Experimentation has always been a key element in hip-hop. From newer artists such as Lil Uzi Vert, Trippie Redd, and XXXtentacion who continue to push new and groundbreaking elements into the genre, they’ve shown that hip-hop is an ever-changing style of music that is constantly developing a new sound. However, this isn’t a new trend. Older artists have been doing this since the 80s. While some consider the Beastie Boys to be one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all time, many forget their first project. In 1982 the band released their EP titled Polly Wog Stew. This eight-track release was a punk album that is a stark contrast to their later work and subsequent success. 35 years later we are still seeing the dynamic of experimentation of different genres becoming very prominent in today’s rap music.
A newer artist whose name has received a lot of praise for his dynamic style is none other than Lil Uzi Vert. Uzi has always pushed a sound that stood out above the rest of his peers in the New Wave. One of his earlier projects, LUV Is Rage, shows the influence of different styles in his music. This release by Lil Uzi Vert was his main entrance into the popular music scene, while these 16 tracks were filled with exciting and fast-paced bangers; one song stood out from the rest. The song in question is “Right Now” which featured a slower beat and remarkably different lyrics which tell a story of how a rising Uzi has to pass up opportunities due to his career taking off. The song takes a slower and more emotionally driven approach which is the foundation of his later releases including his chart-topping “XO Tour Llif3”.
A year later, Uzi releases Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World which continues the pattern from Luv Is Rage and including a love song for his girlfriend at the time Brittany Byrd. Similarly to the track “Right Now” following his previous release, “Scott and Ramona” features a slower pace, playful melodies, and punk-inspired vocals As this pattern continues with his next release of The Perfect LUV Tape it is easy to see Uzi’s crossing the line of the rap genre and emo genre.
Emo music became widely popular in the 2000’s with bands such as “My Chemical Romance”, “Fall Out Boy”, “Brand New”, “Paramore”, and “Panic! at the Disco” taking the genre to the top and set a standard that is still hard to challenge even today. These bands told stories of pain, love, and everything in between. These bands and many others would inspire a generation and continue to break records at the time. Lil Uzi Vert’s lyrics, persona, and style are very similar to those of the hit emo bands of the 2000’s.
All of Uzi’s hard work and dedication of crossing genres was fully recognized in early 2017. “XO Tour Llif3” was a monumental success in sales, but also in publicity. The song details his breakup with Brittany Byrd and how this falling out led to suicidal thoughts and ensuing substance abuse. The success of this song made Lil Uzi Vert, a rapper, become an emo icon and showed that an artist of his talent can in fact clearly cross genre boundaries while gathering respect from both parties.
In this modern era, one can see why the progression of music is essential to the future. Crossing genres, speaking of taboos, and becoming a self-proclaimed “rock star” is just the start for Lil Uzi Vert. In a society where suicide, substance abuse, and mental health issues aren’t given enough attention, it’s important to have artists that can unite multiple groups and spread awareness on these topics by detailing them through music. Lil Uzi Vert is a great example of an artist who is invested in his work and style and is a leader in a new generation of artists who are breaking social boundaries.