Welcome to the Starter's Guide, a new series where we lay out everything you need to know about buzzing artists. It’s quick, it’s easy, it's (mostly) painless, and regardless of your familiarity level, it’s everything you need to know to determine whether you are a fan or to steer clear.
The Artist: Lil Uzi Vert
He’s a self-proclaimed rockstar who counts Marilyn Manson as a key influence and shies away from a strict “rapper” designation, just as he shied away from taking on a DJ Premier instrumental during a Hot 97 freestyle challenge. In turn, he’s become one of the leading catalysts in the schism between old heads and the younger generation.
From his trademark “Um, Yeah” ad-libs to his much-ballyhooed relationship with girlfriend Brittany, younger listeners love him. Uzi bounces between emotional and callous with ease, crooning about love and heartbreak one moment and igniting the party with a narcissistic indifference the next. The turn up truly shines over his production selection and during his live performances: an electrifying mix of adrenaline, crowd surfing, quirky dance moves and fans screaming along to every word.
Why You Should Care / What You Need To Know
- Uzi is a member of the most recent crop of XXL Freshmen, a signee to Atlantic Records and, hate him or love him, one of the most talked-out young artists in hip-hop.
- He was raised in Philly, "discovered" by fellow Philly natives Don Cannon and DJ Drama, championed by the late A$AP Yams, and is now based in the superstar breeding ground that is current day Atlanta.
- There are collaborations with everyone from Future (including “Too Much Sauce,” the standout cut from DJ Esco’s recent project) and Wiz Khalifa to Young Thug, Mac Miller, Post Malone, Rich Homie Quan, and A$AP Ferg. Uzi's also worked with some of the biggest producers in ATL hip-hop (Metro Boomin, Zaytoven, TM88, Sonny Digital, Southside), though Philly producers Canoon and Maaly Raw remain key collaborators.
- Along with Lil Yachty, 21 Savage, Playboi Carti (with whom he’s toured) and others, Uzi's either ruining hip-hop or pioneering its newest wave, depending on who you ask.
- Though he’s delivered five projects to date, his three releases over the last 10 months (Luv Is Rage, Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World, The Perfect Luv Tape) comprise his best and most necessary work to date.
His biggest single to date has racked up over 50 million official plays on across YouTube and SoundCloud combined and has recently reached new heights with the No. 68 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Don Cannon and Maaly Raw provide the earth-splitting production for Uzi’s drawn-out harmonization's about his newfound rockstar lifestyle.
Dropping the top on a coupe, counting bands and having sex on a Tuesday don’t exactly make for an enlightening experience, but this isn’t 60 Minutes, it’s a party.
“WDYW” (Carnage ft. Lil Uzi Vert, A$AP Ferg & Rich The Kid)
Perhaps Uzi’s breakout moment, his inclusion on this instant festival banger introduced his elongated melodies to a widespread audience.
“You Was Right”
A hypnotic collab from Uzi and Metro Boomin with one of Uzi’s more memorable hooks.
“Grab The Wheel”
This Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World standout isn’t one of the most popular tracks from the project, but it’s a deeply personal confessional that gives us an inside look at a young celebrity just as concerned with rocking Balmain and hanging out with Usher as he is conflicted about his treatment of women. It’s a showcase of his knack for melody, and an admission that despite his successes, shortcomings and criticisms, he doesn’t have all the answers (“Look I’m only 21 I don’t know”).
Yes, another one of Uzi’s more vulnerable efforts, and one of his brightest to date with production from Metro Boomin and CuBeatz that shines like Caribbean trap fusion.
Lil Uzi Vert is the audio equivalent of a speedball, equal parts energy and raw emotion. Rap traditionalists don’t seem to understand his blatant disregard for fitting the description for what a “rapper” should be, but he’s become a champion of the youth, a versatile force of melody and an embraced adoptee of maybe the hottest community in modern hip-hop: Atlanta.
He’s not winning any lyrical debates, but that’s the thing: Lil Uzi Vert simply doesn’t give a fuck. He’s not changing for anyone and is happy putting out exactly what his younger-leaning fanbase wants from him, and for that they love him.
By Brendan Varan. Follow him on Twitter
Photo Credit: Instagram