There are a few distinct parallels between the Rock revival that dominated the early ‘00s and today’s rebirth of the beloved ‘90s Hip-Hop sound. The originality isn’t there, but it still makes for an enjoyable listen because the original material being aped is timeless, so who cares? And both nostalgic genres have their standouts able to capitalize off the initial rush of soundalike joy and provide a unique lane in their own right. It worked that way for The Strokes and White Stripes and now it’s working for Joey Bada$$ and Action Bronson. While he doesn’t do enough to find himself amongst Joey and Bronson in the transcendent category on his single “Young Jesus,” the ‘90s sound is hit upon well enough that it doesn’t matter.
Logic gained notoriety with his Young Sinatra mixtapes, each with an overwhelming amount of vintage ‘90s love throughout. And after all that success, it seems as though he’s gotten a promotion from being Sinatra’s protege to Jesus’. I’m not 100% sure how that trade-off went, but whatever happens between two dead idols who’ve inspired more knick-knacks geared towards Italian families than anybody stays between them. Considering his latest album, The Incredible True Story, hit number 3 on the Billboard and sold 135,000 copies in its first week, it’s a fitting promotion.
What makes “Young Jesus” work is based around Logic’s commitment and awareness when it comes to being a rehashed version of an already established institution. Before he even starts his verse, he proudly shouts, “let’s take ‘em back to the ‘90s!” And cultural figures like Biggie and Dennis the Menace are referenced within the first few lines just in case you aren’t aware of which decade he’s reppin’ at this point. The aesthetic is fully rounded out with a great guest appearance by Big Lenbo, and a monster beat produced by 6ix, complete with the old-school sound, which is really just code for ‘DJ Premier B-Side’ at this point.
Authenticity and proper homage payment plays a big part in the success of a revival act, and for a white rapper, that’s doubly important. If there’s a contrived spirit to it, everything gets weighed down. A lot of white rappers tend to fall into the “I’m talking about REAL rap” smugness pitfall and it creates a really uncomfortable situation. The fun had in ‘Young Jesus’ keeps Logic out of that conversation. He doesn’t use his whiteness as a novelty (another thing bad white rappers do), and keeps the lyrics sharp without any pretentiousness to them. It’s a well done take on the throwback.