<p>Lil Uzi Vert photographed on Nov. 7, 2017 at&nbsp&#x3B;Carondelet&nbsp&#x3B;House in Los Angeles.</p>

Lil Uzi Vert photographed on Nov. 7, 2017 at Carondelet House in Los Angeles.
Ramona Rosales

2017 No. 1s: Lil Uzi Vert on How Being 'Authentic' Took 'XO Tour Llif3' to Pop Radio

Billboard 200 (one week), Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (five weeks), Top Rap Albums (five weeks)

Rap Streaming Songs (one week), R&B/Hip-Hop Streaming Songs (one week)

The 2016 mega-viral hit “Bad and Boujee,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 in January, didn't just catapult Migos to superstardom -- it shone a spotlight on a singular Philadelphia rapper who used his first four featured bars to yelp, “Yah!” Lil Uzi Vert, 23, was already an underground star for his mixtapes, where he emotively sing-raps about love and fame over woozy beats, but he became a hitmaker in February with “XO Tour Llif3,” a brooding track marked by the refrain, “Push me to the edge/All my friends are dead.” In September, debut album Luv Is Rage 2 launched at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, cementing his place among rap’s most vital new voices. For Atlantic chairman/COO Julie Greenwald, the allure is clear: “Whatever he’s feeling, he takes you on the journey with him.”

Lil Uzi Vert: I was on tour overseas with The Weeknd and Bryson Tiller and I put out these four songs on SoundCloud. They were just throwaways, and one of them, “XO Tour Llif3,” started taking off.

Julie Greenwald: All of a sudden we see a giant amount of streams coming in, so we raced to get the record out on the proper digital streaming platforms. It exploded. I mean, there was no one in here who said, “That song’s going to stream 20-odd million times in the first week.” We’re good, but not that good.

Craig Kallman, chairman/CEO, Atlantic Records: People are hungry for originality and honesty. Uzi was from the absolute beginning marching to his own drum, and through his music you’re getting a peek into this enigmatic hip-hop figure. The mystery is attractive. Layer on a smash hit record and the results are explosive.

Uzi: I was speaking authentic on “XO Tour Llif3.” Anyone can relate: I was in a dark space, so I went with it. That’s how I made the album. I just got that feeling: These are the songs, that’s it.

Michael Kyser, president of black music, Atlantic Records: Honestly, he creates his own paintings -- this is one where we don’t touch it. He has a point of view and it’s our jobs to spread his word. This is Lil Uzi. This is a movement. He’s a real rap rock star.

Read Lana Del Rey's cover story here

Read Cardi B's cover story here

Read Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee's cover story here

Billboard Year in Music 2017

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 30 issue of Billboard.


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