The confident, even brazen, Red & White is further proof that Lil Uzi Vert has the uncanny ability to stay one step ahead of us all.
This past month, Lil Uzi Vert decided to embrace chaos. No, they haven’t pledged their unwavering loyalty to the dark lord Satan (at least not yet) or went on a Tyler Durden-esque anarchist bombing spree around major metropolitan cities in the name of freedom. Instead, they released their latest EP, Red & White, and with it came the most chaotic album roll-out since Donda 2 earlier this year. Three promotional singles were dropped exclusively on SoundCloud during the lead-up, then a few more, then the rest were dumped onto streaming services — only to have the first slew of previously released tracks not make it onto the final product. Some songs were still lingering on SoundCloud, and some new ones remained elsewhere in perpetual limbo; it was a grand ole’ mess, and one the notoriously impish Uzi probably took a lot of devilish delight in engineering.
This rebelliousness was eventually squared away and dealt with: all ten tracks were neatly placed in the correct order (save for “Believe Me,” which remains a SoundCloud exclusive to this day), starting with the spaced-out “Space Cadet” and ending with the grandiose “F.F.” — which, yes, does indeed take a sample from Masashi Hamauzu’s iconic Final Fantasy OST and throws a skittering trap high-hat over it. The chosen cover — Uzi painting on a canvas in front of an attentive audience, with his other “masterpieces” (mixtapes) hanging nearby — is fitting, in that the general approach to songwriting here seems to be throwing anything on a wall and seeing what sticks. The music, then, isn’t “almost dry” like Pusha-T’s; this work is still wet on arrival. But Uzi always works best when backed into a corner, when he actually has something to prove; here, he doesn’t, but still rises to the occasion anyway.
In short — much like Uzi’s own diminutive height or the brief half-hour length of the project — the music that makes up Red & White provides a nice little snapshot of where Uzi’s been and where they might be going, taking stock of his growing influence and picking up a few new sounds along the way. As a holdover for the upcoming Pink Tape, fans really couldn’t ask for a better summation of Uzi’s talents at the present moment: their breathless delivery on “Flex Up” builds on the triplet-flow promise of Eternal Atake’s “POP,” with a clearer sense of rhythm guiding the many pockets he dips in and out of; the way they completely command “Hittin My Shoulder”’s propulsive chorus through sheer force of will; and the way he stretches his vowels across “Glock In My Purse” to make the titular “purse” sounds like a “hearse” (or, more accurately, a “puuuuuuuuurse”).
There’s a clear comfortability Uzi displays when hopping on any of these beats, a confidence that’s difficult to match and even harder to outright describe; while they’ve stayed relatively silent on the music side of things for the past few years, Uzi makes their presence felt almost immediately, and sticks to it for an impressive run. There are a few misses (the repetitive “I Know” and bland “For Fun”) that feel especially egregious given the limited duration of the project, but they’re nearly all redeemed by the massive “Issa Hit” overshadowing everything that’s come before. Working with long-time collaborator Oogie Mane, Uzi goes full Carti-mode over the rage-influenced track (whose mammoth beat sounds like it’s slowly capsizing on itself), first by asking the probing “Are you dumb?” before bouncing right back with the coy “Better use your medulla.” It seems that by embracing chaos, Uzi’s remained one step ahead of us all.
Published as part of Album Round — July 2022 | Part 2.