Acting as if the debut album still meant something in the post-mixtape anything-goes world (thanks Internet!), Maryland rapper Logic set himself up for something big after his crafted and beloved series of Young Sinatra mixtapes, but he could have called them Young Beatles. Those right-clickable freebies were like Please Please Me, while this mature entrance on Def Jam is his Rubber Soul turning into Revolver, offering a conceptual, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City-like journey through Logic's sad past, but adding to the mix Drake-sized charisma along with some innocent kid wit. "Metropolis" goes "Just left a hotel in Belgium, and their waffles was insane" with wide-eyed flair, chuckling and kicking it in stark contrast to Logic's admission elsewhere that selling crack rock to Dad was a low point for this now 24-year-old man. Family problems, addiction, and poverty are always knocking at Under Pressure's bedroom door, but the bedroom walls are lined with pictures of hip-hop heroes of all sorts, as "Bounce" finds the joy and creative outlet in a genre that goes "from Project Pat to Dilla." Phone messages from family weave in and out of the album, some of them now sober and asking the rapper to stop speaking of the past, but like the posters on the wall, they're just influences and milestones, as this feature-less album is filled to the brim with Logic, because with such insight, charm, honesty, and outlook, it absolutely should be. Likewise, "Under Pressure" is almost ten minutes long because that's what such a complex track deserves, embracing how the rapper's upswinging life is all tangles and contrasts, from a sister dealing with a post-rape life along with kids who hate her, and all while Logic is in danger of morphing into a fame-fed hypebeast ("I know that birthday, I missed it/I swear I told my assistant, but…."). Producer 6ix offers up fresh R&B ("Soul Food") and A$AP Mob-ish dream sequences ("Gang Related") while Logic goes whiz kid with his production on the pop-tacular highlight "Buried Alive." Even if this ambitious album is extremely busy with genre-hops, segues, sampled voices, and interludes popping up, it isn't cluttered, as if blueprints and album outlines were thoroughly discussed and tested, probably with executive producer No I.D.'s final approval. Just like Kendrick's stunning Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, Under Pressure is an autobiographical and odds-beating debut that arrives more fully formed than expected. Maybe all those mixtapes were all called Young Sinatra because the best was yet to come.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries