Is Uzi Free?

As the 24-year-old Philly rapper stands in a wake of his own controversy, he seems to inflict more upon himself.

Photo courtesy of Lil Uzi Vert

Photo courtesy of Lil Uzi Vert

Story by Thomas Galindo

In early January 2019, Lil Uzi Vert announced that he was done with music and thanked all of his supporters via Instagram. It would soon be discovered that the reason for his retirement was the dispute he was continuously having with his label, Generation Now in partnership with Atlantic Records. DJ Drama, owner of Generation Now, explained through Instagram that Lil Uzi had the blessing of the label to drop his newly-anticipated album, “Eternal Atake”, which was announced in July 2018. However, the Philly-native doesn’t want  to drop any music under his current contract. He has recently signed a management deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, which will potentially help resolve this issue. A complaint from Uzi’s camp stated that DJ Drama and Generation Now refuse to put up the money for Uzi’s booth and recording time, which was a part of their contract.

Despite  confusion and butting of heads, Lil Uzi is simply a young rapper in his creative prime, who is eager to release music. Here is where “#FreeUzi” comes in.

On March 28, 2019, Uzi decided to take matters into his own hands. He self-released the freestyle track “Free Uzi,” accompanied by a music video posted to YouTube by the producer of the track, Qasquiat. The song came out on Soundcloud, where the artist got his start, and Tidal, the streaming platform owned by Jay-Z, the artist and entrepreneur to whom Uzi just signed.

Uzi’s eagerness, while admirable, may not have been the smartest move, seeing it’s only led  to further controversy. The song features an instrumental from G-Herbo’s 2012 track “Gangway.” Although the producer of the original song gave Uzi his blessing to use the beat, Uzi released the song without clearing the sample and is ineligible to receive any profit from it. After the release, Tidal removed the song from their platform \This most likely explains the high-pitched tone of his vocals and the beat on the song, which was done to potentially avoid any clearance troubles.

The high-paced, three minute track shows a trend Uzi may be developing of long-winded, skillfully rhymed explosions. Much like his September 2018 single “New Patek,” the verses on “Free Uzi” tend to find one rhyme scheme and stick to it for a prolonged amount of time, and while this displays his talent as is lyricist, may lack substance most of the time. As usual, Uzi raps about charming women, having lots of money, being spiteful of his ex and having guns. While there are a few highlight bars which certainly point to his label dispute such as “I can't trust none of these n****s, might turn on me, I'm still a millionaire, this shit not hurtin' me (Woah)” and “Bulletproof on my tank, that's my insurgency, These ol' n****s wanna rob me like a burglary (Let's go),” the style of his flow can get boring.

If Uzi’s music continues to trend in this direction, instead of melodic, soulful and shouting choruses like on “Luv Is Rage 2,” then this would be a major shift in his aesthetic, and he may not be better off for it.