There is no other artist making music like Lil Uzi Vert. The Philadelphia native, who is 26 years old, already has a massive fanbase consisting of millions of listeners who worship his nonconformist style of rapping—and fashion fans that follow his every fit. But his star power increased tenfold with the announcement of his relationship with City Girls member Jatavia “JT” Johnson; in fact, she was on set during the photoshoot for this story (wearing a Chanel dress and Thom Browne knee socks) and throughout the interview, Uzi kept flipping his front-facing camera to show her off. For W’s annual Music Issue, the musician discussed why his upcoming album will be for his real fans, and how his relationship inspires him in the songmaking process.
Your last album, Eternal Atake, is still charting one year after its release. But you’ve said that you weren’t happy with the way it turned out.
All of my music for Eternal Atake got leaked, so I had to redo it. It didn’t reach its full potential—I just knew it wasn’t the sound I was going for. Let’s just say Eternal Atake, for another artist, would have been really good, because it was super dumbed down to where everyone could enjoy it, but that’s not my artistry. I want my new music to be more intimate to my real fans. I wanted it to be almost cultlike.
You’re known for spending hours in the studio, editing your songs over and over. Are you still working that way?
No, I’m just leaving songs how they are instead of trying to make the perfect song. I was following the other guys too much.
Whom were you following?
I was listening to all the industry guys and their formats—it was confusing me, because these guys are getting No. 1’s. But I realized the music ain’t even living; their No. 1’s are real quick. I had to realize this is their beginning; they’re younger than me, so they have room to do that. I don’t have room to do that. I used to always look at all the young guys and be like, Oh, shout out this guy. I ain’t shouting out nobody no more.
Has being with your girlfriend [Jatavia “JT” Johnson, one half of the rap duo City Girls] inspired you while writing your next album?
She keeps me calm and balances me. Album-wise, she keeps me not saying too much.
Which designers do you wear the most?
True Religion. And I sleep in Rick Owens. I got on Rick boots right now, but I really just focus on JT. I just gave her an Hermès Birkin bag, and she’s excited about that.
Did you pick up any new hobbies during the pandemic?
I’ve been learning how to ride ATVs and dirt bikes in Philly, where it’s super illegal. I got really good. My favorite bike is a Yamaha Banshee 350. They stopped making them in 2006 because they’re very dangerous. They’re really good to wheelie, and they’re really aggressive bikes. I like aggressive stuff.