Luv Is Rage 2

Luv Is Rage 2

There are few songs in 21st-century hip-hop that serve as an artist’s mission statement as clearly as Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3.” In 2017, with a single stroke, Uzi had synthesized the jagged emotionality of the Soundcloud-native rappers bubbling out of South Florida, the melodic trap records emanating from Atlanta, and technical rigor from his native Philadelphia. Beyond the text of the song, its release seemed immediately to be an inflection point, the long-awaited realization of the superstar potential projected onto him from the moment he emerged in the mid-2010s. It would be virtually impossible to overstate the song’s impact on Uzi’s career and on rap writ large. Before it was even officially issued as a single, the Soundcloud version of the pleading, pointed track had amassed a giant cult following; when it was finally available through commercial channels, it became a phenomenon far beyond what a no. 7 peak on the Hot 100 could measure. But rather than serving as a business model, “XO Tour Llif3” comes to define Luv Is Rage 2, Uzi’s studio debut from that same year, on a thematic level. That song’s quick pivots of posture and composure—from callousness to tenderness, defiance to outright desperation—are mirrored over and over throughout the LP. See the way “Dark Queen” is at once a loving portrait of Uzi’s mother and an implicitly icy one of him; see how “The Way Life Goes,” with its extended Oh Wonder interpolation, flits from big-brotherly advice to petty woundedness. None of this tonal morphing makes the songs incoherent—it makes them complicated, the way we all are. Uzi has always seemed to pick beats as if reaching into a boiling cauldron from a children’s cartoon, pulling out tracks that sound slightly haunted but are nevertheless rendered in bright Technicolor. Pharrell’s playful but punishing “Neon Guts” is on the lighter end of this spectrum, while “No Sleep Leak” pushes Uzi’s voice into a lonely vacuum where each paranoid lyric is made to seem twice as foreboding as it would in a fuller mix. While Uzi frequently appears to have gobbled up and metabolized the musical world around him, Luv Is Rage 2 is a chillingly singular record.

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