Lil Uzi Vert
Sounds Like: Flexing, giving pounds and talking smack while hugging the block
For Fans of: Young Thug, Wiz Khalifa, Soulja Boy
Why You Should Pay Attention: Given the blond dreadlocks, skater look, odd melodies and strangely lilting trap voice of Lil Uzi Vert, you might mistake him for another Atlanta iconoclast. But the 21-year-old hails from Philadelphia, a city with deep hip-hop roots extending back to the days of Lady B. "I enjoy down South music. When I was young, I listened to Ying Yang Twins and Mike Jones. But I also listened to [Philly] guys like Beanie Sigel, too," he says. "So instead of just flexin' when I rap, I also talk some grimy stuff." Born Symere Woods, he attended Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School and played cornet and trumpet. By high school, he began making rap songs. "[A friend] said, 'You rap fast, like a little Uzi, like a machine gun," he says. "Vert is, like, straight to the top, like a vertical leap." A 2014 track, "U.Z.I.," caught the attention of Atlanta DJ Don Cannon, and earned him a deal with Cannon and DJ Drama's Generation Now imprint, which is distributed by Atlantic. He found mentors in Wiz Khalifa and A$AP Rocky, and scored a big EDM hit with his appearance on Carnage's "WDYW." Last October, his first major mixtape, Luv is Rage, logged over five million SoundCloud streams, and on April 15 he dropped a new mixtape, Lil Uzi Vert Vs. the World.
He Says: Many of Lil Uzi Vert's vocal ideas are influenced by a youth absorbing hard rock and emo bands like Paramore, Flyleaf and My Chemical Romance. "In my elementary days, I took a liking to rock & roll music," he says. "I dabbed into Marilyn Manson, which became my favorite. I just take rock songs and mix it with hip-hop and a little bit of R&B. It's not so much the tone, but the different [vocal] pitches, because rock stars can go from a very high to a low pitch. It's something that they do all the time. I make it a little bit more darker as far as the melodies, so it plays out well."
Hear for Yourself: "Money Longer" has nearly 12 million SoundCloud plays. Mosi Reeves