Friday, April 22, 2016

Lil Uzi Vert vs The World Review

Title: Lil Uzi Vert Takes Over the World
Deck: A Review of rapper Lil Uzi Vert's New Mixtape "Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World"

Every time Lil Uzi Vert says the word “Yeah” I get a little giddy inside. It’s this weird, digitized shout of enthusiasm; the sound Lil Uzi would make if you chose him in the Mario Kart select character menu. The ad-lib version of cartoon citrus fruit with diamond grills. This is Uzi’s style; some call it weirdo rap, some call it just plain weird, Vice magazine called it the future of rap.

 This seamless blend of zeal, nerd culture, and gangster rap braggadocio has propelled the 21-year old rapper from relative obscurity and into the hip-hop spotlight, as one of the genre’s brightest and most innovative young stars. And, according to him, he’s only been rapping for about two years.

The Philadelphia-born rapper (who has since moved to Atlanta) just released a surprise mixtape, the nine-track long,  “Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World.” It’s his first project since the album, “LUV is Rage,” dropped in January 2015 and elevated Uzi into national fame via internet buzz. While not as cohesive or long as “LUV,”  “Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World” (An allusion to the comic book series turned motion picture, "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World") is very solid in it’s own right, and does not disappoint.

It’s a mixtape about celebration and reflection, often at the same time, looking back at his rise to fame. On Money Longer, an almost sure club hit, Uzi sings the chorus, “Nowadays I am on, my haters got sadder/Money got longer, speaker got louder, car got faster/Turn to a savage, pocket got fatter, she call me daddy”

This focus on fame comes from an inevitably self-aware youth perspective. He sees his 21-years on Earth as both a gift and a curse, reveling in his youth on tracks like "Hi Roller", “I’m so young I could fuck on your niece.”

But, just two tracks later on “Grab the Wheel,” he seems insecure in his youth, sing-rapping, “I don’t know / Look, I’m only 21 I don't know / I don’t know.”

His youth is one of five topics that make up the central themes of this tape, the other four being money, women, designer fashion, and nerd culture. No, this isn’t a tape for the backpackers of hip-hop; anyone looking for a revitalization of the hyper-conscious underground movement should look elsewhere. Uzi couldn't be more up-front about his either, when asked what the secret to his success was he replied, "I just stopped thinking."

 Above all else, this is music meant to be played in clubs, cars, and live, in the rabid atmosphere of a sold-out venue. Although his lyrics are at times clever and even funny, it’s not a tape designed for contemplation. It’s meant to be fun.

Anyone listening can tell just how much fun Lil Uzi is having. He’s young, famous, and in love with his girlfriend just as much as he is with his life. The first song, "Canadian Goose", is a prime example. The first words you hear on this tape come at you in a pitched up auto tune radiating energy, “Wake up in the morning, brush my teeth, smack my bitch ass, damn.”  Then compares his girlfriend, Brittany, to a rare Pokemon, saying “I just caught me a Mewtwo.” This is ridiculous; it’s not real life, it’s the arcade version of a song. It’s fantastic.

His obsession with high fashion is almost a caricature. In just the song “Hi Roller,” Uzi mentions, Yeezy (Kanye West), Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo, Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Phillip Lim, Maison Goyard, and Gucci. Again, it’s not just his extensive knowledge of designer brands that stands out, but the fact that he throws out these brands on the same song with lines like, “
“I am not from this Earth, like Invader Zim” and “Everyday adventure time, feel like I’m Finn.” Referring to both of the popular cartoon series’ Invader Zim, and Adventure Time.

The tape is backed  by an absolutely phenomenal group of producers, Metro Boomin, DJ Don Cannon, Wondagirl, and Maaly Raw, all of whom except for Maaly Raw are established stars in the hip-hop production world. They offer up a great selection of beats, almost all of which fit Lil Uzi Vert tackles perfectly. Whether sparring with the frenetic snares of "Canadian Goose", hypnotically riding the synth waves of "You Was Right," or moaning out his version of a love song over the mushy codeine rhythms of "Scott and Ramona"6 (another Scott Pilgrim reference), Uzi Vert and the beats feel like a perfect fit.

Looking at Lil Uzi Vert, you might be tempted to say he’s not like other rappers. It might be his diminutive stature (just over five feet), his short purple dreadlocks, or his affinity for anime and nerd culture; the man has a music video set to a compilation of anime fights. You might say it’s his strange delivery, switching between a slow slurred, lean influenced, autotune drawl, to quick shouting bursts reminiscent of the Uzi in his name.

You might be tempted to say all this, but you’d be wrong.

Uzi is much more a product of the last five years of rap than his is an organic break from the status quo. He’s the natural evolution of the internet takeover of hip-hop; a blend of places, styles, and influences, made possible by the way music and information has become distributed and accessed in the Internet age. “Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World” makes this more clear than ever before.


-Lil Uzi Vert is going on tour with Kodak Black 
-"Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World" is available to download for free on DatPiff
-The New York Times recently reviewed a Lil Uzi Vert show

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