Monday, April 15th, 2019

Lil Uzi Vert – Free Uzi

Please do not contact us about the free Uzi…


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Taylor Alatorre: “Free Uzi”: is that a command or a description? The pitched-up vocals may be his cheeky protest against an allegedly stingy contract, but they also make him sound younger and less established, an effect heightened by the use of a 2012 drill instrumental from a then 16-year-old G Herbo. It’s not only label restrictions from which he’s freed himself, but the mercurial demands of hip-hop trendiness; this is a space where he can imitate mixtape-era Lil Wayne to his heart’s content. Beyond the superficial thrill of hearing an unrestrained Uzi go to battle with the very concept of dead air, there aren’t any lyrical corkscrews of Weezy caliber, and the verbal parkour preempts his usual talent for melodic phrasing. This is a statement record that says very little other than “Uzi is still out here,” which, all told, is still worth a listen.
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Julian Axelrod: The first time I heard this, in the woozy hours of the evening when its streaming futures were uncertain, the progressively pitched-up vocals made me think it was fake. Maybe the choice was a sly legal maneuver to sidestep Atlantic’s legal team, but it’s also the perfect garnish for Uzi’s motormouthed cartoon cadence. It feels like he’s been trapped in a cave for 30 years writing punchlines about getting head, only to burst free and rap so fast he transcends dimensions. (Shouts to G Herbo, whose original flow is more earthbound but no less urgent.) It’s honestly wild that rappers are still subject to label drama and “delayed” projects; it feels so 2004. But watching bitter MCs work through label frustrations by turning a throwaway mixtape beat to mincemeat will never get old.
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Maxwell Cavaseno: Many will properly observe that “Free Uzi” relies on DJ L’s beat for the older song by G Herbo (then Lil’ Herb) “Gangway.” Few besides that will observe that, unlike the preceding record, “Free Uzi” features an actually competent street rapper. Yes, yes, enough talk has been made about Uzi being a “rockstar” or implying that he’s actually a Fueled by Ramen kid trapped in the body of a tattooed rapper, a narrative that’s thoroughly misguided and racially patronizing in ways that rarely get taken to task. But thankfully we have a record such as “Free Uzi” to dispel that. It’s deliberately within the style of East Coast hard-nose rap, which remains in drill territory these days and is an influence on him via the generation that brought us Durk and Keef — so why not revisit the classics? It’s a constant battering of machine-gun flowing and bars that demonstrates his abilities to fit in with the contemporaries you never knew he was actually among. Despite his inconsistent releases in the last year or so, it’s fair to say Uzi’s more than equipped to fit in wherever the present requires him to.
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Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The good and bad of “Free Uzi” stem from its very nature — it’s a leak-that’s-not-a-leak and a stab at creative revival from an artist who has seemed creatively disengaged over the last year. So, fittingly, it’s both full of energy and bad ideas (shouts out to the Big Bang Theory.) It’s uneven and probably should have stayed in the fault, but there’s just enough promise here to remind listeners of why they wanted Uzi back in the first place.
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Ryo Miyauchi: Considering Lil Uzi Vert is an internet darling more for singing along to Paramore, and the fact SoundCloud rap as a genre gets attention more for how its artists take inspiration from outside of rap, it’s perhaps natural that I don’t really have a good grasp on what rap music Uzi listens to besides the ones made by his peers. So Uzi swiping a Chicago drill beat used by G Herbo in 2012 was quite revelatory in that he’s a rapper’s rapper first no matter what other interests float around his orbit. He approaches the recycled beat in a manner that recalls ’00s mixtape-era Lil Wayne: a new dexterous flow, a bars-first mentality, and a very loose handle on pop structure. The chorus blends with the rest of the oversized verses, and he spits in such breakneck speed, he doesn’t give enough time for the punchlines to properly digest. But his high-pitched taunting voice oozes with confidence that every chirp still feels like a punch to the ego.
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Iris Xie: Damn, I was actually hoping that I didn’t hear the word “ejaculate” in the song, like I thought I misheard and that he said “coat check” or something, but I checked and no, he said ejaculate. But I’m actually impressed by his non-stop demeanor here, as Lil Uzi Vert sounds like the Roadrunner trying to outrun himself and everyone else coming for him, but — whoops, he’s gonna switch and run on them! His pace is the sonic equivalent of those incredibly, ridiculously fast zombies in Train to Busan. Also, there’s a bracing urgency to his flow, punctuated by the trap beats that sound like sharp aluminum clinking on other metals, which provide an ace backdrop to his relentlessness. Regarding the lyrics themselves, I guess it just occurred to me now that there’s a purpose to the detail of bravado and come-uppance in rap and that it’s not just bluster, because it helps reinforce the messaging of the hustle presented in the music. Also, wordplay abounds — “Wonton, flood the block with some Wock’ in it/They saw I was comin’ so they all just start hoppin’ fence” is just one of many really nice examples of consonance and assonance. Specifically, that wonton, block, wok line is a fun callback to how both Asian and Black cultural production do influence each other quite a bit and permeate the inner dialogues of a lot of artists. But overall, there’s a lot to enjoy about this song, even if I was thrown off at first.
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Ashley John: “Free Uzi” is the incessant buzz and stab of a tattoo needle. Uzi pummels forward so confidently you forget when the track started or if it has always been this black whir in the back of your head. Uzi’s grit coupled with his muscle memory melody remind us of the hole that exists in modern rap when he’s not around to fill it. 
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One Response to “Lil Uzi Vert – Free Uzi”

  1. Ashley’s blurb is perfect

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