Logic Brings Back Boom-Bap Rap on ‘Young Sinatra IV’

There’s a certain recurring phenomenon in American music history that people don’t exactly talk about. Once a style of music, previously restricted to Black communities, comes to reach mainstream status, the people who latch on tend to go retro. Isn’t it strange that avid “hip-hop heads” usually don’t really follow current hip-hop, but always focus on romanticizing the past? It’s as if they have an instinctive aversion to anything contemporary. You have people like, say, Young Thug, changing the game, and doing brilliant things, and then you have a circle of kids in Air Force Ones and fitted hats in their schoolyard, rapping like Cypress Hill. Sure, classicism has its value, and cheers to them for preserving a heritage, but it is a bit strange that they naturally gravitate toward a style as it was about ten years ago. Enter Logic. His new album, “Young Sinatra IV,” the fourth and final installment in his “Young Sinatra” series, unabashedly embraces this approach. Logic has spoken of how he wanted to embrace “boom-bap” rap. And he has astonishingly managed to get the full Wu Tang Clan on a track. That itself speaks volumes. Logic is becoming a serious name in hip-hop.

From the opener, “Thank You,” this is a decidedly nineties affair. It’s effective in its nostalgic allure, and it features snippets of messages from fans from various countries, expressing their admiration for Logic. You can’t help but smile after hearing how so many people of disparate backgrounds are united in their love of a musician, and while the inclusion of these soundbytes is perhaps a bit conceded, it’s moving enough to make up for that. The rap game has, honestly, become more of a pop game, overall. So all hail Logic for actually rapping. He shows his skills on “Everybody Dies.” There’s no filler, just Logic speaking his thoughts with so much enthusiasm that it’s maybe a bit much. He even gets into Twist-style fast machine gun rapping for a few moments.

“One Day” features rather awkward singing from Ryan Tedder, and Logic rapping as if he’s on the verge of a mental overload, in the best possible way. Next up, comes the grand event, “Wu Tang Forever,” bearing the same title as the group’s era-defining album. For any hip-hop fan, this track is a treasure. It would be one thing if Logic just puffed up his chest, and voiced his words like a ‘90s rapper, but he has made such a name for himself with his craft that the entire Wu Tang Clan was willing to be part. This song, itself, is very meaningful, as it bares testament to what exactly hip-hop constitutes. Wu Tang is anything but normal — ten rappers dropping stream-of-consciousness lyrics, often with no care for providing a chorus, and all done in a vernacular that is proudly unconcerned with accessibility or recognition. Hip-hop, as it was, has largely dissipated, getting absorbed into other sonic and market forces, to the point that it’s become something different altogether, and we need people like Logic to remind us of the full nature of the art form.

The title track of the album is a homage to Nas, particularly his most epic era, “Illmatic” time. There’s a “borrowing” of a chorus, with the line, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” It’s special that Logic picked this song particularly to show his tribute to Nas, as it stands out in the rap world, as it’s a nihilistic, or at least inquisitive, uncertain statement in an environment where everyone is clutching their cubic zirconia-studded crosses. “Last Call” finishes the album with another homage, a very open one to Kanye West, who, of course, has a song of the very same name. The song finds Logic delving into straight-up speaking, rather than rapping, and spurting into rap spontaneously in ways that mimic Kanye’s distinctive inflections. This format allows plenty space to convey a lot of substance, and you get a considerable load to consider.

“YSIV” is, overall, an album for die-hard hip-hop enthusiasts, with a nostalgic leaning. The album is rich with allusions to names and events in hip-hop history that will mobilize fans to slap hands and revel in real camaraderie. One could say it’s “dated,” but that’s nothing more than an impolite way of saying it’s “retro.” Most hip-hop releases these days can bank on Auto-Tune and trap beats, and as fun as that is, it has gotten a bit stale. Logic is revisioning a past ideal, and doing it with admirable skill and broad appeal.  

YSIV” is available Sept. 28 on Apple Music.