Logic is the happiest he has ever been.
“I am so happy,” he says. He’s at peace. Found bliss. “I do,” he emphasizes, in case it’s not yet clear, “want you to know that I’m very happy.”
To celebrate, he recently bought and refurbished a ’67 Ford Bronco that he painted light blue, the color of the sky over the ocean on a sunny day. Logic revs the engine as we drive from his house down the hills of Calabasas, Calif., on the way to his coffee shop and points out the burnt brush from the recent Woolsey Fire. He just returned home after a three-day evacuation.
The woman behind the counter at the cafe asks if Logic wants the usual, and his blue eyes pop. He can’t believe she remembered; he loves being a regular. She fixes him a caramel cappuccino with whipped cream. It’s his beginner’s concoction -- Logic only started drinking coffee one month ago. He had too much to do and no time to be tired.
Life got busier in 2017, after he landed his first Billboard 200 No. 1 with Everybody, his third studio album. The project updated his signature mix of dazzling rapping and complex storytelling with an insistently positive message about the universality of the human experience. While much of it detailed his childhood growing up in a violent, drug-filled home, the world latched on to “1-800-273-8255,” an anthem about suicide prevention that landed him a song of the year Grammy Award nomination and an invitation to perform at the 2018 ceremony. He followed that up with two albums this year.
On the first, his March mixtape Bobby Tarantino II, Logic reasserted his lyrical dexterity over more party-friendly trap beats, and scored his second No. 1 album. On the second, he added another entry to his Young Sinatra series with YSIV, where he tried on boom bap and classic ’90s rap and went to No. 2. It was Logic building a case that he should be entered in hip-hop’s history books.
But that only underscores the tug-of-war between how Logic sees himself and how everyone else does. It wasn't long ago that the man born Sir Robert Bryson Hall II and known as Bobby to friends would walk into record-label offices and bars alike and be classified as what he calls a “nobody.” “I hate that fucking word,” he says. Now he’s treated differently because he wears a gold Rolex. (Despite his aristocratic name, he grew up poor.) “That’s the thing about the world,” he says. “They want to define who you are and what you are.” He resents the memory of being a “nobody” but doesn't want his watch to make you think he’s a somebody.
“The last two-and-a-half years were probably the hardest years of my life, mentally,” Logic says. He had experienced sadness before -- it’s partly what inspired “1-800” -- but the overwhelming response to the song sparked something deeper. Ironically, he says, it actually “led to depression”: “Everywhere you go, the conversation is about suicide -- wanting to kill yourself. Every interview, all the time, for a year straight.” On top of that, this March, he divorced his wife of three years.
“I can be like, ‘Shit’s great,’ and not mention Instagram” -- where he was deluged by negative comments -- “and not mention the bad, and only focus on positive, positive, positive,” says Logic, trying to reconcile the declaration of how happy he is with the acknowledgment of his struggles. “I am bringing up and shedding light on the negativities that have shown themselves in my life to paint the picture of letting go and of setting myself free and surrounding myself in happiness.”
Sitting with our drinks at an outdoor table, Logic notices a young kid, maybe around 13 years old, eyeing him from afar. Logic thinks he’s sneaking pictures of him, so he calls him over.
“Are you Logic?” asks the boy.
“Are you taking pictures of me?” responds Logic.
“Are you sure?”
Eventually the boy shows that he wasn't taking photos, only texting with his friend about seeing a famous rapper. Though accusing someone who is not photographing you of photographing you could be an embarrassing moment, Logic mostly seems relieved. He confirms who he is and offers to take a photo himself, holding the phone to get a better angle.
“Don’t blow up my spot,” he tells the kid before he walks away.
Logic wants to embrace his fame, be the friendly and open celebrity, but he’s worried about others -- even his supporters -- taking advantage of him. He clearly seeks approval, but he wants to approve of your approval.
Long before the “1-800 song,” as HE calls it, before the Grammys and the photo requests, Logic was a mixtape artist. He released Logic: The Mixtape in 2009, and then two more before signing to Def Jam in 2011. By then he’d built a cult following -- his early releases were downloaded so many times that they crashed the DatPiff servers. But even though he vlogged about his life on YouTube and stayed in constant Twitter communication with his fans, he didn't announce that Def Jam deal until 2013. He had branded himself as a scrappy independent artist promoting and marketing his own music, and he didn't want people to think he had sold out.
As his overflowing bars attest, Logic is a talented rapper. But by today’s standards, he’s not exactly a cool rapper. He has never tattooed his face or spawned any clever memes. His shtick during early interviews was to solve a Rubik’s Cube on the spot. He follows a subreddit about math (“which I’m terrible at, but I love”), and he once invited the manager of his local comic book and collectibles store to his house.
Logic has a camp-counselor vibe, like he’s eager to impart advice to tweens, and he dresses appropriately. Today he’s wearing a Supreme T-shirt and black 2014 Yeezy 2s, which he bought for thousands of dollars on a resale site and wears only on special occasions. He’s biracial, though sometimes mistaken for white. He’s estranged from his mother, who is white -- “She’s just a mentally unstable woman, and I can’t allow that in my life” -- and only recently rekindled his relationship with his father, who is black and used to play percussion for Chuck Brown and around Washington, D.C.’s go-go scene before falling into drugs.
As a rapper, Logic only became harder to categorize in April 2017, with the release of “1-800.” He and his longtime producer 6ix originally figured the song would become a deep cut for fans. But the chorus’ winding melody, memorable assists from featured singers Khalid and Alessia Cara, and its profoundly earnest message met a nation of teens with rising depression rates and caught fire. Fairly or not, for some, its sincerity and commercial potency called to mind the rap-pop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Pitchfork’s review of Everybody summed up a certain take then emerging about Logic: “His raps, even at their most technical, are all empty loops regurgitating predictable talking points.”
Naturally, critiques like that bothered Logic. “What’re you talking about I have no substance?!” he remembers thinking. So once the conversation around “1-800” settled down, he dedicated 2018 to promoting the full spectrum of his talents.
Bobby Tarantino II elevated him to one of 21 artists (including The Beatles, Beyoncé, Future, Drake and Taylor Swift) in Billboard history to place at least 10 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously, and YSIV was only held off from the Billboard 200 No. 1 spot by Lil Wayne’s long-anticipated Tha Carter V. With it, critics began to acknowledge Logic’s growth. In The New York Times, Jon Caramanica described the album as proof that he was “maturing into a thoughtful artist with a novel approach to hip-hop that’s likely to resonate for years to come.”
But making music with critics in mind came with its own set of problems. “I was on this, like, Richter scale of, ‘If they say it’s good then I feel happy, and if they say it’s not good, even though I put my whole heart and soul into every song...’” He trails off. “That’s that shit I had to get away from.”
With his home in Calabasas, Logic created “my own world, but not a bubble.” There’s a movie theater with a concession stand that, while it includes Milk Duds and Junior Mints, is more like the counter at a weed dispensary, with cans of flower and vape G Pens behind it. He’s got a pool table instead of a dining room table and leaves Le Labo hand lotion in the bathrooms. The only thing Logic won’t show me is the master bedroom -- Mariah Carey’s episode of Cribs taught him to keep that to himself. “She said, ‘This is for me. This is the one thing I get,’” recalls Logic, indicating he is in what must be a tiny faction of people who regard Carey’s Cribs episode as an example of a positive interaction with the public. “That was really cool.”
We’re settled into lounge chairs by the pool when Logic tells me about last spring, shortly after his divorce became public and he released Bobby Tarantino II. He was increasingly overwhelmed by the hate he was getting on social media. “‘You should kill yourself, you’re terrible, you should quit, you’re corny, you’re wack, you don’t belong in hip-hop, stop making music,’” he remembers reading. “‘You’re a white boy, you’re not black. You’re too fucking old. You’re ugly. Your choice of clothing is terrible. Why’d you get that truck, you fucking idiot, you should’ve gotten a Lamborghini.’”
He called his friend J. Cole, another rap star who gets a lot of grief online. “I was like, ‘It’s just so fucked up that people can think I’m this way or that way. I’m a good man. Why would someone talk shit about me?’” Cole, according to Logic, responded, “ ‘Well, why do you care?’ ” Logic began to ask himself: “Why do I care that that person said my music isn't that good? That I’m a fuccboi or I’m corny or I’m a hypebeast? Why does it matter?”
Cole guided him through more questions: Are you corny? “No, I write from the heart.” But why does it hurt when someone says that about you? “I guess it hurts because they don’t really know who I am.” Well, why do you need that person to really know who you are? “Because I feel like if they know who I am, then they’ll like me.” Why do you need that person to like you? “I guess I don’t need them to like me, I just want them to like me.”
Logic turns to me. “I’ve come to truly realize that social media, personally, destroys me.” Now his assistant uploads everything to Instagram, and when Logic wants to comment on a friend’s post, he asks to borrow the phone. But there’s one way in which the feedback from social media doesn't destroy him. It’s crucial, even. In November, Logic began an experiment in which he released snippets of freestyles on his Instagram every Friday and tracked which ones got the most views and why. He pulls out his phone and, because he doesn't have the app, goes to instagram.com and plays a video of himself rapping about cocaine. It has over double the views of a freestyle he released the week before about paying the bills and kids popping pills.
“Just look at the numbers,” he says. “Talk about real honest shit and there’s almost a million people who really love that thing. And then I do the cocaine shit and it just blows it out of the water.” He explains that if you listen closely, the cocaine song is really about the dangers of the drug. That there’s a deeper message comforts him, but it’s not clear if anyone is listening that closely. He’s working on accepting the listeners either way.
In the meantime, Logic is exploring new pursuits. He’s finally moving his production company, Bobbyboy, out of his house and into an office. He has his own imprint, Elysium, and signed his longtime collaborators and friends Big Lenbo, Damian Lamar Hudson, John Lindahl and Kajo.
In 2015, he wrote a movie called Everything Must Go. It’s a comedy -- “who doesn't like to laugh?” -- that has been billed as a modern-day Clerks. He had planned to fund the movie himself for $6 million, and went to J.J. Abrams for advice on how to turn a script into a film. But after Abrams read it, he decided to produce the movie himself. “Bobby is not just a brilliant rapper, incredible singer and songwriter, but also a true storyteller,” says Abrams. Logic’s producer 6ix goes even further, saying, “Bob is one of those dudes that if he wants to get something done, he will get it accomplished. I always joke and say he’s kind of like a prophet.”
Logic happens to agree: “I don’t mean to sound any type of way when I say, I just know I’m going to be a really great actor, because whatever I do I fucking do it, man.”
Logic has also completed a novel, Supermarket, about “a guy falling in love with a girl,” which he started writing once he realized how long it took to make a movie -- he wanted to get something out quicker. The Simon & Schuster book will be released in 2019 with a soundtrack of the same name.
If Logic is still concerned with how the world views him, his tactic now is to just keep creating new material, hoping that with enough work we’ll finally begin to understand.
The sun begins to set, and it gets too cold to sit by the pool. Logic wants to share some new music, but the studio in his house is under construction. We climb through the butterfly doors of his BMW i8. He connects the Bluetooth, sits in the driver’s seat with his hands clasped on his lap and plays the Supermarket soundtrack. Over funky psych-rock guitars, he sings in a beautifully low and gravelly voice. Mac DeMarco produced one of the songs; Logic proudly announces that John Mayer liked it. The most earnest man in rap went ahead and made a rock album. He’s not worried if you think it’s corny. And it might actually be his best act yet.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 15 issue of Billboard.