Lil Uzi took some time to grow on me, but he most certainly did. At first, I saw him as just another Auto-tune crooner with way too much hype. Over time, though, his vocal style and production value awareness struck me as essential. By no means is Uzi even a “good” rapper. Times have changed, however. Rap music has evolved to a sound-driven stage. Traditional lyricists have trouble influencing the mainstream seemingly more than ever. In the case of Lil Uzi, what he lacks in lyrical substance he makes up for with charisma and originality. Conversely, I don’t believe “he’s the one that really started all this” like he claims on his debut’s opener “Two®”. He is not the first to constantly rap about jewels dripping like water, drug abuse, or flexing on exes. Yet Uzi does boast a plethora of original flows. That impresses me.
It feels weird defending such a lyrically regressive artist. There’s just something slightly irresistible about Lil Uzi Vert’s music (maybe it’s our mutual respect for Leonardo DiCaprio). Of course, if you hate new-age rap, you will hate Luv is Rage 2. If you are one of those people, you don’t need me to tell you that. Your mind is already made up. Though I will argue that Uzi is helping rap advance. His flows and vocal delivery here are wavy, infectious, and all-out fun. Backed by some of hip-hop’s elite producers, Luv is Rage 2 is Uzi’s sturdiest project yet. With only two features, this anticipated debut is surprisingly versatile. Lil Uzi may rap about the same four or five subjects, but his presentation is spontaneous and entertaining. In today’s rap scene, creative direction, brand, and vibe/sound determine whether or not an artist succeeds.
Hip-hop music will always be about bars. Nevertheless, a bar doesn’t necessarily have to be of profound importance. “Get Dior discounts from my cougar” is a bar. Saying “I got R&B singers” eight times in a row is not. Bars are about evoking a feeling. They are everyday aphrodisiacs. But as much as I’d like to justify some of the awful lyrics on this project, I simply cannot. At times, Uzi can write a dope song. “XO Tour Llif3,” “The Way Life Goes,” and “Dark Queen” are three of the Philly rapper’s best overall tracks. Uzi has never had an issue with selecting complementary production. What he contributes to those instrumentals however is usually hit-or-miss for me. That’s why I appreciated his first few mixtapes: They were concise and to the point. Ten tracks, same swag, different approach. I can work with that. Here, though, not so much.
Ultimately, this debut is a few tracks too long. At this stage in Uzi’s career, he needs to prove his lyrics can carry an album longer than 40 minutes. “Neon Guts” with Pharrell momentarily rescues this track list from inevitable redundancy. The Weeknd’s vocals on “UnFazed” are a sound for sore ears. Unfortunately, Abel’s record-skip chorus dilutes the track into mediocrity. Since Lil Uzi Vert mostly limits his lyrical topics to diamonds, Rari’s, and bitter ex-girlfriends, his projects lose their listenability rather quickly. Not every rapper can be Kendrick Lamar. But that doesn’t mean they should be this predictable either. All in all, Luv is Rage 2 is more of the same from Uzi. Which, I believe, is exactly what needed to be present on his debut studio album. Once you get past his goofiness, Lil Uzi Vert is the most all-around fun contemporary rap has to offer.