Lil Uzi Vert
North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Most Popular Songs: “Top,” “Money Longer,” “On My Line.”
SoundCloud Followers: 97,600
Philadelphia: home of cheesesteaks, aggressive Eagles fans, 13-year-olds popping wheelies on electric Kawasaki bicycles, Rocky Balboa, the Liberty Bell and unspeakably horrific poverty. Philadelphia carries a violent reputation. Popular rappers such as Meek Mill and Ar-Ab have dominated the Philly rap scene in recent years. Their lyrics reinforce the city’s gritty image. However, Lil Uzi Vert admitted to Vibe Magazine that he has generally stayed out of legal trouble and social drama. That being said, Vert doesn’t produce gritty ‘murder raps,’ or scream Drake-directed death threats over simple instrumentals like Meek Mill does. In the wake of his recent success, Vert has the potential to reshape Philly’s reputation in rap’s social media underground. Lil Uzi Vert has a recognizable aesthetic. He has light blue dreadlocks, face tattoos and wears a shiny silver grill, normally sporting designer wear, and rarely dressing in baggy clothes. Using relatively simplistic wordplay, Vert’s aggressive spitfire comes out in an energetic and melodic frenzy. He often collaborates with familiar ‘trap’ producers such as Don Cannon and Sonny Digital. Vert cycles off between high-pitched, lightly distorted, nasally atmospheric hum-singing and hardcore fast-rapping, typically switching speeds when the hi-hats drop. His lingering, softly auto-tuned singing above cosmic, airy synths gives him a unique sound.
Vert gained a significant following after collaborating with New York artist A$AP Ferg and Atlanta trap-rapper Rich The Kid in their single, ‘Carnage.’ Since Vert dropped his most recent full-length LP, ‘LUV Is RAGE’ last December, his media clout has steadily grown via SoundCloud. The project featured a verse from Pittsburgh’s celebrity stoner, Wiz Khalifa, on Vert’s track ‘Queso.’ Refreshingly, Wiz Khalifa only rapped about his marijuana use twice in his verse. This is major artistic progression for Khalifa. Vert was also featured in Atlanta superstar Young Thug’s recent hit video, ‘Big Racks,’ which has reached three million YouTube views in just two months. During Kanye West’s recent ‘listening party’ and fashion show at Madison Square Garden in NYC, West yelled, “Lil Uzi wit me right now!” Kanye’s cosign is a clear indicator of Vert’s future star power.
Most Popular Songs: “Broke Boi,” “Fetti,” “YungXanHoe”
SoundCloud Followers: 104,000
Playboi Carti, or ‘Cash Carti,’ hails from Riverdale, Georgia. Riverdale is home to scream-rapper and aspiring presidential candidate Waka Flocka Flame, as well as the hometown of a gang of fictional cartoon characters in the ‘Archie’ comic series. The catchy chorus of Carti’s break-out single, ‘Broke Boi,’ follows the ‘word repetition’ formula popularized by other Atlanta-area ‘trap’ artists such as the Migos, famous for their hit ‘Versace.’ But while Carti isn’t on Migos-level extreme word repetition, he is a clear fan of this simple, repetitive formula. Carti and his colleagues at Awful Records, such as Father and iLoveMakonnen approach the Atlanta scene with a refreshing wave of creative energy. Carti is rowdy when provoked, which has gained him some notoriety in the underground rap and fashion community. Carti can be seen on YouTube, where Kanye West’s fashion model Ian Connor films him beating up two 16-year-old clothing designers, ‘Asspizza’ and Kerwin Frost. Ian Connor’s significant social media presence has also contributed to Carti’s rapid rise in popularity. Connor is hyped, worshipped and studied by the ‘fashion kids’ of Twitter and Instagram. If you don’t believe me, Google Ian Connor.
Normally rapping over bass-heavy trap beats, Carti’s sharp, minimal vocal ad-libs highlight the abrupt, frequent pauses he makes between lyrics. Carti has a laidback, swaggering, down-south flow in hypnotizing, ominous songs like ‘YUNGXANHOE’ and ‘Talk.’ However, in other songs, like ‘Count it Up’ and ‘Money Counter’ he switches pace, rapping aggressively in melodic auto-tuned bursts over fast-paced beats. Although Carti hasn’t released a full ‘mixtape’ yet, his catalog is versatile.
Like Lil Uzi Vert, Carti has made social media cameos with the rich and famous, especially after Carti signed to A$AP Rocky in Late 2015. Carti is bringing even further attention to the crowded Atlanta rap scene, which has recently been dominated by high-profile artists like Future and Young Thug.
Most Famous Songs: “I Want,” “Uber Everywhere,” “Savage”
SoundCloud Followers: 60,800
“I’m not a trap artist bro,” Madeintyo tweeted at me last December after I referred to him as such in one of my tweets. Madeintyo, which is ‘Made in Tokyo,’ for short, differentiates himself from the cluster of similarly sounding Atlanta rappers in the city’s underground scene. He has a unique backstory, spending many of his formative years living in Tokyo, Japan. He moved from Tokyo to north-side Atlanta. Madeintyo is clearly influenced by Japanese art and culture. His video, ‘I Want,’ is romantic and heartwarming, opening with a scene of him lying down with a girl, smiling and watching anime on his laptop. In the background, an elegant Japanese ‘easy listening’ track plays. When he begins rapping, he is comically displayed rapping in an empty subway car, narrated by Japanese subtitles. However, his heavy southern accept also speaks to his authenticity as an Atlanta native. His musical team, Private Club, is a record label managed by Atlanta artist Royce Rizzy. Rizzy is managed by Jermaine Dupri, founder of ‘So So Def Recordings,’ a successful Atlanta-based record label. Private Club recently went on tour, forging connections with rappers, producers, and models on the East Coast.
Madeintyo’s hit single, ‘Uber Everywhere,’ exploded on SoundCloud and YouTube. The song is a lighthearted, airy, and positive track, carried by upbeat high-hats and a jovial synth track. The song’s popularity prompted mega-famous Houston rapper Travis Scott, who is signed to Kanye’s G.O.O.D music label, to release his own remix of ‘Uber Everywhere’. While not giving Madeintyo credit directly, Kanye West played the song’s instrumental at his recent listening party and fashion show at Madison Square Garden. Madeintyo’s song, ‘Savage,’ is equally positive, and impossible not to bounce your head to.