Lil Uzi Vert Dials Up His Rockstar Persona on Debut Album ‘Luv Is Rage 2’

Philadelphia up-and-comer Lil Uzi Vert isn’t one to mince words, proclaiming to anyone who will listen his status as a bona fide rockstar. The 23-year-old does more than talk the talk, though. His viral stage dive at this year’s Rolling Loud Festival not only played off that rock star trope, but shot him even higher into popular estimation, with memes popping up and multiplying faster than a wet batch of Gremlins. The emcee’s steady string of mixtape releases kept the hip-hop community on edge, and his feature on Migos’ chart-topping “Bad and Bougee” made Vert an undeniable force in rap’s near future. Vert’s full-length debut, “Luv Is Rage 2,” sees the lightning-tonged rapper unleash his signature blend of melody and frenzy, while also taking a few introspective steps back.

If there’s one thing Vert’s smash hit, “XO TOUR Llif3″ proved it’s that the man knows his way around a melody. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t at least know part of the unshakeable hook, “Push me to the edge / all my friends are dead,” even if they do sing it ironically. He continues to shape his trap sound around those same melodic standouts, a trait that works well with the club-shaking production that fills his full-length debut. “Sauce it Up” is drenched with infectious, sing-along vibes, while also peppering in a Pokemon reference, reminding listeners that Vert is still only 23. Meanwhile, follow-up “No Sleep Leak” leans heavy on disembodied production, but Vert’s high register is still unmistakable.

For the most part, “Luv Is Rage 2” works as the club’s next bass-heavy soundtrack, with cuts like “444+222,” “Early 20 Rager” and “X” buzzing and blaring with all the trappings of your next party playlist. But Vert also manages to take a sensitive stance, or at least an introspective one, stepping back and evaluating past relationships and a determination to move past them. It’s a stylistic decision that gives credence to his rock star claims, exploring the more serene side that usually permeates angsty rock as opposed to flashy trap. He explores these growing pains on “Feelings Mutual” and “The Way Life Goes,” a track that samples Oh Wonder’s “Landslide” in the hook — a nice nod to hip-hop’s ability to merge genres. Vert even throws on the heartwarming “Dark Queen,” where he sings “When I was small, mama made me tall.”

The Weeknd and Pharell Williams grace the album as features, with the latter shining like only Pharrell can. On “For Real,” Vert does a nice bit of foreshadowing, rapping “All of my diamonds for real / different color like Pharrell’s,” only for the producing juggernaut himself to show up just a few tracks later on “Neon Guts” to go line-for-line with Lil Uzi. Pharrell comes off so incredibly well on this track, spitting bars so tight and ferocious, it’s mind-blowing to think the man can sing and produce too. There’s nothing Pharrell can’t do.

Ultimately, “Luv Is Rage 2” makes no bones about what it is. It’s a trap record through and through, with a few elements bleeding over from the indie and emo genres. Like with most trap records, the first few tracks are incredibly fun to listen to, but the sound gets stale afterward, and it takes a change-up like the exotic “Malfunction” to draw listeners back in, and that track finds itself toward the end of the album. Still, as far as debuts are concerned, “Luv is Rage 2” is one fit for a rock star.

Luv Is Rage 2” is available Aug. 25 on Apple Music.