Well, here we are. We live in a world where Lil Uzi Vert has sold over 100k and has the most popular album of the week.
Perhaps known as the leader of the wave of Soundcloud rappers, Uzi’s innovative approach to the hip-hop genre has drawn widespread attention. Explicitly stating the influence he draws from rock music, the addictive melodies and darker, more organic feel of a track like breakout hit “XO TOUR Llif3” has numerous contemporaries attempting to imitate his trademark style and cadence. Individuals like XXXTENTACION and Lil Peep have been integrating elements of rock and roll in a similar way as well.
On debut studio album Luv Is Rage 2, a sequel to an earlier mixtape, we get a small bit of Uzi’s strokes of unexpected genius, but quite a bit more that is hard to get through. Spanning almost an hour in length, Uzi’s mind-numbing lyrics and heavy Auto-Tune use begins to get grating, Still, nobody can say he isn’t a trailblazer.
The instrumentals here can be the saving grace whenever Uzi’s ideas aren’t at their best. He recruits some tried and true producers to take about half of this project, but I especially love his reliance on 20-year old Wondagurl. “Feelings Mutual” would be one of the middling tracks here without her electronic, carnivalesque beat to accompany Uzi’s “merry-go-round” line. Pharrell and Metro Boomin kill it, as expected, but my favourite beat might be the lesser known Maaly Raw on “444+222”, where Uzi’s repetitive chants are energized by a fizzy and joyful synth loop and top-tier trap rhythm.
It’s tough to describe exactly what the appeal of some of Uzi’s best tracks are. The way he quickly cuts off his words and strings phrases together gives tracks a euphoric bouncy quality – and when this is combined with his talent for infectious hooks it pushes it over the edge. “No Sleep Leak” is a great example – his flow in the verses plays off of the driving trap beat so well, and he tops it off with a catchy, repetitive melody and lyrics you just want to shout to the world.
“The Way Life Goes” is the closest Uzi comes to recapturing the “XO TOUR Llif3” magic, and it really is a spectacular track that demonstrates the importance of his unique inspirations. Reassuring himself he’ll eventually get over a breakup, Uzi interpolates the chorus to indie rock duo Oh Wonder’s “Landslide”. Sometimes Uzi’s simplistic lyrics just click, finding the quickest way to hit listeners with something heavy. The slowly cascading melodies in the verses ensure this will be Uzi’s next smash hit.
Uzi shows that he is very versatile, often sounding like a feature on his own song with the amount that he switches up the way his vocals and delivery sound. While this can surprise the listener in a positive way, not much of it is original.
For someone who frequently claims to have scores of rappers copying them, it sounds like Uzi is trying to channel the energy of some other oddball rappers who came before him, clearly emulating aspects like Young Thug’s cadence or Desiigner’s flow. I truly wish Uzi diverted from the Auto-Tune here, as he sounds his best when this versatility leads him to just straight rapping. He maneuvers around alien ray gun blasts on “For Real” and trades some solid bars with Pharrell on “Neon Guts”.
Uzi speaks a lot about his own innovations on this album, claiming to be “the one that really started” the current trends in hip-hop and even declaring himself “one of the greatest to ever do it” on “Sauce It Up”. Uzi needs to do a lot more work to inherit that title.
Uzi’s style has a lot of similarities to fellow hip-hop pioneer Lil Yachty in his carefree and arrhythmic tone, paying little attention to musical structure as he blurts out a series of boasts and warbled vocalizations. The difference here is that Yachty has personality in spades, whereas Uzi’s lyrics are standard trap fare more often than not.
The tracklist is overstuffed with similar concepts, as we get too much filler where it just doesn’t sound like Uzi is even interested in what he is doing. I can’t understand why someone with such a talent for melodies insists on unorthodox and meandering Auto-Tuned digressions that serve no purpose but to annoy the listener. Uzi’s whiny tone of voice isn’t always the easiest to listen to and his repetitive lyrics don’t do much to help this.
The stretch from “Early 20 Rager” to “Pretty Mami” is excruciating, as all the worst parts of Uzi come out in full force. Why is he moaning up and down the scales in the background? Why is half of “UnFazed” just chanting the song’s title? For every brilliant idea that Uzi puts on this project, 3 more terrible ones spring up.
Uzi is a very strange artist. Sometimes the exact thing that makes one track so great crashes and burns in another. Ever so often he strikes absolute gold, but he has a lot of work to do on the consistency front.
Say it with me now: “LE-O-NAR-DOOO DI CAP-RIIII-O”.
Favourite Tracks: The Way Life Goes, No Sleep Leak, XO TOUR Llif3
Least Favourite Track: Pretty Mami