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.
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.”