By Cameron Lee
August 3, 2017
There’s been much discussion over the last few years about what constitutes good rap music. Golden era hip-hop enthusiasts, back-packers, and the new brand of commercial Atlanta trap-style rap has 20-somethings and 30-somethings arguing on the daily. It’s actually the basis of a popular Complex internet show called Everyday Struggle, which pits 26-year-old hip-hop vlogger DJ Akademics and 36-year-old rapper-turned-podcaster, Joe Budden, against each other to debate their opinions about the current state of hip-hop culture.
It was announced in early May that Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$ would be touring with Logic, one of the biggest names in hip-hop at the moment. It’s a rare and beautiful thing when two respectable acts like this are paired together for a nationwide tour. You might have walked into Uptown Ampitheatre on Tuesday expecting a watered-down turnt-up rap concert when you saw the majority teenage audience eagerly anticipating the show ahead. But if you know much about Joey Bada$$ and Logic, you know they are not the type of rappers to over sensationalize their platform or gear their message around a corporate check.
The touring DJ for Joey Bada$$ set the tone for the night, playing a healthy range of hip-hop, covering a more mature blend of hype anthems and tracks to keep the crowd energized. Believe it or not, a lot of the younger crowd knew the lyrics to most of the classics, which was a low-key beautiful thing to witness on a perfectly mild summer night.
Joey Bada$$ walked onto the stage with the deeply introspective song “LAND OF THE FREE.” The crowd seemed a little surprised by the modest entrance as he casually spit the first words to the song: “Can’t change the world unless we change ourselves/ die from the sicknesses if we don’t seek the health/ all eyes be my witness when I speak what’s felt.” If you weren’t expecting these types of bars from a popular 22-year-old Brooklyn-born rapper, it’s because Joey Bada$$ is not your typical rapper. Much like Kendrick Lamar, he’s been able to build a strong base of fans garnering the respect of lyric-driven hip-hop music fans at a young age while also having the style and charisma to appeal to the younger generation.
Back in April, Joey Bada$$ released his critically acclaimed second studio album, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$. In a song titled “TEMPTATION” he samples the voice of the 9-year-old Zianna Oliphant from the emotional Charlotte City Council meeting in September of 2016 during the Keith Lamont Scott turmoil. He belts through the lyrics early in his set: “I just wanna see my people in power/ uh, uh, tell me how we gon’ shape this vision/ complainin’ all day, but in the same conditions/ If you wanna make change, it’s gonna take commitment/ Some people enslaved by they religion.” It was a subtly poignant moment for the die-hard Joey Bada$$ fans and Charlotteans who were emotionally affected from the events that took place in September.
Another important skill or talent often forgotten for a true MC is their ability to hold the audience’s attention throughout the set. Although his material may not be the “hypebeast” overly-amped tracks you dance to, his ability to control the crowd and energetically engage them is impressive. His voice is ruggedly robust as he demands “hands up” or “when this beat drops, y’all need to go crazy.” He played the emotionally inspiring track, “For My People,” as his voice carried throughout the Music Factory complex: “Uh, now all heroes don’t wear capes/ and all villains don’t get away/ but all limits eventually fade/ I don’t wanna be good, n&%$a I’m tryin’ to be great.” He showed off his lyrical prowess in “AMERIKKKAN IDOL” and ended an airtight set with the popular and emotionally uplifting hit, “DEVASTATED.” This was one hell of a set and performance before the evening’s “headlining act.”
There’s no doubt who the majority of the audience had come to see. Gaithersburg, Maryland native, Logic, has made waves since his first mixtape Young, Broke & Infamous showcased his tongue-twisting lyrical skill set with his innate ability to write meaningful songs. He’s released an impressive series of projects and studio albums since then, and has built a massive cult-like following with very little major media exposure until recently. The already exhilarated audience rose with vigor and bounced buoyantly with their hands held high as Logic dashed from one side to the other performing “Killing Spree” off his latest album Everybody. The energy level hit a peak as the beat started playing for “Fade Away,” off his second studio album The Incredible True Story. The youthful exuberance of the crowd erupted from the pit all the way to lawn. This is the type of spirit you crave from a hip-hop concert. It was reminiscent of a Tribe or Beastie show in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.
Logic is also not your “typical” rapper. Although, a little more mature in rap years, now at 27, his upbringing was not conventional. Growing up with a white mom, who he claims is racist, and a black father who was absent most of his childhood, he lived a rough adolescent life with his family immersed in drugs, addiction, and his own personal race identity confusion. He’s open about discussing these issues in his music, and details his struggles in Everybody.
Logic also has a compelling ability to engage his audience during the lulls, albeit his approach maybe a little unorthodox. He often points out fans and conversates with them during the show, sometimes taking a couple minutes to literally talk to his fans. Also included in his positive high-energy set is a birthday shout-out, where he scours the audience for someone who has a birthday, encouraging the crowd to sing to the fan. Much has been made about his Mario Kart match with Lil Yachty in Atlanta, and he brought a fan out in Charlotte to do the same. A freestyle battle with a lucky audience member, a few dance-offs, but the most intriguing moment of the evening was when he candidly discussed his own bouts with anxiety, expressing to the audience how he wanted to be a voice for those suffering from their own inner demons, depression, and discontent. It may be rare to speak this type of sentiment during a rap concert but, again, these are not your ordinary rappers. Logic hits home with his devoted fans with this message of open self reflection, love, respect, and equality for all, comforting many in America suffering from mental health issues.
Logic and Joey Bada$$ have sort of been on a parallel path since 2010, both highly touted for their lyrical skills at a young age, and both seemingly using their music for a higher purpose. Despite what some may say, hip-hop and rap is alive and well. It may evolve with time but, one thing if for sure, when great musical talents are gifted to good human beings, everybody wins.
Check out the remaining 2017 tour dates for Logic and Joey Bada$$.