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Lil Uzi Vert will be defined by the one line that has made him the most memeable rapper of 2017, though, to a sizeable fanbase, Uzi has been mentionable for a couple of years now. His two promising 2016 mixtapes, Luv is Rage and Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World captured the internet with a unique sense of melody and knack for grandiose emotion. That potential, coupled with Uzi’s frequent declarations of rockstar ambitions tasked his debut with great hype. For the most part, Luv is Rage 2 delivers on that anticipation. Uzi is stepping out of the box on his debut, delivering on the promise of megahits like “X0 Tour Lif3” while still pushing creative bounds, and though the sixteen track album suffers from filler and inconsistent pacing, at its peaks it showcases a rock star stage ready.
Lil Uzi’s cathartic lyrical style is his greatest strength, and it is that catharsis that propels Luv is Rage 2. Whether the guttural yelp of “I don’t really care if you cry” or the sincere sentiment of “I like that girl so much, I wish I never met her” on “The Way Life Goes,” Uzi shines when he is unironically and unapologetically himself. In the hands of another artist these declarations could come off as maudlin or saccharine, but Uzi is so earnest with every bar that a listener cannot help but be sucked into the emotion. Uzi fills Luv is Rage 2 with diary-level lyrical confessions, ranging from musings on the numbing power of pain on “Feelings Mutual” to lamenting the slippery nature of time on “Malfunction”. He is skilled a distilling sometimes complex topics into visceral emotion through inimitable yelps and wails, granting the listener front row seats to the basest of feelings in his psyche.
However, it’s not just the darker side of emotion that is touched on in this new album–Uzi also comes through with some classic trunk-knockers. From the winking nods to his alleged devilish connections on “444+222” to his dismissal of a past fling on “X,” Uzi can turn a few cheeky bars and an elastic, rattling beat into weirdo trap gold. Nowhere is that knack more apparent than on the Pharrell assisted intergalactic journey “Neon Guts”. With production that sounds like a lean dipped rocket ship, Pharrell and Uzi are both in rare form, spitting quirkiness about everything from Elon Musk to Amex yellow cards. Uzi’s flow is nimble across the futuristic drums as he delivers lines like “slick my hair back like I’m Chico Debarge.” He’s goofy, and improving.
Yet Luv is Rage 2 suffers from the sameness and filler common to New Wave rappers (see also: Yachty). No matter the personality or energy, certain tracks on the album remain limp. Even lines as charmingly ridiculous as “Felt the booty it’s all there / So smooth so it’s all nair” cannot save a song as run of the mill as “How to Talk”. In fact, the bottom third of the album is populated with tracks that, though high energy, lack a certain uniqueness that characterizes Uzi’s best work. Tracks like “Early 20’s Rager”, “Pretty Mami”, and even the opening track “TwoR” all contain cliche trap themed lyrics (money, cars, women) without any of the emotion or inventiveness that separates Uzi from his ilk. Even the Weeknd featured “Unfazed” feels bland, both Abel and Uzi sounding uninspired in their performances. Though not too prevalent, the phoned in Uzi of Luv is Rage 2 low-points lacks the charm and appeal of his best work, and ultimately inhibits what could have been a great success.
Lil Uzi Vert is part of a new wave of hip hop. Young, brash, melodic, and carefree, Uzi can often make a track sound like the musical embodiment of his trademark shoulder shrug. “X0 Tour Lif3”, a genius slice of songwriting where Uzi laments the loss of a lover, lord’s over Luv Is Rage 2, as it likely will Uzi’s career from this summer on. “Push me to the edge/All my friends are dead” is a line so blunt that few artists would attempt it, yet when uttered by Uzi it becomes one of the most relatable couplets rippling across urban radio. When Uzi bursts into a shamelessly rough interpolation of the 2015 indie pop single “Landslide” on “The Way Life Goes”, rather than an expected chuckle, instead, it’s easy to become engrossed by the sincerity of his heartfelt delivery. Lil Uzi Vert wants to be to – is destined to be a star. Though he may have a couple more moves to make before he goes big time, Luv is Rage 2 is an excellent first step, with Uzi showcasing his oddball nature, his cathartic emotion, and his penchant for excellent bangers. He’s on the edge.