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Logic’s YSIV is an empty flex, far from 1-800

Logic’s Young Sinatra IV, unlike its predecessors in the Young Sinatra series, is an album, not a mixtape. The meaning of this distinction has eroded over time, becoming a simple indication of artistic intent; here, the album billing means that we can expect something more focused and coherent than we would usually from a Logic mixtape.

The Maryland-born rapper has displayed an ambitious streak on his past two albums, with the sci-fi epic underpinning The Incredible True Story and the philosophical framework of Everybody, but has generally come up short in executing these grand designs. As well-intentioned as they may be, Logic’s meditations on race, religion, suicide, etc., tend to come off as clumsy and heavy-handed at best, shallow and self-absorbed at worst. What Logic undoubtedly boasts in technical talent, he rarely matches in lyrical and conceptual elegance.

It’s a shame, however, that YSIV sees Logic simultaneously rein in his ambitions while maintaining his worst impulses and stalling in artistic growth. The project certainly scans more like a mixtape, with Logic spitting over an assortment of hard-hitting beats which, he will seldom let you forget, recall the spirit of 90s boom-bap. These are almost all credited to in-house producer 6ix who, despite his impressive contributions to past Logic releases, seems to be operating on autopilot here, churning out instrumentals that are all adequate but rarely exciting.

Logic sounds uninspired, re-treading old themes – his come-up, his work ethic, getting high

Logic sounds similarly uninspired, re-treading old themes – his come-up, his work ethic, getting high – while averting his sights from the kind of grandeur that he at least once had the guts to aim for, even if his efforts were often clumsy. It is ironic to hear Logic insist that he’s one of the greatest of all time on a project so plainly unconcerned with greatness.

Take ‘Everybody Dies’, a hodgepodge of vaguely-connected statements about Logic’s past struggles and present successes that boasts one of the worst verses of his career. When he brags that his “lyricism is here to imprison your vision”, it sounds like the kind of trite, pointlessly technical penmanship that one conjures on the spot as a joke. There are too many moments like this, where it sounds like Logic has hardly stopped to consider what’s coming out of his mouth.

The track ‘One Day’ apparently took only 20 minutes to make, and it shows. Logic obsessively packs syllables into the lines of songs like this, as if attempting to use sheer volume to disguise the fact that he’s saying nothing new or interesting.

The track ‘One Day’ apparently took only 20 minutes to make, and it shows.

On ‘Street Dreams II’, Logic imagines himself going full vigilante to save his wife from a kidnapping, only to find out that the abductor was himself all along. This eyeroll-inducing twist might be related to Logic’s recent split from his wife Jessica Andrea, and it might not. Either way, it’s a waste to subject the listener to superficial nonsense like this instead of taking the opportunity to reflect on the reality of his separation and capture something both new and grounded in reality.

The title track makes the same mistake, Logic spends three verses spouting drivel before finally broaching the topic of Mac Miller’s recent passing, only to do so entirely in speaking, rather than rapping. It is frustrating to hear him spit vapid sentiments like “I’m one of the illest, I’m one of the realest, I’m ready to kill this”, and then not integrate the untapped topic of Miller’s influence on him as an emcee into an actual verse.

If there is a saving grace to YSIV, it is some of the features in the album’s front half. Logic, incredibly, ropes every living member of the Wu-Tang Clan into guest spots on the openly reverent ‘Wu Tang Forever’; 6ix’s beat underwhelms, but it is still hard not to enjoy hearing titans of the genre bring fresh verses to the table. Meanwhile, Wale’s joyful, effortless delivery on ‘100 Miles and Running’ is a welcome contrast to Logic’s mechanical, rapid-fire flow. It’s not even that the’s rapping much slower, in fact, he matches Logic in speed. He simply doesn’t sound so obsessed with making sure you notice.

 

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