Show & Prove
Lil Uzi Vert is rap's new rock star.
Words: Sowmya Krishnamurthy
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Forget rap, Lil Uzi Vert wants to be a rock star. It’s a lofty goal but the 21-year-old Philadelphia native with green-hued dreadlocks and tight, ripped jeans has always been different. “I never wanted to be no rapper,” he says. Born Symere Woods, he grew up on Biggie and Jay Z from his parents’ speakers, while geeking out to Marilyn Manson and Slipknot. “One thing rap and rock have in common, a lot of it is focused on negativity. I like dark stuff.”

Darkness has always been a fitting soundtrack for Uzi. Plagued by behavioral problems growing up, he was shuttled to four different high schools without much career direction. He toyed with the idea of becoming an EMT like his dad and worked four days as a stocker in a grocery store—before quitting and stealing Twizzlers on the way out.

Uzi’s interest in rap was catalyzed in the 10th grade when the rap hopeful began jotting down rhymes in his textbooks. Soon Uzi and two friends had formed the rap trio Steak Town Zombies, garnering a small online buzz. Things progressed quickly and in 2014, Uzi began to bubble as a solo artist. His self-titled debut solo track received rotation on a Philly radio station, courtesy of DJ Diamond Kuts. This perked the ears of producer and former Vice President of A&R at Def Jam, Don Cannon. Cannon summoned Uzi to Atlanta and the two have been working together ever since. “When I actually met him, there was something different about him,” Cannon says. “This isn’t just some ordinary kid from Philly.”

In 2015, the ascendant enjoyed his first breakthrough record “WDYW.” DJ Carnage flipped what was initially Uzi’s record (called “Thugger Voice”) with a new beat and guest vocals from A$AP Ferg and Rich The Kid. The trap-laced warning shot has over three million views on YouTube. Uzi released his Luv Is Rage mixtape in December and inked a deal with Cannon and DJ Drama’s Generation Now and Atlantic Records.

Uzi’s getting used to the trappings of his budding fame. As for his goals as an artist? He’s eyeing a tricked-out Lamborghini Aventador (list price of over $300,000) and wants to live out his rock star fantasy. “I like to look cool and dress nice. Lil Uzi is a rock star,” he assures. “Just know that.”

Check out more from XXL’s Spring 2016 issue including Big Sean’s cover story, the Letter from the Editor, Macklemore’s thoughts on White privilegeKodak Black’s Show & Prove interview, Doin’ Lines with Boosie BadAzz, Flatbush Zombies’ serious comic addiction, the producer behind Desiigner’s hit “Panda,” Plies’ career boost thanks to Instagram, Anderson .Paak's Show & Prove, Eye Candy Lira Galore's interview, What's Happenin' with Fetty Wap and more.

See Exclusive Photos From Big Sean's XXL Cover Story

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