The untold truth of Lil Uzi Vert
Symere Woods, aka Lil Uzi Vert, started rapping in Philadelphia, Pa., and thanks to sites like SoundCloud, went from a local kid to superstar in no time. “The appeal of his style, not unlike a teenaged Lil Wayne, is some combination of nasal vocal tone and penchant for melody, despite no discernible singing talent,” The Fader summarized.
But after his major studio debut album Luv Is Rage 2 peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 in 2017, Lil Uzi Vert dropped off the map. According to Hot New Hip Hop, someone released a fake album under his name in 2019. The album shot up to “the top” of the iTunes chart before being removed, showing the demand for new Lil Uzi Vert music. Then for real, the rapper dropped his third full-length album Eternal Awake in 2020.
A talented artist, for sure, but there’s much more to Lil Uzi Vert than his skills on the mic. For real? For real, this is the untold truth of Lil Uzi Vert.
What's up with Lil Uzi Vert and that Canadian guy?
In 2016, Lil Uzi Vert and Nardwuar had their first interview together. The Canadian web personality is known for his in-depth research that often astounds the artists. In a video of their first interaction at SXSW, the yearly festival in Austin, the guys talked about musical inspirations and Britney, Lil Uzi Vert’s girlfriend at the time. But then two years later, things got really interesting. This time, Lil Uzi Vert and Nardwuar met in Vancouver, B.C., and once again, the Canadian came loaded with deep-cut references to the rapper. Lil Uzi Vert ran away mid-discussion after the interview mentioned “Guns Garcia,” a Philadelphia DJ, via The Philadelphia Inquirer. In the video interview, Nardwuar raced after Lil Uzi Vert to seek his signature ending of singing “Doot doola doot doo” and hoping for the guest response of “Doot doo!” Well, Nardwuar managed to get his answer and Lil Uzi Vert actually used the audio clip at the end of his song “Futsal Shuffle 2020.”
The pair reunited twice in 2019, the first at Rolling Loud Festival. Unsurprisingly, Lil Uzi Vert ran away after only a few minutes talking. But in the video, Nardwuar still got his signature ending. The second time in the year was at Day N Vegas festival, though the interaction seemed to be running out of steam. Lil Uzi Vert and Nardwuar briefly talked through a chain-link fence before the video ended. Will this go on forever?
Where did the name Lil Uzi Vert come from?
Many rappers earn their signature name through a moment or a defining feature. A young Symere Woods earned his stage name on the streets of Philadelphia, Pa. “Before Lil Uzi Vert was a singsong mage, he was a quick-spitter whose name came from his compact size and rapid-fire style,” according to Pitchfork. Lil Uzi Vert confirmed the story to Vibe, saying, “Some guy was just like ‘you rap fast, man. Like a little machine gun’ and from that moment I was Lil Uzi.” The outlet also noted that “the anonymous friend that gave Uzi his moniker has no idea that he named him.”
Okay, so that covers the first part, but… Vert? According to Rolling Stone that rapper once explained, “Vert is, like, straight to the top, like a vertical leap.” Though a bit of a stretch, Genius and others realized the name is a homophone — if you say Lil Uzi Vert quickly, it can sound like “Lucifer.”
Lil Uzi Vert loves his fashion
Listen to any Lil Uzi Vert song and within a few bars, he is probably bragging about his expensive clothes like Balenciaga or Rick Owens. Even early in his career, Lil Uzi Vert loved to talk about fashion. In a 2016 video interview for Vibe, the rapper just started describing his outfit. “This is Yeezy … This is Margiela … Of course, I’m gonna always be dipped in fashion.” It helps that he and Virgil Abloh were friends even before Louis Vuitton named Abloh as creative director. Lil Uzi Vert lovingly referred to him as a “fashionably inclined uncle.”
As his fame grew, so did Lil Uzi Vert’s passion for fashion. Speaking with GQ, he talked about his impulsive shopping habits. “This is the first time I tried anything on. If I can’t fit in it, I just give it away. In the store, if I try on s**t and I’m too small, I’ll be upset, bro! I just gotta take it,” he confessed. Compiling outfits seems to give the rapper inspiration and he definitely takes fashion seriously. “Honestly, in my heart, I think I do this better than music,” he said. “Cause the music s**t is effortless. I actually take my time with this.”
Abloh said about the rapper, “Lil Uzi isn’t even human. He is another level of a creative being.” Going even further, Abloh added, “To me he is an Impressionist painter replacing pigments with ready-made brands and clothes.”
Secrets from inside the studio
Sound engineer Kesha Lee is an industry veteran who helped some of the biggest names in music. She can count Lil Uzi Vert, Childish Gambino, and Future among her most famous clients, via Billboard. Lee and Lil Uzi Vert have been together since very early in the singer’s career, continuing through with his breakout hits like the guest appearance on Migos’ “Bad and Boujee.” In an interview with Vibe, Lil Uzi Vert gave Lee the highest respect and praise. “She definitely is the best engineer. Yeah, she’s a girl. Like the best engineer. The best.” The rapper said she engineered his entire first album, Luv Is Rage.
Lee revealed what it’s like to work with Lil Uzi Vert in an interview for Sound on Sound. “There were a couple of occasions where a producer would come in and Uzi would help them make a beat, or he’d do the drums,” she said. It’s apparently a crowded room but the crew still pumps out hits, “Uzi will have all his friends in the studio, but just the three of us work on the music. Cannon makes beats or he will play more of an executive producer role, where he gets beats from other people. Uzi does his own thing.” Lee went on that he can keep going without hearing any background music and still syncs when the beat comes back. “He will do this totally intuitively,” Lee said.
The varied musical influences of Lil Uzi Vert
From an early age, Lil Uzi Vert played in the music scene, telling Narduwar that he “played the cornet first,” before moving on to the trumpet. Speaking with Rolling Stone, Lil Uzi Vert talked about other musicians that inspired him when he was younger, like “Ying Yang Twins and Mike Jones,” and “[Philly] guys like Beanie Sigel, too.” But it wasn’t just rappers. The mag noted that “Lil Uzi Vert’s vocal ideas are influenced by a youth absorbing hard rock and emo bands like Paramore, Flyleaf and My Chemical Romance.” Lil Uzi Vert definitely enjoys Paramore, proven by a video of him bopping along to the band’s hit “Ain’t It Fun” in a car.
“In my elementary days, I took a liking to rock and roll music,” Lil Uzi Vert told Rolling Stone, adding, “I dabbed into Marilyn Manson, which became my favorite.” Of his own original tunes, he said, “I just take rock songs and mix it with hip-hop and a little bit of R&B.” And don’t forget about Backstreet Boys. Lil Uzi Vert released the single “That Way,” which reinterprets the iconic ’90s hit “I Want It That Way.” Supah Mario, who produced the beat, told Splice that the boy band choice completely surprised him. “How does Uzi find a way to use Backstreet Boys on a record?” When he finally heard the song with vocals, Supah Mario confessed, “Oh, yeah, this might be a hit.”
Lil Uzi Vert retired in his early twenties
At the start of 2019, at seemingly the peak of his career, Lil Uzi Vert dropped everything and retired from the music scene. As reported by Complex, the rapper posted on his Instagram story, “I wanna take the time out to say I thank each and every one of my supporters but I’m done with music I deleted everything I wanna be normal … I wanna wake up in 2013.” Fans were understandably shocked. Two months later, Lil Uzi Vert resurfaced on Instagram Live with unheard music. But it turns out the tune was just an unreleased cut from early in his career. According to XXL, the singer reiterated that he was still retired, saying, “I don’t music no more but y’all can have this old stuff.”
Only a few weeks later, XXL reported that Lil Uzi Vert was back in the studio and actually signed to one of the biggest record labels in the business, Jay-Z’s lucrative Roc Nation. Fitting, given that the label executive himself retired and unretired from music in the past.
Upon reflection, it appears Lil Uzi Vert came to his decision of an early exit through emotions. When GQ asked why the rapper briefly quit music, he responded, “I dunno, just how I felt. That’s all. I just wanted to be more normal.”
Sorry, Cupid Shuffle, but Lil Uzi Vert has the new moves
Everyone knows Lil Uzi Vert can rap but did you ever think of him as a dancer? Although he never shied away from dancing — even at the end of interviews with Nardwuar — things didn’t really heat up until the end of 2018. As recounted by Pitchfork, Lil Uzi Vert and Dallas rapper 10k.Caash showed off their moves in an Instagram post by the young Texan. The two were performing “The Woah,” which went “from a regional thing to a bona fide internet phenomenon with everyone from fashion influencer Luka Sabbat to a self-promoting Chance the Rapper uploading videos of themselves hitting the move.”
Lil Uzi Vert periodically posted other videos of him dancing to social media, sometimes just his feet. Though seemingly cryptic at first, this all led up to Lil Uzi Vert making his very own dance move. In 2020, the rapper released his song “Futsal Shuffle 2020” with an accompanying music video. With his song in the background, Lil Uzi Vert shows off his impressive footwork and teaches the rest of the world how to replicate the sequence. Have you tried learning the Futsal Shuffle?
The making of Lil Uzi Vert's iconic single
2017 was a great year for Lil Uzi Vert on the Billboard charts. He and Migos topped the Hot 100 list for their hit “Bad and Boujee.” His album Luv Is Rage 2 topped the Billboard 200, and his iconic song “XO TOUR Llif3” reached number seven on the Hot 100. The song not only performed well on the charts but also received glowing critical reviews. As The New York Times described it, the “lyrics are sharp and vivid when he wants them to be,” which “helped make the song a crossover pop hit.” The review concluded, “It doesn’t get better.”
“The unlikely story of this song began when Lil Uzi Vert took a stage dive into a Geneva, Switzerland crowd in February, losing two phones filled with unreleased material amid the throng,” reported Pitchfork. The outlet went on to explain that “Instead of fretting, [Lil Uzi Vert] simply leaked everything he recorded for his debut album, including ‘XO TOUR Llif3.'” Pitchfork also praised the impact of the song on the music industry, and named it the number ten best song of the 2010s. The summary said, “The single was included as part of a throwaway four-track EP that was meant to fill time leading up to” Luv Is Rage 2. As far as the song’s construction goes, Pitchfork noted that “producer TM88 recorded using an old computer and a Beats Pill,” which contributed to the beat’s DIY aesthetic.
Motivation for Lil Uzi Vert's music
Despite all the fame and critical success, Lil Uzi Vert is still a young rap star with a pretty humble goal for his career. In a 2015 profile by XXL, the then-up-and-coming rapper admitted, “I’m not going to sit here and be like I want to win a Grammy or whatever; if that comes, that’s awesome. But I just want to be successful and provide for my whole family and get my family out the hood.
Similarly, in a 2019 interview with GQ, he said “I like making music, and I like making people happy, but the music is whatever, bro.” So, why does he continue to pump out songs and records? “I really do it just to make my family happy. Like, it’s just something for my family to talk about,” the “Do What I Want” rapper confessed. That same year, he posted on Twitter about his grandma who had been in the hospital for months. “IF YOU DONT KNOW THATS WHO RAISE ME,” he powerfully expressed, adding, “I love my grandma more than Clothes.” He further explained in another post that he had a difficult time dealing with the scenario and that he “needed privacy” and “Family comfort because [he] just didn’t understand.”
Lil Uzi Vert's selective love
Lil Uzi Vert’s first public profession was for Dej Loaf, the Detroit rapper best known for her song “Try Me.” Speaking with XXL, Lil Uzi Vert confessed, “I’m in love with Dej Loaf. I got a whole song dedicated to her basically and she heard it.” The song in question is called “Dej Loaf,” which he released on SoundCloud in 2015 and helped introduce the world to his signature flow. The rapper said he actually got to meet Dej Loaf, and even called their interaction “destiny.” He said, “I saw everybody like once or twice but with her I bumped into her like five, six, seven times.” And his admiration is more than just surface level. “I don’t even like women rappers honestly, but … The way that she rap, she rap about real s**t,” he said. Lil Uzi Vert said he and Dej Loaf’s hometowns were not so different and so “we definitely connected.”
It seems Lil Uzi Vert may not have this same level of admiration for all female musicians. In fact, singer Grimes said the rapper totally neglected her. “He asked me to produce an EP for him once, and then I sent him the WeTransfer and he never downloaded it,” she told Zane Lowe on his Beats 1 radio show. “And I was like, ‘Dude, I spent two weeks on this.'” she said, although she seemed to laugh the whole thing off.
The fuel that keeps Lil Uzi Vert going
For an interview focused around Lil Uzi Vert’s obsession with fashion, the rapper inadvertently revealed his love of particular comfort foods. As GQ described, during a photoshoot in a Brooklyn grocery store, Lil Uzi Vert stopped everything when a special something caught his eye. That is, “his discovery of Entenmann’s Little Bites ‘Party Cakes’ flavor, which, according to Uzi, ‘you can’t find all the time,'” the article explained. Apparently, Lil Uzi Vert called himself “the fakest pescatarian,” which really alluded to his love of junk food. The scene unfolded as follows, with Lil Uzi Vert running “through the aisles, grabbing Flavor Blasted pizza Goldfish here and $1.75 pound cakes there, periodically tossing items into his bodyguard’s basket.”
In a video for GQ on the ten things Lil Uzi Vert said he cannot live without, snacks naturally made an appearance. He again hyped up the special mini muffins from the baked goods brand, Entenmann’s, “Sometimes they’re in season. Sometimes they’re not.” When he finds this holy grail of snacks, how much does he eat? “Two boxes probably in a day.” He added, “I’m allergic to chocolate. So, my friends in the trap, they introduced me to these.” And the rapper agreed when the interviewer described its taste as “the moistest Funfetti muffin I’ve ever had.” “Exactly,” Lil Uzi Vert said.
How much is Lil Uzi Vert worth?
In 2018, Forbes estimated Lil Uzi Vert’s net worth at $19.5 million. The publication cited “more than 3.5 billion streaming spins” over the year. But aside from streams, he became one of the highest grossing acts in hip-hop for the year “thanks to the maturation of his touring business, playing 76 shows in our scoring period.” With his third album, Eternally Awake, Lil Uzi Vert is likely to cash even more checks.
And how does he spend his cash? Lil Uzi Vert makes it clear in most of his songs how much money he makes and how he loves to burn through it. Predictably, he buys expensive clothes and accessories. For example, Lil Uzi Vert talked in a GQ video about his favorite blanket, a $1000 Y/Project version. “If it’s nice, I’ll buy anything,” he said.
In a feature story for GQ, the rapper said his “ultimate goal is buying a Bugatti” — the elite supercar. Although he admitted “it would be a psychotic thing to do” even just for the maintenance costs of the car, the singer said, “I just want it, bro! It looks so nice. Like, I’m one of those types of guys. I have to buy everything.” According to the article, Lil Uzi Vert’s dream came true when he bought a $1.7 million Bugatti Veyron from the legendary boxer Floyd Mayweather.
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