Midway through a phone interview with Hive, Maryland-based rapper Logic starts spitting the introductory verse from “Man of the Year,” a new song that will be included on his upcoming mixtape Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever: “I wonder what it feels like/ To do that shit in real life/ And now I know I got it/ That’s the reason No I.D. has signed me on the dotted/ But it’s still Visionary to the death of me…” The lyrics smartly sum-up Logic’s recent rise through the industry which has seen him snagging a 2013 XXL Freshman spot, joining the Def Jam crew and working under the tutelage of No. I.D., the veteran producer and now A&R figure who helped mold the careers of Common and Kanye West.
Ahead of Welcome to Forever’s May 7th release date, we checked in with Logic and got the scoop on the direction of his mixtape and debut album, the Def Jam icons he’s eyeing collaborations with and the story behind why a raggedy ol’ couch became integral to his rap success.
How’s your day going?
Fuckin’ awesome! I’m blessed enough to be on an incredible label and be a freshman and be healthy.
Why did you decide to sign with Def Jam over other labels?
Because every major label came to us — we never knocked on anybody’s doors, we never went to A&Rs, we never did any of that shit — and we truly believe if someone comes to you then you’re in a position of power. You have the choice to say yes or no. Def Jam came to Visionary’s door and they got it and the reason they got it was No I.D. Single-handedly the reason I signed to Def Jam was because of this man and because he understood my vision. He told me, “The reason I want to sign you is because you can create raw hip-hop music like it was straight out of the golden era in 1996 but you can also create commercial radio records without sounding forced and without jeopardizing who you are as an artist.” When he said that I knew it was a wrap and that’s where I was gonna go.
Can you remember the first time you heard No I.D.’s production?
Yeah, of course, when I was younger I remember the stuff he did with Common, but the first time I was like “Wow!” was with [Jay-Z’s] “Death of Autotune.” I always knew he was a legend but when I heard “Death of Autotune” that just blew me away. That was a milestone for me.
Have you had many conversations with No I.D. about the sort of music you’ll be making on Def Jam?
Honestly, we’re gonna keep the same formula. I think Kendrick Lamar is an incredible example: A lot of artists get a record deal and feel they need to go and get a beat from this producer and a feature from this rapper, but with Kendrick he came up with his team and that’s why his album was so cohesive. It’s like with my own Welcome to Forever that’s coming out, it’s cohesive and it’s Logic to the fullest. I truly found myself as an artist because of my team so I’m going to go about creating an album the same way. The thing with having No I.D. as a part of it is it’s gonna open up my mind. There’s a lot of things I know as Logic, like how I rap, then he’s going to go, “Yeah, but have you ever rapped on this? Have you ever tried to flow this way?” It’s going to challenge me and that’s good. It’s pretty much like he did with Big Sean: If you listen to Finally Famous Volume 3 the mixtape and then you listen to the album, there’s a world of difference.
So is No I.D. involved in Welcome to Forever?
[Pauses.] Yeah, yeah, he is. He wasn’t fully involved in the project as a whole, but he has a production on there — it’s a record called “Man of the Year” and you have an exclusive on that.
What’s the vibe of “Man of the Year”?
Ah, man, it’s the sort of record that I’ve never done before! It sounds like victory. When you hear the record, one of the first lines is: “I wonder what it feels like/ To do that shit in real life/ And now I know I got it/ That’s the reason No I.D. has signed me on the dotted/ But it’s still Visionary to the death of me…” It’s very about how we overcame and the production is just incredible.
Who else is producing on Welcome to Forever?
Well, I got some surprises, you know, but I think the biggest thing I can say as far as features is that I keep it simple. Some artists — and this isn’t a bad thing — have like a million artist features on like almost every song. I’m not about that. I love to give the people what they want and that’s me. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant but when you listen to someone’s music it’s them you want to hear [and] not a million and one other people. So if there are features you want them to make sense and have them as something that people are going to be excited for whether they’re unexpected or not. So like my homie Castro, who’s on Visionary Music Group, is on there and everyone’s going to expect him to be on the mixtape. But then you got some people that nobody would ever expect — but I’m not gonna get into that. But as far as production, there’s KeY Wane, No I.D. obviously, even I produced a record on there, and there’s C Sick and my in-house producer 6ix.
Have you started work on your debut studio album yet?
Of course. I’ve been working on that album in my head for five years. I’ve got a lot of ideas, I’ve got production, I’ve got verses. But honestly, I’m gonna give it my all for my album, but there’s a surprise that involves my second album that it’s all leading up to. That’s what I’ve really been planning for. But nobody knows that yet.
Do you have any titles in mind for the two albums?
I have an idea for the first album but I can’t reveal it yet. I can’t reveal the second album title ’cause if I told you then you’d already know the surprise behind it…
Are we likely to see any of these albums before the year’s out?
Honestly, it’ll be done when it’s done. I’m not gonna rush and put it out until it’s ready. A lot of people rush out their debut album. Once again, as humbly as possible, people love Logic for being Logic so I’m gonna continue to do what I do and work with a very small circle and keep the quality about what I put out.
In your XXL freestyle you say that your lyrics are based in the ’90s. What sort of groups from that era are you inspired by?
Ah, dude, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Big L, Reasonable Doubt-era Jay, A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders is my favorite Tribe album even though some say The Low End Theory, AZ was incredible, Mos Def … It goes on and on. Man, that’s where I started. It’s funny ’cause I always grew up around hip-hop and I’m the only white person in my family — well, I’m not white, I’m black and white — but everybody in my family liked rap so it was a hip-hop family. I was always around hip-hop but it wasn’t my life until I was 15 when I saw this movie Kill Bill and the RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan did the score and that was the moment.
Where does the Young Sinatra alias come from?
I would always look at other people, like Wiz [Khalifa] has Taylor Gang and Kid Cudi had space and the Man on the Moon and I wanted something for a long time. I tried to force it: I love Star Wars so I was like let me do some shit with that but it sucked. Then one day I was listening to Sinatra and it just hit me: It’s Sinatra, just like Jay-Z is Hov and Eminem is Slim Shady, Logic is the Young Sinatra! I’m bringing that eloquence and debonair to hip-hop in a way.
Are you amazed at how far you’ve come?
Yeah, I’ll never forget where I came from. I slept on a goddamn couch for three years on purpose when people were offering me hella money to sign but I didn’t want to do it and jeopardize who I am.
What was that couch like?
It was kinda comfortable but it kinda sucked — there was rips in it and the foam was coming out. It was real ghetto. But I loved it. It’s weird, ’cause now I’m talking to you in a house overlooking all of L.A! It’s like what the fuck?!
What happened to the couch?
I think it got thrown out. We should have saved that, to like put it in a museum.