Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, better known as Logic, grew up in poverty in suburban Maryland. His dad was addicted to drugs, and his mother flung racial slurs at her biracial kids. But that tough upbringing seems a world away now. Today Logic, 27, lives in a sprawling home outside Los Angeles, complete with a basement studio. The rapper's star has been rising rapidly in the hip-hop world; his new album, Everybody, debuted atop the Billboard 200.
With songs like "AfricAryaN" and the title track, Everybody confronts the challenges with identity that Logic experienced growing up. His mother is white and his father black — and among his seven biracial siblings, Logic looked the most white.
"It wasn't until I went on into the world [that] people would be like 'Oh, you cracker, you white boy, you this, you that,' and I didn't understand," he tells NPR's David Greene.
While his music makes it clear that race is on his mind, Logic says that, in interviews, he's never the first to bring the topic up.
"It's always somebody that's like, 'Oh, what's it like being a white rapper?' " he says. "And then I have to explain to them, like, no, I'm actually black and white. I'm biracial. Just so you know. Let's move on."
Given his background and the violence he saw in his childhood, Logic believes he was "born to make this album." Still, he acknowledges that it's difficult to express his thoughts on matters of identity in his music. It's something he says he's been scared to rap about in the past.
"It's scary to say, 'This is who I am,' and the world goes, 'No, you're not,'" he says. "You know, 'You haven't experienced that, you didn't grow up like this.' "
One track on Everybody, "America," has attracted attention for the way it seems to condemn Logic's fellow rapper Kanye West. But Logic wants to make it clear he's got no beef with West, whom he considers an idol. He just wishes West would speak out the way Logic remembers he once did.
"[In] 2005, Kanye West called out George Bush and said, 'George Bush doesn't care about black people,' " Logic says. "And that's how the community felt at that time, with what was going on with Katrina — it was horrendous. And you have Kanye, who dared to stand up and say how he felt. And here we are, 12 years later, and he's not really being that voice that we know him as."
After struggling with homelessness, working multiple jobs simultaneously and supporting himself for years, the rapper who's constantly reckoned with his identity seems to have found it in music.
"People say, 'What would you do if you didn't do this?' And to be quite honest, I'd be dead or in jail or I'd be a drug addict," he says. "That's what was laid out for me, period, unfortunately. I used to have nothing to lose, so that's why I would go as hard as I did — because I had nothing to lose and I had everything to gain."
Web editor Rachel Horn contributed to this story.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I want to introduce you to a musician.
LOGIC: My name is Sir Robert Bryson Hall II. But I just - you know, people just call me Bobby.
GREENE: Bobby grew up in suburban Maryland. His dad was a drug addict. His mom flung racial slurs at him. He's biracial, though he looks white. And that tough upbringing seems a world away now. Bobby's 27, and he lives in this sprawling home outside LA. We met him in the studio in his basement, this dark man cave with recording equipment, "Star Wars" figurines on the desk and a Rubik's Cube, which he uses to wow audiences.
Your mind works in a way that mine doesn't, and I don't think a lot of - I could never freestyle and work on a Rubik's Cube at the same time.
LOGIC: Oh, yeah, true that.
LOGIC: I love Rubik's Cubes so much. You have no idea.
GREENE: OK, you're mixing it up right now.
LOGIC: But for me, it's just like anything that I do in life. I sit down, and I say, hey, I want to master it.
GREENE: You did that in, like, eight seconds.
LOGIC: I spend all my time doing that one thing. Right now...
GREENE: Well, how did you just do - how do you...
LOGIC: It's just algorithms.
GREENE: That doesn't...
LOGIC: It's just - it's just memorizing.
GREENE: That doesn't help me to...
LOGIC: It's just memorizing things, like with raps, you know. Like I said, (rapping) got to make a decision to get in them like an incision because I'm going to hit them and get them living. They wonder what I'm giving. I'm going to never give in. I got to let everybody know I'm in their mind right now.
Like, I just say that a trillion times to be able to say that right now effortlessly.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANZIETY")
LOGIC: (Rapping) ...The right time to make a decision and get in them like an incision because I'm going to hit them and get them living. They wonder what I'm giving. I'm going to never give in. I got to let everybody know I'm in their mind right now. Make you feel like dying right now...
GREENE: All right, so here's the reveal. Bobby's stage name is Logic, and he has been rising fast in the hip-hop world. His new album "Everybody" takes on his identity struggles while he was growing up. And we should warn you. In about a minute and a half or so, there is a racial slur that might offend some listeners.
Let me ask you about the making of - of the album music.
LOGIC: Sorry, I know I talk a lot.
GREENE: No, no, no. It's...
LOGIC: My bad.
GREENE: "AfricAryaN," right? Is it...
LOGIC: "AfricAryaN," yeah.
GREENE: OK. That's - that's where you really delve into your past and identity and your childhood.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AFRICARYAN")
LOGIC: (Rapping) I feel the Aryan in my blood. It's scarier than a Blood. Been looking for holy water, now I'm praying for a flood. It feel like time passing me by slower than a slug while this feeling inside of my body seep in like a drug. Will you hug me, rub me on the back like a child? Tell me you love me, need me. Promise me you'll never leave me.
Even though my daddy, you know he blacker than the street with a fist to match - more solid than concrete - tell white people I'm black, feel the need to retreat like I should be ashamed of my grandaddy Malik. But my beautiful black brothers and sisters want to act like I'm adopted, go back in time to when my [expletive] daddy impregnated my cracker momma and stopped it. My, oh my.
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) My, oh, my.
LOGIC: (Rapping) Oh, my.
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) My, oh, my.
LOGIC: (Rapping) I said, oh, my. Oh my...
GREENE: Your mom's white. Your dad's black.
GREENE: You have seven brothers and sisters.
GREENE: And you looked the most white among them.
LOGIC: Yeah, they all look prominently black. I - I look white as - white as white can be, I guess. It wasn't until I went on into the world, till when people would be like, oh, you cracker, you white boy, you this, you that, and I didn't understand. And one thing that I think's really funny - I just want to say this - is, like, I'm never the one to bring up race. It's always somebody that's like, oh, what's it like being a white rapper? - you know, early in my career. And then I have to explain to them, like, no, I'm actually - I am just black and white. I'm biracial, just so you know. You know, let's move on.
GREENE: Talk to me about what you've gone through. I mean, it's - it sounds like even in your household and with your family, I mean, race came up. And - and it was sensitive for you...
LOGIC: Yeah, for sure. Well, my mother was racist because it's like, how do you...
GREENE: Is that hard to say? I mean, that's just...
LOGIC: No, not really. It's hard, I think, for somebody to understand because I don't even understand it. But it's like, she'll just get heated, and - you nigger, you this, you that, as a child, you know, 7, 8 years old.
GREENE: She'd call you that?
LOGIC: Yeah, of course. People are like, man, you know, you're - you seem to have it together. How do you have it together if your brothers sold drugs? And your dad smoked crack, and your brother sold it to your dad. And your - your mom here and watching your mother being beaten, and this, and this - and all these things that I saw - like, I was born to make this album. It is truly about the fight for equality of every man, woman and child regardless of race, religion, color, creed and sexual orientation.
GREENE: I just think about - you've been called the N-word, and you've been called cracker. I mean, I don't...
LOGIC: Yeah, it's really funny. I actually have a song called "Everybody," and these lyrics mean so much to me. If it was 1717...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYBODY")
LOGIC: (Rapping) ...Black daddy, white momma wouldn't change a thing. Lightskin [expletive] certified as a house [expletive], go figure. In my blood is the slave and the master. It's like the devil playing spades with the pastor. But he was born with the white privilege - man, what [expletive] that? White people told me as a child, as a little boy playing with his toys, I should be ashamed to be black. And some black people look ashamed when I rap, like my great-grandaddy didn't take a whip to the back.
Dude, I just have never talked about this stuff. I've never rapped about it. I was always scared to do so. Dude, I was...
GREENE: Well, what's scary?
LOGIC: It's scary to say, this is who I am, and the world goes, no, you're not. You know, you haven't experienced that. You didn't grow up like this. You didn't grow up like that.
GREENE: Who is that - like, critics, or fellow rappers, or...
LOGIC: Just everybody, man. Like - and it's not even like - I really don't have any beef with any other rappers. If anybody ever had an issue with me, that's their own fault. But it's things that I've heard. You know, you have Twitter. You have blogs. You have this. You have that. And that's why I stay away from all that stuff now.
GREENE: Because it bothers you.
LOGIC: Yeah, it bothered me. And if I engage in it, it would still bother me.
GREENE: You said that you don't have a beef with other musicians, but you do rap about Kanye in this album. What are you - what are you telling him...
LOGIC: I do...
GREENE: ...What are you saying?
LOGIC: Yeah, I do talk about Kanye. It's crazy. I haven't really talked to anybody about this yet. 2005, Kanye West called out George Bush.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
KANYE WEST: George Bush doesn't care about black people.
LOGIC: And that's how the community felt at that time, you know, with what was going on with Katrina. It was - it was horrendous, and you have Kanye who dared to stand up and say how he felt. And here we are, 12 years later, and he's not really being that voice that we know him as.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMERICA")
LOGIC: (Rapping) George Bush don't care about black people - 2017 and Donald Trump is the sequel, so [expletive] I'll say what Kanye won't. Wake [expletive] up and give the people what they want. Man, it's all love, but the youth is confused. Your music is 20/20, but them political views is blurred. I ain't trying to leave your name slurred, because honestly I idolize you on everything - my word. But I got to say what need be said because I ain't [expletive] with that hat, with the colors that's white and red. I know some people wish I'd act white instead. They say I use my pigment as a manifestation to get ahead.
And he's my idol. I love Kanye.
GREENE: Can I be the total devil's advocate?
LOGIC: Yeah, sure.
GREENE: If you rap something that seems like it's a beef with Kanye, that kind of stuff sells music in the world that you're operating in. And...
LOGIC: That's true. But I think if it really - if we're talking about selling music, I'm already selling albums, man. And I'm going to sell millions more. And I'm not doing it - that's not who I am. And I think anybody who really knows me as a young man and a musician knows that I am not going to waste my time using somebody else's name to try to sell records.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMERICA")
LOGIC: (Rapping) I'm going to tell you what I need right now. I'm going to tell you what we all need. I need my people of color. Don't run from Trump. Run against him.
Hey, for the record - like, I love Kanye. I just - yeah, I just want to say that.
GREENE: This musician who struggled for years for an identity seems to have found it.
LOGIC: Being homeless and working two jobs and supporting myself and working on music and not knowing if it was ever going to work - because people say, what would you do if you didn't do this? And to be quite honest, I'd be dead or in jail, or I'd be a drug addict. That's just the - that's what was laid out for me, period, unfortunately. I used to have nothing to lose. So that's why I would go as hard as I did - because I had nothing to lose, and I had everything to gain.
GREENE: The rapper Logic. His new album is called "Everybody." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.