When Sir Bryson Robert Hall II – aka Bobby Hall, aka rapper-producer-mental health activist Logic – talks about the self-titled “fuck-it-have-fun” moment when his gleeful, new, return-to-rap’s-old-school album, “Vinyl Days,” was conceived, he doesn’t mince words about its motivation: leaving Def Jam for BMG.
Signed to Def Jam since 2014, Logic made a splash at the label in 2017 when he dropped his “Everybody” album and its five-times platinum single, “1-800-273-8255” (National Suicide Prevention Hotline), featuring Khalid and Alessia Cara. The emotive track not only rocketed Logic to fame and fortune (including the authorship of 2019’s New York Times Bestseller, “Supermarket”), “1-800-273-8255” made him an early advocate for mental health issues.
Since the time of his first hit, however, Logic has grown tired of the music industry, and even announced his retirement in July 2020. While that hiatus didn’t last long (his “YS Collection Vol. 1” was released less than a year later), the end of his contract with Def Jam – fulfilled by “Vinyl Days,” a record containing his most committed, furious freestyles – comes with contradictions, a love of those at the label who helped him get ahead (listed on the 10-minute-long “Sayonara”), and a feeling of discontent for what he feels should have been.
Signed to BMG in a licensing deal with marketing and distribution (technically the new deal starts in nine months, with management working to shorten that length of time), Logic will have ownership of his masters.
“Vinyl Days” is more about your love for hip-hop than the more issue-oriented tracks you’ve recorded. How did the idea of spitting free verse come to mind for this project?
I really just wanted to be off Def Jam, to be frank. I did retire, for a little bit, at least in my mind, from the bullshit of the music industry. Then, I came to realize that none of this shit matters, that I can make music on my terms. So, let’s do that. That’s when I decided to come back from retirement. Last year, I released “Bobby Tarantino III,” just to get together songs I had, and put them out, then released this new album because I needed to fulfill my deal with Def Jam. With “Vinyl Days,” I did it in 12 days, and just wanted to have fun.
“Vinyl Days” sounds more fun than anything you’ve recorded previously.
I wanted to get off my label, bro, but I didn’t want to give them BS. I wanted to put my best foot forward. Instead of some grandiose concept, I decided I was just going to rap. I was going to make beats and freestyle, and people were either going to like it or they weren’t. It wasn’t going to matter to me because I would be out of my deal.
Are there hard feelings, or are you just moving on to the next thing?
One-hundred-percent the latter. I can sit here and talk about the things that Def Jam didn’t do, or didn’t aid in my career throughout the years I was there. But [would I be] talking about Def Jam or every major record label and how they affect every recording artist who works for them? It’s not a war that I’m trying to start. I’m just excited to move on and over to BMG. I’m independent now, and being with BMG, they’re distributing my music. I’ll own my masters and everything. That excites me to be able to release music freely.
Do you have a label name for your end of the deal with BMG?
No idea yet. What I can say is that they’re giving me a lot of fucking money. I almost feel as if I’m ripping them off. This is how the music industry should be – someone giving me money to fund albums. In the fine print, they’re going to making money on music I own the masters to, for sure. The difference here is that, respectfully, there aren’t many artists at my level, to be able to get off of a major and do this. That’s something that I don’t take for granted.
When you thought about that one album left for Def Jam, and that you wanted to make it fun, hardcore rap, what was the first track that you came up with?
A couple weeks before starting “Vinyl Days,” I got this Tascam 4-track analog tape recorder, ran a quarter-inch cable and recorded this beat — actually, a J Dilla beat from “Welcome 2 Detroit.” From that, I wrote all of the rhymes from “Tetris.” I loved it. A few weeks later, I knew that I wanted to do something like that, but different. The inception of the new album just started with me rapping over Dilla beats on cassette. Just having fun.
You have long had a penchant for not using many guest features on your albums. When did the idea of having rap and turntable legends such as Funkmaster Flex, RZA and DJ Premier, as well as Action Bronson and your 2022 tour mate, Wiz Khalifa, come to pass?
I care about my relationships with these people so much that I don’t work with a lot of them. I’m happy we’re friends and that we can vibe. I could have released the album with just me, but this was the first time in my career where I realized that I had a lot of friends… these are people I just talk to. They heard the beats. Thought they were tight. The deepest thing with Funk Flex is that 10 years ago, before I signed with Def Jam, I used to drive through Long Island, listening to Flex on Hot 97. Every time I went back through New York, I used to say that one day he’d spin my music. Now, here we are, and he’s been spinning “Vinyl Days” singles every Friday. It’s poetic for me.
You’ve been with your manager, Chris Zarou, for 10 years. What were your conversations around “Vinyl Days,” leaving Def Jam, and moving forward with BMG?
My relationship with Zarou will mostly focus on business, investments and all this other shit. The music? I do what I want, when I want – not to sound any sort of [arrogant] way. Everyone I’m working with now has known me as long as Chris, and knows how I am. The conversations are all around making me happy. Like doing “Vinyl Days.” It’s probably not going to make me money – it’s not pop. What it does do is secure the longevity of Logic. I’m not sucking my own dick here, but who else is making music like this: going straight breakbeat, no Auto-Tune, no trap shit, no single? Just rap? Not a lot of people, at my level, respectfully, are doing that.
Exactly. Several years ago, I was the “1-800” guy. I’m the song-with-Eminem guy (“Homicide”). I’m the Marshmello guy (“Everyday”). Now, I’m doing this: Underground music. Who knows? The venues I’m doing with Wiz are large, but maybe after this, I’ll play smaller venues. Some people may see this as me falling off. The way I see it, if you’re me, I can make a hit at any time. I’m sitting on them. I chose to release this now. So when you ask about the conversations I’m having now, they’re all about my mental health and happiness. None of it is about the trajectory of my career. Now that I’m a household name, I can have fun. I did my deals. I made my money. I’m not on the platinum-plaque hamster wheel. Maybe I can inspire other artists to not have to have to make pop shit. Maybe I can inspire other artists to spend time with their family and watch their children say their first words.
You’ve been up-front about your differences with Def Jam, but “Sayonara” is about the good times and the great people at the label.
Look, I could talk about Def Jam and my frustrations, but one thing I wanted to make clear on that song was that I wasn’t talking about or venting on all of the people at Def Jam who were there for me — people who continue to cheer me on. That’s 10 years’ worth of names in this industry on “Sayonara.” The musical chairs of the biz. People who were there for the first six months who left an imprint on me. I kept a log of those people. They deserved their flowers. Logic became a brand and it was because of these people. Thank you. I wanted to go out like a gentleman. Plus, I wanted to be funny because there are still some fuck-boys at that label who aren’t getting shouted out.
Are you happy now?
All I can say now is that I’m free, I’m fucking happy, finally. I don’t wake up every day that way, either. I don’t do things the easy way. Always did the hardest shit, like standing in front of the world talking about anxiety, suicide, depression and mental health as a taboo, and get laughed at. But I did it anyway because it is important and had to get done. I talked about enjoying anime and solving Rubik’s Cubes and all this other stuff as a kid and getting shit on for it, and created these lanes for young ones who do those things, now, without getting persecuted. I did it and I’ll continue to do it. Now we can have some fun, too, at BMG — play guitar, maybe do some Bob Dylan shit. Probably not a Drake dance-music album, but I’ll do something cool.