During what was surely a riotous show in Sydney back in February, a 23-year-old rapper from Philadelphia reportedly had the audacity to proclaim that he was “the last living rockstar”.
It’s a statement that will no doubt wind up the rock establishment and beyond, but it’s 2018: why can’t the ascendant and whimsical Lil Uzi Vert consider himself to be a rockstar? A Grammy-nominated, septum ring-wearing, Marilyn Manson-worshipping artist, he commands the attention of 4.48 million people on Twitter, has racked up hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify, and has been referenced by both Jay-Z and Lana Del Rey in their songs. If anything, Uzi’s certainly not someone we should be overlooking in terms of ascertaining which artists are having the biggest influence over music today.
After rising to the top of the SoundCloud hype machine in 2015 and signing a record deal with Atlantic, Lil Uzi Vert – who picked up his rap moniker after someone told him that he rapped “like a little Uzi” – achieved something close to attaining superstar status just as 2017 rolled around. First off, he appeared on Migos’ world-conquering hit ‘Bad & Boujee’ (albeit pitching in with the track’s weakest verse), before he then released his well-received debut studio album, the emo-hop ‘Luv Is Rage 2’, in August. On it features heady, approval-giving contributions from The Weeknd and Pharrell, as well as his huge magnum opus of a single ‘XO Tour Llif3’.
Uzi has also earned a reputation in recent years for his chaotic live shows, which typically feature a deluge of circle pits and stage dives: at one festival in Miami last year, Uzi jumped from the roof of a building into the crowd – evidence of a ruthless streak which no doubt endears him to his legions of young fans.
And, with a sold-out show at London’s O2 Academy Brixton on the itinerary of his 16*29 tour, last night (April 10) felt like a perfect acid test for Uzi’s budding rockstar credentials. Practically bouncing onto the sparse Brixton stage in a Spongebob Squarepants shirt and blue motorbike gloves after being introduced by his touring DJ PForReal, the screams around the venue are deafening – so much so that it’s hard to hear Uzi on the mic for the first five minutes of the show.
Tracks from ‘Luv Is Rage 2’ take precedence, with ‘444+222’ lighting the touchpaper in the standing section as limbs, sweat and clothes go flying in the heaving mosh pit. Uzi loves it, alternating between giving the crowd devil horns, orchestrating mosh pits and doing the viral ‘Shoot’ dance as fans from the balcony to the front row struggle to keep check of their emotions. It’s pretty hard not to get swept up in all the excitement, with NME spotting one bouncer trying his absolute best to stay professional by resisting the urge to sing along to ‘Sauce It Up’.
“There’s a lot of people hating on Lil Uzi,” the rapper tells the crowd during a rare pause in proceedings. “Due to the fact that I’m the best in the world and have all the money!” Bolshy, on-stage claim befitting of a rockstar? Tick.
That introduction preceded an airing of the 2016 track ‘Ps & Qs’, which jostles for room in a packed setlist with the likes of ‘7am’, weepy break-up ballad ‘The Way Life Goes’ and the aforementioned Pharrell collaboration ‘Neon Guts’ – which glistens almost as much as Uzi’s choice of on-stage screen projections, which depict an array of garish colours, dancing skeletons and, naturally, Uzis.
There’s one rather extraordinary moment towards the end of the show where, upon requesting that DJ PForReal cue up ‘XO Tour Llif3’ for the second time in 10 minutes, Uzi decides to open the floor up for a spot of mid-gig karaoke – and he lets us know of that decision by quite literally throwing his microphone high into the air before it falls slap-bang into the middle of the standing section.
— O2 Academy Brixton (@O2academybrix) April 11, 2018
It was this moment that apparently brought his Manchester gig last weekend to a premature end after the crowd failed to return the microphone, but – with the hope that no-one got konked out by the falling mic, of course – tonight it proves to be another one of those euphoric, what-the-fuck moments that have become synonymous with an Uzi show.
Just 50 minutes into his allotted 105 minutes on stage, Uzi – who spends the final 10 minutes of the show mostly zipping around the stage and only occasionally rapping over the backing track – delivers one final call-and-response (“When I say ‘Uzi’, you say ‘London’”) before he then drops the mic, drinks up one final serving of the rapturous acclaim from his audience and departs the stage.
Have we been short-changed? Not at all – all good rockstars know to leave their fans wanting more.