‘Luv Is Rage 2’ Proves Nobody Is Trying Harder Than Lil Uzi Vert
Plus he got a colorful aura
Lil Uzi Vert is back with Luv Is Rage 2, another installment of sticky vocal melodies, hypebeast player raps, and spacey bangers. It can seem like the Philly star magically shoulder-shimmied his way into being “king of the kids” these past few years (according to Zane Lowe), popping a wheelie on the zeitgeist (copyright Kanye West) and inventing new #alternativerock subgenres while stapling his head for the Gram. But he’s more reliable and consistent than that sounds, and at this point has become a standard bearer for youthful rap increasingly defined by rocking out, challenging gender norms, and referencing dying like it’s cool.
Luv Is Rage 2 follows The Perfect Luv tape released this time last year, and again nails Uzi’s savvy mix of east coast flamerz with southern psychedelia and Vogue Italia. Deservedly, you’ll hear it coming out of Jeeps, clubs, and house parties all season if not all year.
All the Uzi boxes are checked: We have the bizarrely perfect pop song (“The Way Life Goes”). The rap anthem that makes you feel like your pupils are dilated just listening to it (“Neon Guts”). And many odd, meme-worthy rhymes that will probably find their way onto GIFs of that famous shimmy (on “X”: “Leonardo Di-Cap-ri-o / Watch out boys, I might bag your hoe!”).
Add to that a bunch of above-average album cuts produced by longtime partner Maaly Raw and strong work from Wondagurl, and you have a solid album with songs ranking among Uzi’s best: “Neon Guts” (featuring Pharrell) feels especially huge and “How To Talk” is perfect. Emotional depth is lacking throughout but doesn’t hamper listening to a record that is clearly about aesthetics.
Uzi’s rise hasn’t been as spontaneous as it appears, following years of grinding in Philly, supported by pillars like DJ Diamond Kuts, linking with DJ Drama and Don Cannon as they continue their mixtape empire—and building on the success of anime-loving stoners like Kid Cudi. His brand gets a lot of mileage out of a perceived disruptor status, but Uzi is formally not all that different from a high-fashion Fetty Wap, making pop/street rap with a trademark melody you can hear in every song. Several of his style components are copied and pasted from Young Thug and Gothboiclique, which Uzi downplays by starting off Perfect Luv 2 with some Gucci Mane “All My Children” type talk. He’s right to a degree (see Trippie Redd’s vocal inflections) but in many ways Lil Uzi Vert is more about selling newness than innovating it.
Perhaps he would be wise to start working at a deeper level than looks and sounds. Right now, is he any deeper than his Virgil Abloh-designed album cover—a cool mood board made by a creative director? Uzi’s style is nice, and it’s exciting to think about the rock album he says he’s making (“You got a band?”—Zane Lowe “All chicks” —Uzi Vert). But Uzi also told Lowe that he “doesn’t try” when he makes music, and that he admires the Weeknd (who guests on Luv is Rage 2) because he “doesn’t try” either. The disingenuousness is major with that one. Nobody is trying harder than the guy who turns to stapling his head in order to explain his punkness. So with all that effort, where is Uzi aiming? As Kanye has shown us, the question never goes away: After the money and the power, what’s next?