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

LUV IS RAGE 2
Billboard 200 (one week), Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (five weeks), Top Rap Albums (five weeks)

“XO TOUR LLIF3”
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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