When "XXL" revealed the cover of its March "Freshman Class" issue — the hip-hop magazine's annual anointment of rising rappers most poised for major success — there was a fresh-faced, parka-wearing kid in the bottom-right corner, throwing a peace sign as a couple of gold chains hung from his neck.
It was Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, better known as Logic, a 23-year-old rapper born and raised in Gaithersburg. Less than a month after the "XXL" cover was announced, Logic, who headlines the Fillmore Silver Spring on Sunday, signed to Def Jam Recordings, a label that has been synonymous with hip-hop prestige since producer Rick Rubin founded it in 1983.
In a short period, Logic has come a long way, or as he raps on the recent track, "Nasty," "Million dollar deals on the table / Just a couple years ago, I couldn't pay for cable." He has accumulated nearly 135,000 followers on Twitter and about 190,000 "likes" on Facebook. During a polite, 30-minute phone conversation from his tour bus "in the middle of nowhere," Logic said the recent, fruitful results were a product of nine years' worth of work and determination.
"I don't do anything but just work hard," Logic said. "I sacrificed a lot of things growing up. To this day, I've never been to a house party. All I've done since I was young was hone my craft."
As a student at Gaithersburg High School, Logic began rapping seriously at 15 after hearing the score of "Kill Bill," which was produced by Rza of the Wu-Tang Clan. He calls Gaithersburg a "really great place," but doesn't skip a beat to mention the crack cocaine he saw being manufactured and sold in his apartment building.
"It wasn't the best childhood, but I did my best to make it good on my end," he said. "... I didn't let it pull me down. In my music, I don't glorify [my upbringing]."
His rap career officially began, Logic says, in December 2010, when he released his first mixtape, "Young, Broke and Infamous." Since then, he's released three other free projects, all featuring his nickname, "Young Sinatra," in the title. The most recent and cohesive of the mixtapes, "Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever," was released early last month.
Frank Sinatra has long been a source of inspiration for Logic, who grew up watching Sinatra's films with his mother. One day, while looking at a photo of the Rat Pack member, Logic realized he wanted to take Sinatra's sophisticated charm and apply it to his own music and persona.
"I thought, 'How cool would it be to embody that debonair and elegance [in] hip-hop?'" Logic said.
Like Sinatra, Logic has blue eyes, but the young rapper is not Caucasian. His father is black and his mother is white, and his race has become an important topic in Logic's music. It's also something he's never been afraid to address.
"I'm the only person who looks white in my family, besides my mother," Logic said. "It brings more attention. ... I want to be known for what I am, black and white, because I'm proud of both."
Logic moved to Los Angeles a couple months ago to work alongside No I.D., aka Dion Wilson, the executive vice president of Def Jam and mentor to Kanye West. No I.D. will executive produce Logic's major-label debut, which does not yet have a release date. The album will be a joint release from Def Jam and Visionary Music Group, the independent label founded by Logic's best friend, Chris Zarou. Logic signed with Visionary in 2012, and brought the label with him to Def Jam. He describes the deal as a partnership and says he has "full creative control."
Although he's signed to one of hip-hop's most storied labels and is working with a critically acclaimed producer responsible for undeniable rap hits, Logic says his day-to-day life feels similar to how it did before the "XXL" cover and the record deal.
"It's still just me and the homies," he said, mentioning Zarou and the Visionary in-house producer 6ix. "I still write records like I'm dirt broke."
Perhaps that attitude comes from Logic's upbringing in Gaithersburg. While many rappers from the region lump the area together as the "DMV" (an acronym for the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia), Logic proudly considers himself a Maryland rapper.
"I never went to D.C. like that or Virginia. I love D.C. and Virginia but I know where I grew up," Logic said. "Maryland doesn't have a lot to [represent] as far as rappers. I want the world to know Maryland has so much to offer, way beyond me. So much in Maryland hasn't been tapped."
Some rappers would quickly succumb to the potential excess and indulgence that comes with the success Logic has seen recently. He says staying focused on his music — "being in my zone" — has kept him grounded, even as the spotlight intensifies.
"Nothing has changed, except the surroundings," Logic said. "It's crazy to walk out on my balcony in the Hollywood hills."