In my not-so-humble opinion, no artist had a more inspiring 2017 than Lil Uzi Vert. Uzi's solo breakout hit, "XO Tour Llif3," struck a chord among SoundCloud faithfuls before spreading its bat wings and becoming a full-blown radio mainstay. The TM88 and JW Lucas-produced anthem helped Luv Is Rage 2 land at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and spawned one of the best Zane Lowe interviews ever. As 2017 winds down, Uzi is looking back on the track's success alongside Atlantic Records' Julie Greenwald, Michael Kyser, and Craig Kallman.

"I was on tour overseas with The Weeknd and Bryson Tiller and I put out these four songs on SoundCloud," Uzi told Billboard Thursday as part of their special 2017 No. 1s coverage. "They were just throwaways, and one of them, 'XO Tour Llif3,' started taking off."


The track's immediate SoundCloud success, Greenwald added, inspired the label to rush it to streaming platforms. "It exploded," she said. "I mean, there was no one in here who said, 'That song's going to stream 20-odd million times in the first week.' We're good, but not that good."

Uzi's dedication to originality, Kallman added, is crucial to his 2017 dominance. "Uzi was from the absolute beginning marching to his own drum, and through his music you're getting a peek into this enigmatic hip-hop figure," Kallman said. "The mystery is attractive. Layer on a smash hit record and the results are explosive."

"Anyone can relate: I was in a dark space, so I went with it," Uzi—very accurately touted by Kyser as a "real rap rock star"—said of the hit's themes. "That's how I made the album. I just got that feeling: These are the songs, that's it."


Next year, we should (finally!) be getting a full-blown rock album from Uzi that will presumably include at least one well-placed inverted cross on the cover.