, because I doubted myself as a father every day. I doubt myself as a husband. And I think it's those things that keep me in check, because I really do care so much. But it's a sad thing to know that all I needed to have a good childhood were parents who were present. Like, literally there. Because they weren't. And not addicts and hurt, broken people. Unfortunately those were the cards that I was dealt. But I think in return, it truly taught me to appreciate and showed me the values that I have today as a man and as a father, so I don't regret it for a second. I think anybody out there who's doing what they can to support their family and give their family their time is like that. Congratulations, you're a human being who made it in evolution! You did it!
There's one part in "Therapy Music" that really struck me. You say, "I speak on mental health and people laugh at me / That's why I tapped out, retired / Because I felt rapped out." What part of that hurt you the most? Was it just the fact that you felt that people were laughing at you because you were exposing this side of yourself?
That's a really good question. I mean, "celebrity" – I hate that term, I've never seen myself as that. You know, "famous" – it's like a weird concept. I'm just a dude who likes anime and I solve Rubik's Cubes and watches movies and hangs out with my friends and raps, you know? I write a thought on a piece of paper and then transfer that through a microphone, through cables, over sounds that make a beat, and people love you for it and they hate you for it.
Yeah, but you do it in a way that people like – you don't like the word "celebrity," that's why you're famous. That's why people like you and people want to hear what you have to say.
I mean, I'm not mad that I'm a celebrity. I just don't like the idolization. I just think there can be negative context with that, where people also think you're feeling yourself too much.
It's very difficult to go on the internet and watch people call your baby ugly, or say your wife is a whore – they don't even know you, or who you are, or what's going on. That's, I think, the most difficult side of things – that you put your heart and soul into something, and because there's this bias, people tend to just hate it. But there's also overwhelming amounts of love. For a person in my position, the loud minority really does break through. So I just needed to tap out. I needed to get out of this because if I looked at my phone right now, I could find a crazy comment essentially telling me to kill myself. Or why I should stay retired. It's why I don't have [Twitter]. I think human beings are not meant to consume this much information, let alone information about you personally from people who have no idea who you are personally. That was a big thing for me, wanting to step back and focus on my priorities. The number one being my personal wellbeing and mental health.
Did you think the reaction would be different when you were open about mental health? And did it bother you, as you write, that so many people laughed at that?
Not really, because those are the same hurt people that I'm talking about, right? Those who lash out – it comes with the territory. If you're going to go to war, you might get shot. You know what I'm saying? Like, it just is what it is.
Unfortunately, my war is one of trying to spread peace, love and positivity. And you see the dark aspects of that. I think it's a hard pill to swallow knowing that literally all I represent is love and dope rhymes, and people want to crucify you for it. But also my house in Malibu ain't bad, you know what I'm saying? I can cry out on the porch looking at the ocean, and life's great, you know? So there's ebbs and flows, man, and you just got to pick your battles. And mine is fatherhood over everything. And just having fun.
When I think about the legacy of that song, "1-800," I saw a study from the British Medical Journal that found that the song actually increased calls to the suicide hotline. I mean, that's a song that saves lives! I know people say that music saved lives but this song literally probably saved lives.
You know what I love about my career, man? I was blessed enough to have platinum plaques, selling millions of records before I ever had a hit record. I've had hit records after that, songs with Eminem, songs with Marshmello, songs on my own, and I love that for the rest of my life I'm going to be "the suicide guy." Like, I actually love it because — it's not, respectfully, "oppa Gangnam Style!" It's a song that affects people.
I remember there was a time when it came out where it was a lot to deal with. It's a song that I didn't even want to perform. I was over it, because I'm talking about death everywhere I go. The power the mind has on perspective! I was like, "Man, this is such a song about life!" That's why I wrote it. But I think when you're in the middle of doing a song every single day about essentially killing yourself and rapping from the perspective of somebody who wants to do that, it can be very difficult. And now I can step back a couple of years, and I'm really proud of that and everybody involved. I can't believe it's my biggest accomplishment outside of creating my son. And I'm really proud of myself, man.
My therapist tells me I'm not nice to myself – as nice to myself as I can be. And this is just a moment here on the radio where I pat myself on the back. Because you telling me that right now and saying those statistics, it makes me smile and it makes me happy. I just want to take a moment to thank you for allowing me to appreciate this song and what it's done for others. And for me and my career.
When your son gets to the age where he asks you about that song, and about where you were when you wrote it and what you wanted to accomplish with it, what would you say to him?
I'm going to be like, "I definitely didn't think this was going to be a hit song!" I'll tell you, that's the last thing I thought. I spent my whole career trying to make hit records and failing at doing it. Then I literally had a conversation with my manager and I was like, "Alright, I'm over it. I'm not chasing anything." And lo and behold, the last song I ever thought would make it, made it.
I think that's why it made it. Like what you were saying about when you don't give a damn, that's when people like you even more. I had done a tour for my second album, The Incredible True Story, where I got a tour bus on my own and traveled from Los Angeles to New York City and everywhere in between showing up to fan's houses and eating dinner with them and their families and surprising them by playing them my second album before it came out. And the biggest takeaway that I took from this fan tour was: "Your music saved my life." And I'm just like, "What?" Because I had always selfishly created music. Whenever I was writing "You can do it! Believe in yourself! Be persistent! You're amazing," I was talking to myself, because I didn't have anybody in my life who was telling me those things.
I think most people, it's fair to say, when it comes to their kids, they hope that [they] don't deal with the same demons that they do. But they can follow the same pattern. So if you were to notice something in your son, what would you look for? What would you hope to be able to notice to help him? Is something that you're worried about?
Yeah, I mean I'm terrified. You know, my little boy's only 2-and-a-half, so I think about all types of outcomes for him. I'm doing the best that I can, but I also understand that it's out of my power. I can only do what I can do, and what I can do is be there, be present, and do the best that I can to set a good example. If he turns out to rob banks, that's not my fault. Like, I know that if I'm there to be the best that I can, and he becomes a drug addict or something like that, it's just not my fault. I could do everything that I can to take him to rehab and if I wholeheartedly am there, and one night he meets somebody or he watches a movie or he falls into something, I can still do my best to try to pull him away from that crowd or movie or this or that, but he is his own human being. So I just hope that he's a good man.
You've been with Def Jam for almost your entire career. This album's gonna be the last one with them before you become independent. So what are you looking forward to the most as an independent artist? And what does that mean for you?
I'm so hyped to not be told no. That's a great thing. "Hey, I have this great idea!"
"Hey, I want to shoot this music video!"
"Hey, I want to fly my engineer out."
"No, the budget isn't open." And then I've got to pay for it myself.
That's what I'm looking forward to - not having to deal with that anymore. The political aspect of it. The feeling unappreciated.
I'm also going to miss the people who did appreciate me – the people who have been there for 10 years, like you said, my entire professional career, who fought tooth and nail for me, you know, lawyers and sample clearance.
It's a double-edged sword; it's definitely been extremely positive, and there's been some negatives to it. And now I'm just excited to be my own man ... To me, that's what Vinyl Days is like. I didn't overthink it; I just wrote. I had fun. That's all that matters. And that's what I want to do now. You know, I've really amassed such an incredible fan base. I've been blessed to make the right moves as a businessman. Financially, there's nothing I need from the music industry anymore. I've hit every pinnacle except winning a Grammy. I've done that. I've been to the awards shows, I've won awards, I've sold out Madison Square Garden.
I would rather have amassed the financial stability that I have, take a U-turn, and make music that maybe isn't so popular and take a quote/unquote "dive" in my career on purpose – to go out on a stage happy and proud of what I'm doing. I'd rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I'm not.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.