Lil Uzi Vert on Rehab, Not Caring About Clothes, and Their Weird, Wild New Album

The notoriously shy rapper went to rehab, stopped caring about clothes, and proceeded to release Pink Tape, one of the weirdest, most exciting albums of the summer.

Clothing accessories and jewelry  their own. Jacket by Comme des Garçons. Jeans by Skoloct Denim. Shoes and underwear by...

Clothing, accessories, and jewelry, (throughout), their own. Jacket, by Comme des Garçons. Jeans, by Skoloct Denim. Shoes and underwear, by Balenciaga.
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“Do you think people really think I’m Satanic?” asks Lil Uzi Vert.

It’s a warm July evening and we’re inside a well-air conditioned hotel suite in Manhattan, where the floorspace is like 80 percent covered in clothing racks filled with designer threads for a photoshoot. The rapper, who started using they/them pronouns in 2022, has a reputation for politely clipped answers, an almost adolescent shyness during interviews. But today, Uzi has a lot they want to talk about.

For starters, Uzi, 28, is curious about why people like the rapper Tony Yayo consider them the spawn of Satan: “Do these people think me being Satanic is what helps my success? Or that I’m trying to force people into the occult?”

I volunteer that it’s most likely coming from casual listeners who only know of Uzi without really engaging with the music that deeply. And that maybe, just maybe, Uzi rapping about Satan onstage at Rolling Loud and occasionally rocking an upside down cross in the middle of their forehead isn’t not not Satanic behavior.

“But any type of religion is some type of a cult,” Uzi argues calmly. “Being Christian is a cult. You all meet at a place to pray and worship.”

Uzi’s been taking stock of their life, trying to figure out what they really care about. Since radically expanding the barriers of what a mainstream rapper could sound and dress like, Uzi now finds themselves at a peculiar point in their trajectory. They’re still radical. Still upsetting older, more conventional-thinking arbiters in the culture. But hip-hop moves fast; the life cycle between phenom and OG is a short one. Now 10 years in the game, Uzi seems like they’re trying to figure out what their legacy is, as well as how to build a lasting one.

Take fashion. Even though we’re surrounded by racks of designer clothes and Uzi’s long been considered a style icon, fashion doesn’t really excite them anymore. When I ask if they’re still the best-dressed rapper out, Uzi’s reply is a no-hesitation “no.”

“I low-key just wear anything,” says Uzi, shrugging. Today it’s a white Gucci vest over a matching shirt, blue Saint Laurent jeans, and red Gucci crocodile loafers, with a white handkerchief tied around their neck for flair. “Sometimes I troll and say shit like that, but I’m not the best-dressed rapper. I don’t even care about that. It’d be the worst-dressed people with all the girls, so it doesn’t even matter.” (Still, when I bring up Kendrick Lamar’s recent assertion that K-Dot is the best-dressed rapper right now, Uzi can’t help but comment that that was probably just a typical flex more than anything real.)

Pink Tape, Lil Uzi’s latest full-length and the first rap album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts this year, is all about playing with the narratives that have surrounded the rapper these last few years—sometimes subverting preconceptions, other times leaning directly into them with a wink and a nod. It’s the kind of album that opens with an eyebrow-raising rebuke to criticisms about Uzi’s gender-fluid style and pronouns: “First of all, I fuck eight bitches a day/How could you ever say Lil Uzi gay?” Then track two starts with a sample of comedian Charleston White essentially calling Uzi a sissy.

Uzi has made a whole career out of forcing rap to move to their singular BPM. One day Uzi might release a track that fits cleanly into the mumble rap category, then bar up with bracingly lucid, rapid-fire lines on the next one. Think Lil Uzi Vert is a sissy? Fine. Here’s a song for you called “Glock in My Purse.” Uzi might sing the hell out a ballad with The Internet’s Syd or go full 2000s emo. Uzi contends they’re a student more than anything, citing Chance the Rapper’s decidedly very not Satanic Acid Rap mixtape as a seminal inspiration. “It was so weird to me,” says Uzi of that album. “I didn’t understand how he was taking tones of music that I really don’t like, but making me like them.”

Vest and shirt, by Gucci. Jeans by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello. Shoes and belt, by Gucci. 

Pink Tape is a sprawling 26-track collection that embraces the full spectrum of Uzi’s sensibilities. It’s omnivorous in a fun way, pitting straightforward rap songs against a few tender tracks and a handful of screamo. Plus, in the middle of the album there’s an actual cover of System of a Down’s “Chop Suey!” that underlines Pink Tape’s central thesis: Lil Uzi Vert is a rockstar who can, and will, do whatever they want.

That wasn’t always the case. Seven years ago, a clip of Uzi visiting Hot 97’s Ebro in the Morning radio show went viral when the titular host suggested that a long-term career might not be in the cards for the young rising star, only for Uzi to—in their monotone, stoic Uzi way—calmly tell Ebro that they will indeed be a full-on rockstar soon.

“Ebro is a good guy,” Uzi says now, without a hint of shade or sarcasm. “At the time he was unaware of what was going on. I make a lot of honest mistakes, and this was an honest mistake on his part. He understands everything now.”

Despite collaborating with pretty much every A-list rapper you can think of—from Travis Scott to Pusha T to Future—Uzi’s deeply idiosyncratic nature and creative choices have painted them as a hip-hop loner, which is another thing they’d like to correct on record.

“I’m not really the outcast, even though I take on the outcast aesthetic,” Uzi says. They go on to explain that the social order of the rap game is basically high school: “You got the cool kids and the jocks. Then you got the nerds, then you got the kids with behavior problems. But I’m more of the class clown. Some days people will really like me. And then some days I get on they nerves.”

Uzi maintains that they’ll work with anyone who calls them up. “The class clown is just really trying to make friends,” they say. Pink Tape may not immediately reflect this—only a fourth of the album’s tracks boast features, and only three of those features come from rappers—but Uzi points to their Nicki Minaj collaboration “Endless Fashion” as their favorite song on the album.

“Nicki hit me up like, ‘How you going to drop an album called Pink Tape and you know pink is my thing?’” says Uzi. This was one day before the album’s release. Where another rapper would’ve vowed to make good down the line, Uzi opted to do so at the buzzer, putting together the entire track in the eleventh hour. “I was like, Oh, no. You right. I’m going to send this over right now. And I sent it to her right there.”

They won’t give an exact timeline, but a few years ago, Lil Uzi Vert checked into rehab, where they spent the next seven months getting sober, a process they detail unflinchingly on one of Pink Tape’s later tracks, “Rehab.” (Uzi doesn’t specify what they went to rehab for, but lines likeLots of Seroquel and gabapentin/For like two weeks straight, yeah, I was shakin‘” are usually prescribed to patients suffering from Xanax withdrawals.)

“You be in a whole different mindset because it becomes like breathing,” Uzi says of their old vices. “It’s just part of your regimen. It’s part of your every day. You don’t even think about it.”

There were low points. Particularly July 2021, when Uzi reportedly got into an altercation with their ex-girlfriend Brittany Byrd and the artist SAINt JHN after spotting them together in West Hollywood; Uzi is alleged to have struck Byrd and pointed a gun at her. Last year, Uzi pleaded no contest to one count of felony assault with a firearm and one count of misdemeanor injury for a sentence that included three years of formal probation, one year of treatment for mental health and substance abuse, and 52 weeks of domestic-violence counseling, among other things.

I ask what made Uzi decide to check into rehab. Was it the anger? Was it seeing their peers—Lil Peep, Mac Miller, Juice WRLD—die from accidental overdoses?

“Around that time, I was still overly turnt,” Uzi says. “Of course, to the public, we lost people, which was super unfortunate and super crazy. But then in our world, we lose people every day to that. So it was almost like, I don’t want to say a norm, but it was normal.”

Instead, the decision to go into rehab came at the urging of their “best friend” Des—that’s Desiree Perez, longtime Jay-Z confidante and CEO of Roc Nation, Uzi’s management team. “I always listen to anything she says,” Uzi says matter-of-factly. “Anything.”

So Uzi disappeared for a while. No one knew where they were, exactly, outside of a chosen few—like Uzi’s girlfriend JT, one half of the Miami ratchet-anthem duo City Girls, whom Uzi has been dating since 2019. Also: Yeat, the popular Gen Z rapper who emerged as a direct product of the style and aesthetic form established by rappers like Uzi, Young Thug, and Playboi Carti. Yeat has cited Uzi as a huge influence, and Uzi became something of a mentor to him. While in rehab, Uzi and Yeat talked every day. When Uzi came home, Yeat was the first person to come visit, and they immediately got to work on music.

Pants, by Chrome Hearts. Underwear by Balenciaga. Bag by Chrome Hearts.

Six hundred songs and 26 finished tracks later, Uzi is only just now feeling like themselves again. Pink Tape is Uzi’s third consecutive studio album to debut at No. 1, and making the album was an obligation of sorts, a necessary exercise to rebuild atrophied muscles. “I just had to do my job,” Uzi says, admitting they even adopted one of their new ad-libs, a guttural growl found all over Pink Tape, from something similar they heard Yeat do.

Uzi readily admits that emerging artists like Yeat, Ken Carson, and Destroy Lonely—kids who studied their early stuff—are giving Uzi the creative drive they need. “Yeah, I don’t hang with anyone my age,” Uzi says. “So, I don’t feel like I’m older. If you’re my age, I can’t hang with you…” Uzi interrupts their own train of thought: “Shit, one day I’m going to be all the way washed up and I’m going to need them.”

For now, though, Lil Uzi is drawing inspiration from their own self-proclaimed OG, Young Thug. Uzi’s already promoting his next project: Barter 16, which draws its title from Thug’s seminal 2015 Barter 6 mixtape. It’s a simultaneous reference to the past with a nod to the future. “He’s good,” Uzi says of Thug. (Young Thug is currently in prison awaiting trial for a RICO case alleging gang activities within his YSL collective.) The two talk regularly: “He’s my OG so he’s always happy, always in good spirits with me.” Pink Tape, Uzi says, was them finding their way back. “The unreleased stuff that I’m working on now, it’s fucking fire.”

As for what’s next, Uzi’s content to keep making music and spend quality time with JT. When I ask about their relationship, Uzi describes the pair as “normal.” Just don’t expect a collaboration between them anytime soon. “We don’t even talk about music, unless we’re dropping a song or something,” Uzi says of their love life. “I support her, she supports me. We don’t talk about music. Never.”

They have this game they like to play in the kitchen: Uzi invents a meal on the fly, and JT gamely eats it. The public got a glimpse of this when, last October, JT posted a photo that quickly went viral of a totally stone-faced Uzi standing in front of a huge stovetop fire, looking unbothered. “That was just a lot of olive oil,” Uzi says, when I ask why they were unphased by the flames. (Satan could never.)

At one point during our interview, I tell Uzi, a notoriously picky eater who loves junk food, that my favorite line on Pink Tape is food-adjacent: “I like Pop-Tarts, but I’ll take her to Nobu.

Uzi’s face scrunches in mock revulsion.

“Nobu,” they say, “is disgusting!”

Photographs by Charlie Engman
Clothing Uzi’s Own
Hair by Yalonda Clarke
Grooming by Kevin Clarke
Makeup by Melissa DeZarate
Manicure by Drizzy

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