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How Lil Uzi Vert & Playboi Carti Changed Culture

I care deeply about everyone & everything, but the older I get, the less fucks I find myself giving. As a nerdy writer, people always ask me how I can like trap music as much as I do while being aware of the overarching social implications of the music, especially in the city I live in. My journey into full trap music fanhood coincided with my journey into the adult world. I realized that SpeakerKnockerz was right, sometimes you really have to make a couple bands by your lonely, on some level, you really have to not give a fuck and be about getting that money. And I might not be selling drugs, but I have to make a living just like anyone else, and the music speaks to that part of me, and that part of everyone else, which is why trap music became as huge as it did.

Also, the level of experimentation & the quality of music in trap music over the last decade has been some of the greatest things that has happened in music in my lifetime. Artists like The Migos, Young Thug, Future, Gucci Mane, Chief Keef, Soulja Boy and more changed music. With the help of producers like Metro Boomin, Zaytoven, Young Chop, Soulja Boy, 808 Mafia, DJ Esco, and more, they were responsible for setting the tone for the 2010s. Trap music is true and authentic street music that spawned from people in the trap. All of these artists were broke, in the hood, most of them in and out of jail, really living the life they were talking about on wax and evoking that energy into the music and creating new flows and styles for the whole world.

When Chief Keef dropped the whole world changed and that’s not an exaggeration, everyone changed how they dressed with True Religions, baggy khakis, and polo shirts with the collar up becoming the norm across the world, they changed how they talked with everyone incorporating words like glow up into their daily conversations, they changed how they posed for pictures, they changed the filters on their Instagram pictures with everyone deep frying their pictures, rappers stopped enunciating their words, they said adlibs like bang bang and aye, they took the operatic sampling techniques, reckless lyricism, homemade music videos, everyone wanted to be Chief Keef.

Chief Keef influenced an entire generation in the late 2010s that ended up setting the trend for the 2020s and that’s who I’d really like to focus on.

Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti are some of my favourite artists of all time. Being 17 years old listening to lil Uzi in the summer of 2016 was literally a life changing moment for me, and seeing how both of these artists have been able to evolve, grow and reinvent themselves over the years has been incredible. It’s hard to talk about either Uzi or Carti without mentioning the other because their history’s are so tied together and they’re both equally important pieces to the trajectory of the culture. They have similar styles, similar looks, similar fan bases, similar content, they say some of the same things, have some of the same adlibs, and have referred to each other as best friends and enemies for years.

With the help of producers like TM88, Mexikodro, Pierre Bourne, Metroboomin and more they were able to carve out these spacey songs that were focused on vibes and flows, talking about money, hoes, clothes and drugs.

Playboi Carti and Uzi were both these alternative skateboarding art kids that saw trap music for what it really was, an evolution of music, and they wanted to take it and expand it. Carti was in Atlanta but he was from the suburbs, Uzi was from Philly where everyone has a very east coast style that consists of poetry and gritty street music, but they both chose to pattern themselves after Chief Keef & Atlanta trap music, as well as rock music.

It’s hard to discuss these artists with a certain level of depth because their whole thing is that they don’t give a fuck. That’s why a lot of Carti fans have been memed to death all over the internet, because they wanted to share the level of emotion that this artist evokes in them, and before I really FELT Playboi Carti, I used to think his fans were trolls, and don’t get me wrong there is a level of exaggeration about the adoration for Carti, but man, I get it. You really have to be living a certain type of lifestyle to really relate to the music. When you care about clothes, and girls, and getting money, the music truly resonates more than ever, and that’s the phase I’m at in life as a childless young adult.

Iron sharpens iron, Ali needed Frazier, Naruto needed Sasuke, Jay needed Nas, XXXTentacion needed Ski Mask The Slump God, Uzi needs Carti and vice versa. Both these guys started rapping while they were still in school, Carti in 8th grade and Uzi in 10th grade. They both started rapping at a shift in music, artists like Young Thug, Future, Chief Keef and Gucci Mane were out and the trap sound was out, while at the same time it was the blog era so artists like Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, Drake, Tyler The Creator, A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa, and more were out. They also had access to the internet and YouTube which gave them access to a whole world of music, fashion & art. .

This is also a post Kanye-Pharrell world where fashion and high taste level is at an all time high, people like Ian Connor were legends on Tumblr for their style and clothing, and reblogging various aesthetics, Ian would go on to meet Carti and introduce him to people like A$AP Rocky that would go on to sign him, as well as introducing him to Kanye West. People like A$AP Rocky would name drop Rick Owens on songs back in 2011, something that has become a staple for both Carti & Uzi’s fashion.

Carti has had a great taste in beats since he was 13 and kept up with the hottest and newest producers, designers, and fresh people on the scene, same as Lil Uzi. Uzi was a fan of Marilyn Manson and GG Island, as well as being a fan of Kendrick Lamar, Young Thug and Mike Jonze, and you could see how he melded all his influences into this style that is uniquely Lil Uzi Vert, a sound I had never heard anything similar to when I first heard it, and anyone I hear today that sounds like him cites him as an influence. Uzi and Carti have evolved multiple times throughout the years and despite only being in the mainstream for about 7 years, their influence is already extremely visible. By the time Carti and Uzi got famous in 2016 they had both been rapping in the underground for about a decade, they were well developed and intentional artists who knew what they were doing but the industry and certain fans couldn’t see that, it just seemed like kids on drugs saying aye over and over.

The death of their peers XXXTentacion, Juice Wrld and Lil Peep have really allowed us to see how monumental this group of artists have been due to how huge those artists have become. Similar to how Biggie and Tupac dying made people realize how great Jay Z was and how he was actually one of the greatest people still alive doing this thing that was actually a network and a scene of artists that were educated on their music history and were creating something fresh, new, and were some of the greatest to have ever done it, that’s exactly how I feel about Lil Uzi and Playboi Carti, I believe these are some of the best rappers and hip hop artists we have ever had, and they’ve just used trap music as the medium.

These artists helped mark a stylistic shift, a sonic shift, a shift in fashion, and to this day, despite their level of influence they’re still not respected for their artistry by a lot of older people and various demographics that don’t really get it because they’re still stuck on it being “mumble rap” but that’s kind of the point of the genre. It’s hard to talk about influence in rap because ultimately you fall into an endless wormhole. Uzi and Carti were both influenced by Chief Keef, Keef was influenced by Gucci Mane, Gucci was influenced my Project Pat, Project Pat was influenced by 8 Ball & MJG and the list goes on and on, but there’s no denying Carti and Uzis influence on the current landscape in the 2020s so far.

Uzi and Carti exist 50 years after the beginning of hip hop, they took the genre to its most meta level, talking about money, hoes and clothes, and they merged it with these beats, flows and vibes that were otherworldly by using a lot of drugs, as well as borrowing flows from punk rock, and other reference points that weren’t the norm in rap, they also lived every word they were rapping, you could hear the sincerity in their voice, their music reflects their lifestyle.

Luv Is Rage, Lil Uzi vs The World and The Perfect Luv Tape instantly made Uzi one of my favorite artists in the summer of 2016. Songs like Money Longer, Do What I Want, You Was Right, Ps & Qs, Top, 7 AM, Canada Goose, the list goes on and on, but these are all some of my favourite songs in life in hindsight and they all came out from one artist in the span of a few months in one of my favourite summers when I was graduating high school and really becoming an adult on some coming of age shit. Uzi was an attitude, a lifestyle, something I completely felt even if I didn’t relate to all the lyrics, you could feel Uzi's vibe for what’s been going on in his life radiating through his music.

I could clearly see that Uzi wasn’t just mumbling, the tapes were talking about his relationship with Bryttany, his shows, his clothes, his money, and what’s been going on in his life since he became a successful musician as a 20 year old, a dream he embarked on in the tenth grade. When guys like Joe Budden and Ebro would go on interviews to trash Uzi for “not saying anything” it would blow my mind cause it meant they really weren’t listening or paying attention. Uzi would pick these synth & bass heavy futuristic beats that have become the foundation of today's sound, and he would effortlessly flow over them with his catchy melodies, by the time Uzi became famous in 2016 freestyling had come to him so effortlessly that any clip of him rapping to a beat was going viral.

Uzi could have stuck to the classic fun Uzi sound but he switched his sound on Luv Is Rage 2 and came with more emo rage sounding music, that coined an entire genre, Uzi had gone through a breakup and had admitted he was in a bad space in life, songs like The Way Life Goes, Sauce It Up, 20 Minutes & more would stray from everything Uzi had previously done while refining his moldies, harmonies and beat selection, this was also the era where he’d create XOTourLife3, a song detailing his breakup that would go on to break all kinds of records. After battling with his label for a few years and teasing his fans with internet breaking snippets, Uzi came back 3 years later with Eternal Atake, an album whose influence we weren’t able to fully appreciate because it dropped during a pandemic but has had ramifications all over the music scene today, this was more of Uzi returning to his classic sound and refining what people loved about him.

After Carti came with Whole Lotta Redd in the same year as Eternal Atake, Uzi waited 3 years to drop his album The Pink Tape, he had a pink diamond put in his forehead, changed his name yet again and continued his alien evolution with an experimental introspective pop rock metal hybrid that has shifted the landscape of rap music yet again. For their entire careers these artists have been controversial, you either love them or you hate them but there’s no in between and that’s how people feel about the pink tape, I personally love it.

The first time I heard Playboi Carti was on Lil Uzi's Perfect Luv Tape on the track We Ghetto Flowers with Offset. Cash Carti was revolutionary in 2016, all he cared about was fashion, music, money, and girls, and I felt the same way. Carti doesn’t give a fuck, and as a human being it’s so hard not to give a fuck, but this man lived every word he was rapping, Playboi Carti is one of the most inspirational and creative artists I have ever heard in music. He only has 3 albums but each one is more different, creative and influential than the last, and he continues to reinvent himself every year. With the help of producers like Pierre Bourne and Art Dealer, Carti borrowed flows from Chief Keef and crafted an entire sonic lane for himself that an entire generation resides in at the moment, while he was creating fashion movements at the same time.

Carti is a lot like Young Thug in that there are few people in the world who can use flows and vocal inflections as well to communicate their feelings, as seen in the newest flow he’s unlocked on Travis Scott's Utopia earlier this week. Pierre Bourne used his video game and Japanese ambient music inspired samples and created this ethereal timeless sound for Carti that is truly generational and was perfected in tapes like Self Titled and Die Lit.

The Cash Carti sound was influential in the entire plugg genre and SoundCloud era and influenced multiple rap subgenres. Songs like Shootas, Flatbed Freestyle, Location, Long Time & Flex are literally some of the greatest songs I’ve heard in my life. If Carti had retired after Die Lit, for my generation at least, he would have easily been one of the greatest rappers ever, but instead he switched up his entire sound and came back with Whole Lotta Redd, an album whose influence we’ve yet to fully understand completely with rage music being all the rage in the underground scene today with artists like Destroy Lonely, Ken Carson, BK The Rula, SoFaygo, Trippie Redd and more following in the albums footsteps.

Whole Lotta Redd is not Cash Carti anymore, this is King Vamp, a blood looking for blood, Carti has admittedly been through a lot and seen some stuff and this album is him communicating everything he’s been feeling, from the joys of success, to the dangers of his lifestyle, to his rage over dead homies, and everything in between. Carti switched the baby voice for this raspy rockstar tone, he dyed his hair red and became a vampire, this was a true metamorphosis, of his sound, his image, everything you had known about Carti before this album was irrelevant because it was basically a different guy, and he somehow gave even less fucks. And to say Carti doesn’t give a fuck isn’t just a cool saying, if you hear the sounds he’s making, he was around gangsters doing that baby voice, you can’t do that if you give a fuck. That level of artistry takes a level of self confidence that has allowed Carti to be one of the trendsetters of a generation, unafraid to experiment, be called weird, and try something new. The clothes he’s wearing, everything he’s doing is so against the norm of what he’s done or what would have previously been deemed “cool” and that takes a level of guts. Few people would be comfortable doing the baby voice, let alone mastering it, then abandoning it.

King Vamp from Whole Lotta Redd is a completely different person, it's difficult to compare that project with any of his other projects because of how different it is, and everyday it sounds a million times better than the day it came out, even though I’ve been a fan since the day it came out. The album just came back into the Billboard 200 again because people are finally catching up to how incredible that album is after seeing the live shows and Cartis' complete transformation with the Opium look, aesthetic, stage design and more. Carti doesn’t even seem human anymore, he’s more an alien at this point, same with Uzi.

These artists are some of the best we have today. They don’t act as an escape from reality, more like a reframing of priorities and a reminder that it’s really not that serious, and I could be getting money, getting fly and getting high instead, and they do all this on top of some of the greatest musical production I’ve ever laid my ears on.

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