Lil Uzi Vert is the Drake of His Generation
Following an extremely successful year, Lil Uzi Vert is on a direct route to becoming the most popular rapper of his generation.
Lil Uzi Vert has become a household name among all hip-hop fans and it is no surprise to me that his popularity sky-rocketed during 2017. Leading up to this past year Uzi had already established himself as a talented and innovative artist thanks to hit singles like "You Was Right" (produced by Metro Boomin) and "Ps & Qs" (prod. by Don Cannon). He was highlighted in the XXL Freshman class of 2016 and arguably had one of the better performances in that feature. Time and time again after many successful mixtapes, Lil Uzi proved that he is going to be huge. Come 2017 and boom, Migos' "Bad and Boujee" smashed the charts and thrusted both Migos and Uzi into the limelight for most of the first half of the year. Then "XO Tour Llif3" was released and became one of the hottest songs of the year, peaking at number 7 on the Billboard charts (Uzi's highest achieved solo performance), and completely taking over much of the spring/summer soundscape. Summer ends and Luv Is Rage 2 is released, debuting at number 1 and maintaining a high chart placement for what is now 18 weeks. This is where the similarities in popularity between the two artists start and in the rest of this article I hope you will see why I think Uzi is more fit to replace Drake's role than most other rappers of Uzi's generation.
Both Drake and Uzi came up in the mixtape era, a time where many artists have received massive praise due to their free releases being better than some studio albums. The mixtape was popularized by artists like 50 Cent and Lil Wayne back in the early 2000's when they would remix popular tracks in the hip-hop scene and rap over them to get approval from record labels. Because copyright was a thing, these projects had to be released for free. By the time Drake came around it was starting to be more popular to create a full project comprised of many original works to show off the artists talents and also give some of the limelight to producers. Labels were harder to crack as album sales had peaked in 50's time, so releasing full projects for free was a necessary sacrifice to make just to get the attention of major labels. Drake had a jumping off point thanks to his television roles and I believe that helped get his mixtapes a bit more attention and then "So Far Gone" was released on his own label. The features, the producers, lyricism, hooks, and the narratives blasted this project into the limelight and to this day is still revered as one of the greatest mixtapes of all time. Not to mention that the first single on the project "Best I Ever Had" peaked at number 2 on the hot 100 chart as well as number 1 on BOTH Billboards R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and Billboards Rap Songs chart. An impressive year for the young man of Toronto. But we all know that story.
Uzi in the past couple years has seen a similar timeline to his early career. This time, mixtapes are extremely popular, maybe a bit of thanks is in order to Chance the Rapper for being exclusively in the mixtape industry. So Uzi gained a bit of attention from multiple mixtapes but huge success arose from the Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World tape with singles like "Money Longer" and "You Was Right". With two mixtapes in 2016 and an XXL Freshman feature Uzi was on track to be a big hit. So both artists saw rising fame due to their mixtape projects and singles, now all that stood in the way was getting that debut studio album out which was accomplished by both in the next year of their career.
Following a successful 2009 Drake followed up to the critically acclaimed mixtape with his first studio release "Thank Me Later". The two top singles from that project were "Over" and peaking at number 5 was "Find Your Love". This project solidified Drake as a genre bender in the industry akin to Kanye's 808's & Heartbreak but this time Drake flexed a bit more of the hip-hop muscle to moderate approval when compared to "So Far Gone" and later "Take Care". First week sales numbered at 447,000 after the record sales had dipped in recent years which still nabbed him the highest first-week sales of any debut artist that year.
Lil Uzi Vert grabbed the exact same title this year with "Luv Is Rage 2" gaining 135,000 first week also making it the best first week of any debut artist in 2017. I am not including Harry Style's "debut" release, the man came from an extremely popular pop-group. That doesn't count. So both artists got a title that really shows the potential of their careers off of their studio releases. Also, Uzi got the Rolling Loud treatment twice last year where he jumped off of a 20 foot structure into the audience at the Miami show. I think Uzi's 2017 was quite a bit more successful than Drake's 2010 due to his feature on "Bad and Boujee" nabbing him his first number 1 and his own single peaking at 4 which is just one more than Drake's "Find Your Love". If this is any sign for anything is that Uzi's popularity is only going to increase. Just don't get caught with guns or something stupid like that.
It is plain to see that Lil Uzi and Drake do not make the same music however they both have a distinct sound that works well for their careers and timing in the industry. The sing/rap formula is found in both artists, Drake because he is the best at it, Uzi because everyone is doing it right now. This formula is what propelled Drake's career and individualized his sound as he took from other influences in this hip-hop revolution thanks to Kanye West successfully pulling the younger generation away from gansta rap. Drake has been known to show a lot of emotion in his music and this makes him so much more relatable than most other artists and I feel that Uzi knows how to capture that vibe when he needs to. On the latest project "XO Tour Llif3" and "The Way It Goes" definitely shows that Uzi can do so, although he might not use the lyricism that aids Drake's narrative's he still accomplishes that relatableness in his own contemporary way. In recent releases Drake has shown quite the trasformation in style to keep new audiences entertained and still stays true to his fans from the beginning and I can see Uzi being able to accomplish this with ease as he is such a versatile rapper.
This topic is where I find the most examples of other artists that can compete with Drake's style and maintain a larger mainstream appeal. Post Malone comes to mind as well as Travis Scott and Young Thug. Young Thug is quite similar to Uzi in versatility and trap style hip-hop, and there are many examples of Young Thug singing in his songs and some are very catchy. I find that Thugger's music might not be as relatable although really entertaining and I can say that I am a big fan however he has had a bit more length of time in the industry with limited fame in comparison to Uzi's quick blow up. Travis Scott falls into this category as well for his style being futuristic while sticking to a similar formula as Drake and Uzi. Travis currently has huge mass appeal and is currently the possible father of currently pregnant Kylie Jenner's daughter and that should surely help his fame jump within Kylie's fan base. Travis' albums have seen a decent amount of success but neither his sophomore or debut project exceeded 100,000 sales within the first week. Now for posty boy, this guy will come close. I think it could be a race to the top between him and Uzi. Stoney, despite having weaker first weak sales ended up becoming one of the top selling albums in 2017 thanks to the success of his singles "Congratulations" and "I Fall Apart" gaining success. He also has been very prominent in the media and just like Uzi and Drake, always appears to be having the time of his life. I would say that Post is probably the direct successor in terms of music style when it comes to Drake but popularity might be one that could be hard to achieve. "Rockstar" is Post's first single for his upcoming sophomore album Beerbongs & Bentleys and gained a large amount of success and only this release will tell us what his career path will be. If you think there is any artists that could compete with Uzi on this matter feel free to comment below or tweet me @julian_rioux.
2018/2019 will be a huge deciding factor in the direction of Lil Uzi Vert's music career. "The Way Life Goes" off of Luv Is Rage 2 is receiving another boost in numbers thanks to the remix featuring Nicki Minaj and a new music video so that will be a nice push, keeping the album on the charts for a while. I'm thinking to kind of solidify a friendly rivalry there will be an Uzi feature on a Drake song that will hit huge numbers and will be a lead single on Drake's next album. I'm assuming there will be a two year wait on an Uzi project, maybe a mixtape in between with his second full length landing near the middle to end of 2019. This sophomore project will have to hit first week sales of around 300K or more to continue Uzi's rise to the top. I could be completely wrong about all of this, only time will tell. I'm a huge fan of both artists and would love to see Uzi get the same treatment that Drake received throughout his career. There's always gotta be somebody at that untouchable level in hip-hop and I believe Uzi is next.