XO TOUR Llif3: Most Important Song of 2017

XO TOUR Llif3: Most Important Song of 2017

by Spencer Wilkins

I never thought this day would come, but here we are. I’m about to say something positive about Lil Uzi Vert.

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Since Uzi broke into the rap world as a XXL freshman, nothing this Philly native has done impressed me. His rhyme schemes were mind numbingly simple. And his song topics were unoriginal and repetitive. Typically when a rapper finds success despite these deficiencies, the expectation is the artist will have some fantastic production to mask these issues.

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But honestly, Uzi Vert never had a sonic landscape that excused his artistic deficiencies. Even his mandatory club banger produced by Metro Boomin’, You Was Right, sounded so predictably boring. This is all to say I am not a Lil Uzi Vert fan, or at least I wasn’t. A few weeks ago I heard chatter of a new Uzi song that dove into his turbulent relationship with ex-girlfriend Brittany Byrd. Astonished that people could even piece together a coherent concept on this auto crooner’s track I had to give it a listen. After a few listens I can confidently say, XO Tour Llif3 by Lil Uzi Vert is the most important song of 2017.

Without even clicking play the artistic shift in tone is noticeable. The cover art of his latest single is completely devoid of color. It starkly displays a black square with the parental advisory sticker rigidly placed in the bottom of the image. Juxtaposing this cover art against his breakthrough mixtape Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World and you can see the all flash no flavor formula is not being implemented for this song.

The song kicks off with a cold arpeggiated synth and the impromptu call of “you alright?” from our lead vocalist. When the woozy chorus kicks in we hear the singer instantly getting personal about his turbulent relationship. I want to show you the lyrics of his chorus without the beat, without his voice. See what effect it has on you. 

I don’t really care if you cry
On the real you should’ve never lied
Should’ve saw the way she looked me in my eyes
She said baby I am not afraid to, die
{Push me to the edge
All my friends are dead}
[x3]

Stripping away everything but the lyrics and the emotional impact still stings. This chorus is impeccable. All the usual complaints leveled against mainstream trap bounce right off this dark hook. Six lines into this song and it’s already established a personal, unique, and honest concept. Uzi plunges into the taboo subject matter that mainstream rappers don’t dare to touch, emotions.

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A constant thorn in the side of hip hop has been the systematic misogyny running rampant throughout the genre. The prevalence of woman bashing has sadly become a reflex of the genre I love so dearly. But here Lil Uzi Vert displays a woman as more than the object of his desire. He gives emotional depth in his narrative. She isn’t propped up to be the sexual object of his desire. We see his ex Brittany Byrd as a complex individual who is struggling the often hushed illness of depression, saying, “baby I am not afraid to die”.  She has also fought against a bleak life that results in all of her friends being dead. Whether this is from the typical dangers of that plague low income youths such as drug overdose or criminal activity, or they were fighting their own depression, Byrd has seen took many friends become casket pretty. This is challenging material to conquer, but here’s a reminder these lines all appear in the chorus. These lines aren’t quietly nestled into the third verse of the song, these lyrics are supposed to be repeated by exciting fans.

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This track is gutsy. This track is sobering. And most surprisingly this track is successful. In just five weeks XO Tour Llif3 has peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Becoming Uzi’s first song inside the Top 40, this is easily Uzi Vert’s most successful solo material. This might have a chance to match the highest charting song he’s ever appeared on, but we won’t speak of his other performance.

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It’s no secret that rap is a genre of imitation. Aspiring MCs always look to the radio to see what musical style gets air play. So by making an incredibly successful club track that’s also personal Uzi has opened the door for typically vapid rappers to the showcase their narrative chops. He’s popularized the storytelling club song. I am officially intrigued by Uzi. Someone I once considered a generic trap artist has not only earned my respect, but my interest. A song this bold being released as a loosie makes me infinitely curious about what he releases next.

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