Five years ago today, rapper Lil Uzi Vert set the world on fire with his third mixtape, “Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World.” The colorfully moody project proved to be Uzi’s breakout moment, as the artist made his first appearance on the Billboard 200 and went platinum in the U.S.
Uzi had already worked in the industry for a few years, but found himself gaining traction on songs like the Carnage produced “WDYW” with Rich the Kid and A$AP Ferg and the 2015 cult classic mixtape “Luv is Rage.”
Uzi slowly started to amass a group of fans, but he didn’t truly catch the world’s attention until bursting onto the scene with the single “Money Longer” just two months before the release of his third tape. This double-platinum track comes complete with the arrogantly loveable lyrics that made Uzi a household name, dark production from longtime collaborators Don Cannon and Maaly Raw and one of the most iconic hip-hop choruses in recent memory.
“It do not matter / turned to a savage, pocket got fatter, she call me daddy / smokin’ that gas gone of the xanny, she on the powder / nowadays I am on, my haters got sadder / money got longer, speaker got louder, car got faster.”
Just as hip-hop mainstay J. Cole is apt to do, Uzi puts no features on the mixtape, giving himself all the time he needs to flex his lyrical creativity and range.
But even though the album is featureless, Uzi still has plenty of personnel, enlisting the talent of legendary producers Metro Boomin and WondaGurl, along with Don Cannon and Maaly Raw, to name a few. Their beats detail a vast array of moods and ideas, allowing Uzi to compile songs for every occasion across just nine tracks.
No beat exemplifies this better than “Hi Roller,” which details a minimalistic distorted beat that feels like it belongs on Kanye West’s “Yeezus.” The beat is complete with a repeating sound that will fill rap fans’ heads with serotonin as Uzi repeatedly raps, “You know I’m a high roller.”
“You Was Right,” one of two tracks produced by Metro, contains a somber beat that will make people reflect on their regrets. Uzi raps from the heart about a failed relationship that he can’t seem to fix over the never-ending drums that fill the song. The solemness results in Uzi’s first platinum hit.
“You was right, I was wrong / Yeah, I should’ve never ever took her home / Yeah, I should’ve just boned / Yeah, fantasy on my phone.”
The album’s explicit lyrics and topics don’t detract from Uzi’s childish persona, as he is able to maintain his cartoonish positivity while still discussing various facets of his life. This is best seen in the immortalized cover, which depicts a stylized tribute to the comic book “Scott Pilgrim” through its art style and covert art.
The comic is also referenced in the tape’s last song, “Scott and Ramona,” which compares Uzi’s relationship with his girlfriend to the titular Scott Pilgrim and his girlfriend, Ramona Flowers. This motif is further established in the title of the tape, which is a blatant reference to the film adaptation, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.”
One of the project’s best moments comes in the form of “Team Rocket,” which is named after the famous villains from the anime series “Pokemon.” Backed by a beautiful ringing and drum loop from producers Lyle Leduff and Don Cannon, Uzi raps with a confidence that could only be found in someone who blew up as fast as he did. Detailing his love for $100 bills and all they can purchase, Uzi breezily enjoys his ever-growing career as he clues fans in on how he feels about his newfound success.
“Like, when it come to hundreds, that;s money my way / remember she ain’t want me, now she all in my face / like, uh, girl you too late, yeah, you ain’t got no taste, yeah / driving to the bank, yeah, I can’t close my safe.”
Like the rest of his 2015-16 discography, this tape represents one of the most critical moments in modern hip hop, paving the way for modern-day rappers like Juice Wrld, YNW Melly and Lil Tecca. While the album’s future is uncertain, “Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World'' represents SoundCloud rap at its finest: a colorful piece of art that stretches the concept and moods of what the hip-hop genre can become.
Alex Falter is the assistant arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org