Lil Uzi Vert, a prominent member of a new wave of willfully incoherent rappers, acted as the demonstrative emcee of a delirious party Wednesday night at the Uptown Theater.
The electric atmosphere occasionally resembled a riot at a juvenile detention facility. Most members of the excitable audience of 2,300 were well-behaved, but the impulsive actions of young troublemakers kept the harried security staff busy for more than three hours.
A long wait for Uzi exacerbated the disturbances. Following a flurry of outings by local rappers at the outset of the show, a pair of DJs played rap hits for almost 90 minutes before the headliner appeared. Uzi’s shamefully brief 35-minute set highlighted the efficacy of his craft even as it exposed his glaring weaknesses.
Symere Woods, 22, the Philadelphia native who performs as Uzi, refers to himself as a rock star rather than as a rapper. He’s right to suggest that he defies categorization. While the deluge of music he’s released in the last three years doesn’t meet the traditional definition of rock, it doesn’t resemble orthodox hip-hop, either.
Like his colleagues Lil Yachty, 21 Savage and Chief Keef, Uzi is unconcerned with fulfilling basic rap precepts such as clever rhyme schemes and distinctive articulation. Lyrics and melodies are subjugated by cadence and tone.
A truncated version of “Of Course We Ghetto Flowers,” one of about 20 selections that were squeezed into his abrupt appearance, was typical of Uzi’s approach. In addition to insistent repetition of the word “whoa,” the song’s primary lyrical hook is “huh, what, yeah, neck on froze.” Uzi is in the vanguard of what may come to be considered a post-verbal rap revolution.
Knowing that his lyrics are an afterthought and that his skills as a customary rapper are negligible, Uzi entertained the crowd by dancing, jumping and skipping to prerecorded versions of his songs. While his microphone seemed to be live, he only rapped along when the spirit moved him.
The audience gladly assisted Uzi by shouting out the clipped syllables of “You Was Right” and “7am” when the music dropped out by either accident or design. Except for a bit of distortion on the pummeling bass line of “Ps and Qs,” the hulking sound system was excellent.
His a cappella verse at the conclusion of “Sub Zero” would have been an embarrassingly feeble effort from a typical rapper, but Uzi and his Instagram-generation fans were gleefully unbound from convention.
Bill Brownlee: @happyinbag