Lil Uzi Vert’s celebrity didn’t sprout suddenly, his grand arrival didn’t occur overnight. It might feel that way to some, but the rise of the Philly rap rockstar was a gradual one.
Admittingly, I haven't followed Uzi's career that closely, but things started to move in an accelerated motion in 2016, with the release of Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World and a string of successful features (see Future's “Too Much Sauce” and his rather meme-able contribution to Migos' “Bad and Boujee”). Slowly, Uzi built a quiet cult of passionate supporters and fans, who were right there with him every step of the way.
For a while, I couldn't figure out what made Uzi special. To be quite honest, I’m still not 100% sure what has caused the mass hysteria surrounding his brand. Uzi has an image fitting of rap’s modern moment, and he has the hits for on-demand streaming and radio, but more casual listeners, like myself, haven't fully jumped on board, as if an oracle foretold of a much bigger future for the rapidly-escalating artist.
Uzi's material didn’t truly resonate with me until I found myself singing “XO TOUR Llif3” on a daily basis. All my homies are alive but I couldn’t escape the contagious tune. All it takes is one listen before you’re crooning to the world about the death of all your friends. There is no question that Uzi has a gift for melody, there's a catchiness to his work that’s hard to resist. He’s rapper with a punk rock aura who was able to translate that style and energy and released a SoundCloud song that turned into a Billboard hit.
I think that’s always been the quiet allure of Lil Uzi Vert—how far can he go? Could he successfully fuse hip-hop and punk rock in the trap era that truly speaks to both sides of the spectrum? The hybrid rapper has become rather popular and he has found comfort in the middle of various sounds.
For me, journalism is an obsessive art form. Rap is my medium because hip-hop is all I inhaled for almost the last 15 years. Punk, rock, and alternative rock aren’t genres that I’m deeply enthralled by but the fusion of the music and cultures is rather intriguing, especially in the context of their impact on modern rap and hip-hop. Rap and rock have coexisted since the days of Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith, but since the start of the internet age, younger artists have drawn influences from artists across various spectrums.
In the past, I’ve only heard singles, the hits, but not entire projects. This is my first deep dive into the world of Lil Uzi Vert. I don't know if this project is considered his debut or just another "mixtape." I’m a little excited, a little intoxicated, and completely uncertain of what awaits once I press play. I must say, there’s a thrill in going into the unknown. This is my first step.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
Why is the album intro entitled "Two"? Does Uzi have two albums? Is it split between two personalities? That would get Reddit talking. Ha. Of course, because this is the second Luv Is Rage, excuse me, I'm drunk. Did he just say “Goat?” No producer tags at the beginning. A woman’s voice. She said, “Uzi not again.” She’s waking him up. His words caught me by surprise, I’m not sure what he said outside of “I’m not gonna lie and yeah/yeah.” Love the woozy bassline, it’s as intoxicated as I am and carefree like Uzi. He's saying he doesn’t give a fuck about what anyone says about him. Also something about raising rappers. So does that make him Uzi Daddy Vert? He says that he started all of this. Okay, he’s rapping in trap haikus? It doesn’t sound like complete sentences. Uzi mentioned the money and the power of fame. This is one of the oddest intros I’ve heard all year. No mumble, I can understand the Auto-Tune drenched singing, the tempo has increased, but this is such a weird way to start an album. No real build up. It just comes and goes.
Uzi says he’s ready, but I would have liked for him to just show us on the intro. Sounds like Uzi is basically doing CPR. Breath in, breath out. Shaking ass is the new mouth to mouth. Speed up, slow down! I will admit, the most basic phrases sound cool when Uzi says them. Diamonds shining like a lighthouse is another overused rap phrase that needs to be retired. A sudden change in pace. The beat is building up surrounding a cappella vocals. Drums just kicked in. Bananas. Uzi just turned a song about the basics of saving a life by mouth to mouth into a rockstar anthem. Such an energetic song. All the ughs and yeahs that you'd expect to find in trap songs are here. This beat is pure bananas, Donkey Kong would go ape shit if this came on. Next “Magnolia?” Too soon to call but it has that same simplistic innocence over a body possessing bassline. I can see the kids losing their ever loving minds.
3. "Sauce It Up"
Does Gucci get credit for sauce? I don’t think he created the term but he definitely told us not to be lost in it and I’ve heeded those words every day since. Uzi said he’s one of the greatest to ever do it, hyperbole is over 9,000%. Purists will riot. Please don’t try and convince me that the guy who spent his first few bars saying, “Yeah, Yeah” over and over is the greatest rap punk rocker of our time. I’m not here for it. He’s literally mumbling in the background with what sounds like a sample. Mumble rap ain’t dead. Uzi’s beats are rather infectious. They’re like the good delicious sauce you spread across your meal. You can’t have an Uzi song without the sauce. Swift flow. Atari reference. How does the kid even know about Atari? How old is Uzi? 21 right? No savage. The Little breakdown at the end is pretty dope, and the way his drums come in is KNOCKING. Rap-wise he’s doing what you expect him to do. It’s a mood. It’s a vibe. Nothing new, same formula. Did he just reference Steve Austin? These drums, though. Cotton candy production you just want to lay in.
4. "No Sleep Leak"
These kids love cars. Foreign cars. Didn’t know they were making enough money to buy Rarri’s. I need more money for these reviews so I can move up from the Maxima. Also, sleep is important. Get your sleep guys, only a rare, few amount of rappers will wake up rich. Trap rap makes me feel so poor; yes Uzi, continue to remind me how poor I am. I really like this one, though. The way his flow is weaving through this beat is ridiculous. Sorta reminds me of Wayne, but without the punchlines. The eccentric energy. Second verse his voice, though, they’ll accuse him of mumbling because the inflection in his voice and the words are running together. I think it’s lit. Four songs in and I’m worried this album is going to be repetitive. All the beats and all the flows haven’t be the same but they are very similar. But that’s Uzi Vert, the master of repetition.
5. "The Way Life Goes"
Holy shit! Okay, he must’ve heard my grievances because this beat is LIVE. It hits you over the head from the beginning. The bassline is alive. Uzi is singing. It definitely feels like something leaning in the rock realm than R&B. I like it. Sorta odd. But the drums are punching the wall with the fist of Iron Mike. Oh shit. Those backing vocals? Man! Uzi is singing his WHOLE heart out. “I know you’ll get over it.” No woman wants to hear that. Uzi’s text messages are going to blow up after this one is heard. I like this in the oddest way. Cool rapping, really interesting singing. A woman’s voice. So I'm certain there’s a sample in this. A rock sample? Okay. Good way to make things interesting. Man this beat is really something. He made a trap record... interesting.
6. "For Real"
I'll admit it, he’s a rockstar. It took me six songs but I hear it. Oh. Now we're on to something. This build up. Like we’re about to blast off. I know this. Dammit. Too drunk to catch the sample. Wait. It’s similar to the bassline on Wayne and 2 Chainz' “Blue C-Note” but not exactly the same. Far more syrupy and not aggressive. Bassline INSANE. Lock it up. Uzi really is on a different level than the other rockstar rappers. I can see it now. His beats, his flows, his vision is far more intriguing. He isn’t saying anything mind blowing but everything else truly puts him in a different class. I’m really about to file a lawsuit against this bassline. My peace is being disturbed. It feels like if you made a trap song for a video game. An aggressive fighting game. Kinda catchy hook. I also think “for real” and “Pharrell” is played out.
7. "Feelings Mutual"
Uzi’s songs are oddly short. He gets in and gets out. He’s telling us something very important before the song starts. Oh. Auto-Tune singing. He says he 'can’t feel no more' but I can feel the beat knocking against my heartbeat. This is heartbreak rap crooning. Young Numb Vert. I didn’t expect to enjoy this album so much. Could be the mild intoxication but it’s rather entertaining. These are some of the best rockstar beats I’ve heard all year. A song like this, Uzi really pulls you in. Hahaha. He just referenced his “Bad & Boujee” verse. “Living life with a curse,” okay, this just got oddly dark. “No I don’t need nobody now” and “You don’t want to talk about body count” are getting really personal. Bring back the fun, Uzi. I don’t want to know what isn’t supposed to be known. This is crying in the club music. The beat makes you want to bounce but these words might drop a tear for Lil Moody Vert.
How EKKSTACY Beat Writer’s Block to Make His Best Album
Pop anti-hero EKKSTACY finds his aggressive voice on his new album, 'misery.' He breaks down his journey through writer's block for Audiomack World.
8. "Neon Guts" ft. Pharrell Williams
What the fuck? Man, I’ve never heard Pharrell’s three count sound so menacing. No soul, all monster. Pharrell sounds like an angel, but he always does. This Pharrell verse! All the sauce, all the swag. Skateboard P sounds like he became one of these young rappers. Trap flow Pharrell needs a new Gangster Grillz mixtape. Can we get a rap album, Pharrell? I’m crying. Uzi said he was in love with his tutor and failed sixth grade. I’m laughing. Yo! Pharrell and Uzi going back and forth is TIGHT. Seamless. Also, the Uzi Fresh Prince/Carlton/Urkle reference is the best bar of the album (so far). The beat actually sounds like neon. It sparkles. “Dark energy we don’t touch.” I would accept an entire album of Pharrell rapping with this flow. You can tell Uzi is here to showcase he can rap. Not the greatest bars, but the effort is amazing. Have I mentioned how beautiful this beat is? Those keys are sprinkling. I can get married to those keys. Beautiful keys, disgusting drums. Colorful auras all 2017. Favorite song on the album.
9. "Early 20 Rager"
Off the title alone I’m expecting an homage to Cudi. He got kids out here. Welp. I was wrong. THIS IS MONSTROUS. Uzi sounds like OG Maco. Okay, the way he’s using Auto-Tune is very Cudder, but this is unlike any Cudi song I’ve ever heard. Uzi really made an album for kids to rage out of control. This one is honestly cool. I don’t love it. Maybe because any headbanging causes me a headache and I really don’t need that right now. The slower flow is too slow for me. Also, the beat is so disgusting that it’s actually irritating. A song like this should give you a rush, like “Knuck If You Buck,” but there’s no real rush with “Early 20 Rager.” It gets old rather fast. Uzi bragging about having R&B singers is hilarious. I don’t know if he meant he has R&B singers that he’s sleeping with or R&B singers that sing his hooks. Is R&B singer the new top model? Would you rather have Kelly Rowland over Tyra Banks in 2017?
10. "Unfazed" ft. The Weeknd
Uzi Unfazed would be an incredible rapper name. Or an album title? The Weeknd singing as the beat drops was like watching a miracle occur. Uzi and Weeknd already got a hit within the first few seconds. Dang. Weeknd sounds better with everyone than Drake, insert crying emoji. Weeknd rapping about doing pills again, House Of Balloons back. Off topic, I would love a Weeknd and 6LACK EP of singing/rapping. “Don’t attach me to your name, all they wanted was more fame.” Ha, out of context this sounds like a jab at OVO and not whatever model he’s referring to. Sorta reminds me of “Low Life.” Uzi sounds cool but I’ll be honest, I want more Abel. A ”Starboy and the bornstar” is a bar. This should do well on the charts. It just doesn’t scream “HIT.” I was hoping they would’ve gone big with Abel on board.
11. "Pretty Mami"
Read the song title too quick and thought it said Petty Miami. What a disappointment. This one is rather experimental with the build up. Interesting loop, not sure how I feel about it. A Spanish girl name Rosa is the apple of his eye. I sorta like it. Sounds like a lot of the songs I’ve heard from Uzi. Full of odd high vocal inflections and Auto-Tune rhymes. Yeah. This is in the realm of Future and Thugger. Hard not to bounce to it. I hate how his voice sounds but I know this has the potential to grow on me. I really wish Future was on here. Oh my god. That high note. The 3 Stack 3 Fact bar made me laugh. Uzi is the type of rapper to say, “I can say don’t rhyme and it’s gonna rhyme.” I hate how catchy this song is. So catchy. Yeah. Uzi going wild rockstar with these vocals. At least he’s experimenting.
12. "How to Talk"
Some woman is digging into him. She sounds hot. Not hot beautiful, but literally mad enough to be on fire. She’s burning into him. Hahaha. Is the song a response to her? “Talk to me nice” hahahaha. This is next level. “Why I treat her like my dog” YOOOOO. Young Uzi with no chill. Fam. This song is PETTY. Fam said, “Heard she talk to a ballplayer but you know I keep it all player and I heard he’s not a star player.” I’m in a river of my own tears. She’s going to send the hounds to his crib, I know I would. I’ll probably play this one again, drunk, but the novelty wears off rather quickly.
Is this young Pierre on the beat? Sounds like his tag on the intro. When is this kid going to come outside!? OHHHHH!!! This knocks! My soul just lifted off the ground. We have reached Uzi evolution. This is the final form. His hair has turned yellow and the kid is floating. Uzi’s breakup music is rather wild. We need a 21 Savage remix. Straight stunting on my ex music. Carti also would be good here. It’s a short trap anthem. But this is the one that will go CRAZY when it drops. I feel it. Also, breaking up in a text is peak scumbag.
The last few songs have been breakup records. He's continuing the run. Oh yeah, Uzi is deep in his feelings. A bit more compassionate than before. Still immature. “All my girls dress like they work at Hooters.” What? I mean, I guess. Shout out to all the Courtneys. Seems to be over. Admittedly, the album is beginning to drag. This one could’ve been axed.
15. "Dark Queen"
Uzi truly reminds me if Wayne had an offspring after he released Carter III and Rebirth. The Auto-Tune is hurting me but I love the song for his mom. Not deeply emotional, and far from “Dear Mama,” but rap songs about moms will always have a special place in my heart. I need to call my mom when I'm sober. Shouts to that wonderful woman. It's easy to forget how young Uzi is but something about him singing to his mom is a reminder. It’s rather adorable. We all want to show our moms appreciation like this.
16. "XO TOUR Llif3"
The HIT! I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE UZI MADE ALL HIS FRIENDS DYING INTO A CATCHY ANTHEM. In context of the album, this is a gem. And it needed to be a single to truly stand out. I was told this song is about all his friends being dead presidents and not literally being dead and ever since then I haven’t liked it as much. I love his flow. The switch from rapping to singing is done with excellence. “Push me to the edge” is an interesting bar, it could mean so much. I still can’t believe this is the hit. It really showcases the size of Uzi’s fan base. They ate this up. I'm wondering if the original Luv Is Rage 2 sounded closer to this in sound. The world may never know.
I enjoyed that much more than expected.
I think Love Is Rage 2 has potential to be the blueprint that all the new rockstar rappers follow. As Uzi said on the first song, “I started all of this, I change a lot of you niggas, in a matter of months I raised a lot of you niggas.” While that claim is certainly debatable, the mindset can be heard in the music: Uzi knew he had to raise the bar or he risked being cannibalized by his offspring.
He’s creating with the expectation that the music has to be better, that it has to spark the next wave or be drowned. I think it’s far more entertaining than Carti’s debut and has all the personality that Nav is lacking. Uzi is a star, but more importantly, his music is embedded with all the sauce that amplifies the notion that he is this generation's next big rockstar rapper.
He didn’t fall into the trap of trying to prove himself as a rapper, he is secure in his sound. There isn’t anything traditional about this album, nothing for the “old heads” who care about bars and lyricism. It’s all about the banging beats, saucy swag, and crafting the music his fan base expects.
Uzi doesn’t dare to go outside his comfort zone but expands upon it. I think that’s what makes Luv Is Rage 2 such an entertaining album because Uzi is, without question, an entertaining artist when he sticks to what works. He won’t bring hip-hop to its knees, he isn’t the reaper, but he could be the leader of the newest school.
All the hybrid artists fusing rap with singing and punk rock are fighting him for the top spot and Uzi doesn’t sound as if he’ll give that position up without a fight.
Early Favorites: "Neon Guts," "Feelings Mutual," "444+222."
Early Not-So-Favorites: "Two' Early 20 Rager"
By Yoh, aka XO Tour Yohlif3, aka @Yoh31