I understood Logic’s appeal before his show at the Newport Music Hall Saturday night.
He is a technically skilled rapper who made OK songs. He is inoffensive and well-produced. He is part of a category of rappers of whom J. Cole embodies the best case success scenario. Logic is smart, conscious, talented, but without much of a persona outside the music.
At least, I thought I understood his appeal — until the show sold out days before and until I got a text that said a long line had already formed three hours before doors were to open. It seemed I was in for an education in Logic fandom.
I had been to enough rap shows to know to allow a few hours of cushion for the local openers and air-horn-blaring DJ’s to get their kicks. That was not the case here, though, as I arrived with the show already in progress around 9:45 p.m. Punctuality — that might be part of the appeal.
There was not a seat open upstairs or an opening on the railing to stand. The smell of a couple dozen different marijuana strains had blended together to form the stench of something resembling jet fuel. No one appeared to be older than 25, not even the man onstage.
In his studio recordings, Logic’s words and flow are the most impressive thing and supposed to be the focus. But live, that did not always translate. He can rap fast, yes, but in person it is difficult to pick out more than a word or two here and there, and it often sounded like he was spitting rhythmic gibberish.
That is where the great production came in handy. The floor was much better suited to appreciate the sound, upstairs not getting the full strength of the speakers.
The crowd was along for every word, intelligible or not, and many knew each one.
Logic was joined onstage by one DJ and one photographer, plus an LED screen that projected images of neighborhood streets and figures like Muhammad Ali and Steve Jobs, adding a bit of atmosphere. He ran through crowd favorites like “Paradise,” “Gang Related” and “Alright.”
He bounded around the stage, clearly enjoying the feel of the crowd in the palm of his hand. He drew material from his albums “Under Pressure” and “The Incredible True Story,” as well as his mixtapes. He could take a five minute break from music to talk to various crowd members and the energy in the room would not fall. The opposite, actually.
Near the end of the show, he expressed his gratitude to the crowd, assuring them that he was “one of (them, he’s) the homie that made it out.” And maybe that was what it was all along: Logic is relatable. He seems like a normal guy who was good at rapping and was lucky enough to make the right moves and a career out of it. Jay Z, the mogul, is not relatable. Drake, the megastar, is not either. But Logic has the skills that your neighborhood, or cousin, or you might have, and he is standing before a sold-out crowd.
So his story is the incredible true story. That is the appeal.