Rap music has a long, long history of taking inspiration from rock-n-roll. There are highlights like Run DMC’s cover of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” and low points like Lil Wayne’s “rock” album Rebirth that might come to mind. There is no shortage of links between the two genres musically.
But recently, we have seen more and more rappers taking cues from the rock-star lifestyle and look, not just the music. Acts like Travis Scott, Playboi Carti, and even Migos have added subtle and not-so-subtle rock flourishes to their already eclectic personas and musical style. However, the 2017 rapper who seems to have taken the most cues from rock-n-roll has to be Lil Uzi Vert.
Whether it is his highly regarded single “XO Tour Liife”(which is tagged as alternative rock on Soundcloud), insane stage dives at live shows, or even posting videos online of himself jamming out to Paramore in the car, the 22-year-old has made it crystal clear that he is inspired by rockers of the past and present.
Most of all, he’s doing his best to look the part. His constant, unapologetic blurring of the traditional lines between men’s and women’s fashion can definitely be credited to rockers like David Bowie or Iggy Pop. These artists helped pioneer rock’s androgynous style, wearing makeup and skin-tight leathers and embracing more feminine movements in their performances.
Earlier this year, Uzi was roasted by the masses for rocking what has now become an infamous fit. Up-and-coming New York rapper Lou Got Cash posted a photo on his Instagram alongside Uzi, who was donning a low neck, distressed sweater from Faith Connexion, a spiked choker and a Goyard purse-looking satchel, and the internet’s floodgates opened, questioning his masculinity and his place within the rap community.
How did he react? Like any rock-star would. This past May, he showed up to the the Billboard Music Awards in a $2,400 women’s Valentino white see-through blouse, telling the haters during his interview with Sway Calloway, “They never felt these fabrics before.” No matter what he wears, Uzi just simply doesn’t give a fuck what you think about it.
For a lot of Uzi’s inspirations, look no further than Marilyn Manson. Uzi has declared his fandom for Manson numerous times. Perhaps the most blatant instance of this was during an interview with Nardwuar back in 2016: “At age 27, I will leave this Earth for this man right here—the Pale Emperor,” said Uzi, referring to a Manson tour poster Nardwuar gave him.
Manson has always been a style icon in his own right. His all-black goth wardrobe, accented with leather whenever possible, and makeup were a uniform for rebellious teens in the late ‘90s. Manson left a mark on high fashion too: He appeared in a campaign for YSL back in 2013 and performed at Stella McCartney’s Pre-Fall show in 2016. More recently, Manson’s style legacy lived on with 2016’s rocker tee trend, as the likes of Justin Bieber, Kylie Jenner, and, of course, Uzi have all been seen rocking his old merch.
But Uzi is someone who takes this inspirations further—rocking an old tour T-shirt isn’t enough. He’s repeatedly said that he was inspired to get his first set of platinum grills when he saw Manson donning a pair in his “Dope Show”music video. And check out his own custom Ben Baller chain—an iced-out, spiked choker chain with a blinged-out Marilyn Manson face pendant.
The chain is a perfect example of what Uzi has been able to do with his fashion. He’s takes clear inspiration from the rock-star aesthetics of the past, while adding a fresh hip-hop spin to the equation. He is stepping away from the traditional idea of what a rapper is supposed to dress like, perhaps more than we’ve ever seen before.
It is this self confidence and nonconformity that have allowed Uzi to make his style more than just a sideshow. He said it best in a 2016 interview with Global Grind: “I am a rock-star. I am rage.”