Defanged and declawed for maximum mainstream penetration.
Logic’s latest album Everybody isn’t for everyone. Oh, it definitely tries to be. It’s an inoffensive, populist take on socially conscious hip hop, defanged and declawed for maximum mainstream penetration. But it’s the kind of pleasant, easy listening marred by a startling lack of personality and depth. Logic is less a rapper and more several kumbayas standing on one another’s shoulders, stuffed in a trench coat. He’s the kind of artist whose affability and penchant for tackling “difficult” topics mask a borderline criminal preoccupation with fake deep bullshit.
Everybody is ambitious, but not in the boundary-pushing useful way. It’s a concept album featuring Neil DeGrasse-Tyson, repetitive spoken word rants and a premise cribbed from a short story by The Martian scribe Andy Weir. It fits into a larger sci-fi inflected narrative with his other studio releases as well, but if you’re not already on board with this bigger picture, nothing here entices you to go back and play catch up. The entire vibe is reminiscent of the rich inner lives of ‘09 mixtape-era nerd rap from guys like Kid CuDi and Charles Hamilton, but drained of idiosyncrasy, the stranger edges sanded down to near milquetoast levels. This is, it must be said, a rap album with a feature from The Fault In Our Stars heartthrob Ansel Elgort.
Luckily, it’s not an album that wastes any time letting you know what’s up. The LP opens with overlong intro track “Hallelujah,” a song that takes the spiritual exuberance of Chance The Rapper and stretches it to its absolute limit, going on for close to eight minutes for very little reason at all. After six of those minutes, we’re treated to the core story, where a young man name Atom dies in a car accident and meets God (played by DeGrasse-Tyson). Atom has to go through a series of reincarnations where he lives through every single human being on Earth. It’s exactly the sort of “we’re all one race” dreck that pops up throughout the album, particularly on the single “Black Spiderman.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with aspirational music promoting togetherness, but it’s the cloying way Logic goes about presenting these ideas that grates. Logic, as he will remind you every few stanzas, is biracial and suffered through many hardships growing up in the suburbs of Gaithersburg, Maryland. In the past, he’s taken a lot of criticism for not having the “traditional” rap narrative for an origin story which could be said of contemporaries like J. Cole or Drake. Unlike those two stars, Logic repeatedly tries to assert his own authenticity through sheer force of will.
On “Take It Back,” there’s an extended tirade addressing these critiques. It’d be absolutely hilarious if it were intentional self parody. Instead, it comes off like a comedian arguing with a heckler about the efficiency of his punchlines. Logic’s detractors don’t care that he’s half white and didn’t grow up in a gang. They care that he sounds like a butter knife covered in Miracle Whip being jammed into a wall outlet when he raps. Even the album’s exciting songs are bogged down by his presence. “America” melds the thumping house influence of Kanye’s “Fade” to the agitprop theatrics of Public Enemy, complete with a Chuck D feature, but can’t overcome how awkward Logic sounds on the hook.
That story is all over this set of songs, as much of the production, largely handled by Logic and collaborator 6ix, is consistent in its palatability. They just often feel like serviceable beats out of step with the song concepts and moods they’re meant to prop up. “1-800-273-8255” has gotten a lot of praise for addressing mental health issues in this country, but its production is buttery smooth and soothing. Maybe a song about suicide prevention shouldn’t sound so silky.
Bottom line, Everybody is probably an album getting a lot of people through rough times. Maybe they’re able to see themselves in Logic and his perseverance. If his songs enrich the lives of others, then that’s reason enough for his success and popularity. But if you have difficulty finding that same kinship his loyal fans have developed, his journey through his own demons and surface-level observations of society feels like finding an old diary and trying not to chuckle at your younger self’s opinions. Honestly, it’s just hard to take a guy seriously who thought his album length struggle with being black and white should culminate with a 12-minute song called “AfricAryaN.”