Logic says goodbye to Def Jam with “Vinyl Days”

Logic, “Vinyl Days”.

Retirement didn’t last long for the rapper Logic. After his “retirement album” in 2020, he quickly returns in 2021 with the Bobby Tarantino III mixtape last year, and continues that with the release of his seventh studio album, Vinyl Days.

Vinyl Days
Def Jam, June 17

Designed over 12 days, this album weighs heavy with 30 tracks, including eight sketches containing voice messages from Earl Sweatshirt, JJ Abrams and Anthony Fantano. The album is also a farewell to longtime label Def Jam, as Logic looks to move forward on its own from now on.

Since it didn’t skip a beat in its output, Logic’s pen playing remains as crisp as it was. No pressure. Yet this album seems to lack the more solid structure and focus of earlier work. Much of this can be attributed to his new perspective, where he flies in the face of his critics to try to make music out of passion more than to appeal to other people’s sensibilities.

Sonically, the record is consistent with its catalog. The emphasis is on snare-driven boom-bap instrumentals, while popping vinyl sounds are peppered throughout each song.

The album opens with “Danger”, with a foreword by Morgan Freeman declaring Logic the GOAT. Funkmaster Flex also appears, providing ad libs to close that intro track and throughout the album. “Tetris” sees Logic fully commit to his sense of self, spouting his signature multisyllabic rhyming style. The song is one of two moments on the album where Logic brags about his investment in cryptocurrency, effectively setting the bar dead on arrival (not the best time to brag about crypto , Logic). Action Bronson makes an appearance on “In My Life”, detailing his comeback from wrestling, delivering aggressive and hard-hitting bars. It’s curious that Logic, who once rubbed shoulders with the Wu-Tang Clan, didn’t get Ghostface Killah on the album, but Bronson delivers a solid verse.

“Decades” offers an interesting change of pace, sampling “Oh How You’ve Hurt Me” by Fabulous Performers, going back and forth between trap and boom-bap. On “BLACKWHITEBOY,” Logic fires the redundant criticism leveled at him at his detractors while explaining why he chose to come out of retirement. “Quasi” kicks off with a tribute to Madlib’s famous alter ego, Quasimoto. Here, Logic laments the absence of the microphone’s hip-hop icon. We get a blast from the past on “Bleed It,” where Logic samples The Beat Boys’ “Ch-Check It Out” and “So Whatcha Want.” He raps about his alcoholic mother’s childhood trauma using the same distorted vocal recording method the trio were known for.

“LaDonda” explores Logic’s tumultuous relationship with music writer Anthony Fantano, who has criticized the rapper’s work, and how he went from despising him to becoming friends.

Logic reflects on how he found being at home more conducive to his creative process on “Clouds,” with lackluster follow-up verses from Curren$y and Langston Bristol. He enlists Atlanta rapper Russ for “Therapy Music,” where he explores his reasoning for giving up and quickly coming back and changing his approach. Russ seems content to insist that people are too driven by the opinions of others to think for themselves. It’s ironic for a guy who often sends Twitter into a storm with hot takes, but I guess Russ is right here.

Wiz Khalifa joins the star-studded guest list on “Breath Control.” Then on “Nardwuar”, Logic samples the to interview while taking Doctor Destruction’s alter ego. We attend the Ratt Pack reunion of Logic friends IamJMARS, Big Lenbo and Shy Gray on “Kickstyle”.

The back half of the album is loaded with lyrical heavyweights. Royce da 5’9″ appears on “Ten Years”, cementing himself as a force reluctant to outside influences. RZA joins on “Portaone,” where he and Logic rap a snippet from the Wu-Tang Clan hit “Bring Da Ruckus.” Logic also calls out to the music industry for not trusting newcomers more, calling on Nezi Momodu for “Introducing Nezi” to do just that.

Both Blu and Logic express their confidence in their influence on the industry on “Orville”, followed by the blustering “Carnival”, with an appearance from AZ. Logic delivers some of its strongest songwriting on the title track, with a stream of consciousness with DJ Premier providing scratches to this standout song. The game features hard-hitting fight bars on “I Guess I Like It”, where Logic expresses newfound confidence as he breaks away from Def Jam. The final track, “Sayonara,” is a farewell speech to the record company as Logic thanks those who supported him there, followed by a bittersweet conclusion.

Given his frustrations with how Def Jam has handled the distribution of his records in the past, Vinyl Days‘ biggest weakness comes from its length. The album doesn’t examine any specific topic close enough for a cohesive theme, and with the big difference between its first and second half, it probably should have been split into two separate versions.

But for what it’s worth, it’s nice to have an energetic, passionate presence like Logic’s return.

Follow hip-hop critic Tim Hoffman on Twitter.com/hipsterp0tamus.

Jack L. Goldstein