(July 11, 2023). Hip-hop’s long, frustrating wait to reach No. 1 on a major Billboard chart is finally over.

For the first time in 2023, a hip-hop album tops the Billboard 200 and knocks Morgan Wallen’s long running One Thing At A Time LP from its 15-week-long perch.

The new No. 1 is Lil Uzi Vert’s Pink Tape, which tops the latest chart with 167,000 units sold last week—more than any other hip-hop album’s one-week total in 2023 (so far).  Pink Tape thus ends rap music’s longest drought in 30 years…since the eight months that separated the No. 1 postings of Ice Cube’s The Predator (December 5, 1992) and Cypress Hill’s Black Sunday (August 7, 1993). 

The last hip-hop album to top the chart before now was Metro Boomin’s HEROES & VILLIANS on the chart dated December 17, 2022, almost exactly seven months ago. 

Furthermore, with Uzi’s Pink Tape crowning the list dated July 15, it’s the latest in a calendar year that hip-hop has achieved its first No. 1 since 1993, when the aforementioned Cypress Hill album gave the genre its initial topper that August.

There are some folks in hip-hop circles who will hold up Pink Tape as proof that hip-hop was never really in trouble and that all it took was a superstar release to bring it back to the top.

The truth is no one who follows this stuff really expected the whole year to go by without a No. 1 hip-hop set, especially when that hasn’t happened since 1988 and with new albums on the horizon from superstars Travis Scott, Nicki Minaj and Drake.  

The new album by Uzi, also a superstar rapper with a No. 1 track record, was the surprise release that beat those other artists to the punch.  When all is said and done in 2023, there will likely be at least four or five No. 1 albums by hip-hop acts before we flip the calendar to 2024 (which would still be the lowest calendar-year total since 2014, when there were just five).

But what really makes Pink Tape unique—besides being the album that (temporarily) prevents more hip-hop doom-and-gloom articles from blogs like these—is the fact that the Philly-born rapper, whose birth name is Symere Woods, made it official last year that they go by the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them,” which makes Uzi the first non-binary rapper to top the Billboard 200 in the chart’s nearly 70-year history.  

Actually, this is Uzi’s third No. 1 album on that chart (after 2020’s Eternal Atake and 2017’s Luv Is Rage 2), but their first since coming out as non-binary in August 2022.

With such a significant milestone looming over it, this new chart crowning had the potential to be a big culturally shifting moment for hip-hop, which is notoriously hypermasculine and which cringes at the notion of any of its male progeny wavering from that code.

Instead, Uzi’s gender identity amounts to being a mere footnote in this story…a distraction that almost feels gimmicky. 

That’s because, for as ambitious as Uzi’s Pink Tape is or tries to be musically—particularly on the more aggressive, rap metal tracks weighted towards the end of the album—lyrically Pink Tape is just more of the same ol’ stuff.

Lil Uzi Vert’s Pink Tape…you be the judge

Right off the bat, Uzi starts the first track, “Flooded The Face,” with the following disclaimer: “First of all, I fuck eight bitches a day, how could you ever say Lil Uzi gay?  Fuck four of ‘em raw, fuck four of them safe. Think I’m splitting the odds? Before you to debate.”

While the “splitting the odds” line is kinda clever, the debate here—besides whether safe sex should be treated like a game of Roulette—is whether being non-binary means you’re automatically labeled homosexual or bi (note to readers: they’re not one and the same).

The debate continues in troll-like fashion on the album’s next track, “Suicide Doors,” where Uzi opens it with an audio clip of popular social media influencer Charleston White blasting the rapper (in a 2021 interview) with the following roast: “I ain’t never heard a Uzi Vert song that I can say, ‘That’s Uzi Vert.’  But I know he a sissified lookin’ nigga that put fingernail polish on his muthaphuckin’ nails and wear dresses…how he gonna talk about somethin’, nigga?”

Now, context is important.  And White’s quote—unflattering and offensive as it was—was part of an important point he was making about hip-hop culture and its double-standard in blackballing another young rapper for allegedly “snitching,” but not holding other rappers—like Uzi Vert—accountable for continuously disrespecting Black people (particularly young women) in their lyrics.

Charleston White’s brutally honest take on hip-hop with Uzi as collateral damage

It’s also important to note that Uzi had to pay White to allow the use of the latter’s verbal attack in “Suicide Doors,” much like a rapper would be paid to do a feature, so White’s rant definitely impacted Uzi to the point of incorporating it into Pink Tape

Still, the verbal assault on Uzi is used as an opportunity for the rapper to troll White and other opps with their opening line in the song: “Fuck you and fuck your bitch, I don’t give a fuck about none of y’all niggas…Y’all niggas tried to ban me from this shit but I came back…I do what I want, I do anything I please.”

Indeed, Uzi has reached the status in hip-hop where they can pretty much do what they please.  And they spend nearly all 26 of the tracks on Pink Tape reminding us of that fact.

Their favorite topics—money, girls, drugs, sex with girls on drugs, jewelry, toxicity, retaliation—are all on full display from start to finish, with rare exceptions.

Uzi’s annoying penchant for repetition in their lyrics is on display, too. 

In the song “Crush Em,” those two words are repeated 102 times while a menacing trap beat plays underneath. The song isn’t even three minutes long!  Without counting (but after having listened), my guesstimate is that the only two words uttered more throughout the whole album might be “bitch” and “nigga.”

Additionally, overused (and tired) trap beats—often the same ones with little variation—are pervasive throughout Pink Tape, especially in the album’s first two-thirds. It’s not until after “Just Wanna Rock”—last year’s hit single from Uzi—that things get interesting, at least musically, if not lyrically, speaking. 

The most entertaining (and best) song on the album is the last non-bonus track, “The End” (featuring the Japanese rock group BABYMETAL). That highly frenetic tune incorporates trademark heavy metal elements from the featured act, who co-wrote the song (all original music, no samples) with Uzi.  

The song is the truest attempt at expanding the rapper’s musical palette beyond the normal trite stuff and, after various other half-hearted attempts throughout Pink Tape to register a death metal growl, Uzi finally gets it right on this track for about four second beginning at the 0:13 mark (it’s repeated again later in the song).

“The End” also contains the Pink Tape’s best message lyrically and even ties together the album’s apparent concept with the uplifting line: “you feel blue, have a pink day.”

That’s Uzi’s way of saying if you’re feeling unhappy (blue), try having a day filled with love and compassion (or pink).

“The End” would have been a nice way to actually end the album, except Uzi decided to throw in three bonus tracks which mostly harken back to the earlier worn-out themes of Pink Tape and so many other rap albums.  

Ultimately, despite its attempts to be ambitious (which it does well in some parts), Pink Tape suffers from what most of today’s hip-hop does: an inability to move past the misogynistic and self-destructive elements that are proving more and more detrimental to rap’s core audience and its participants.

Similarly, as much as Lil Uzi Vert strives to be different from every other rapper out there with their genre bending, their self-proclaimed not-of-this-world persona and, yes, their gender non-binary status, the North Philly rapper ultimately comes across as run-of-the-mill.

As the first non-binary rapper to top the Billboard 200, no one expected Uzi to change the whole face of rap.  No single rapper should have to carry that huge burden, especially a 27-year-old gender-fluid artist who is clearly succeeding at pushing image boundaries that few others are even attempting at this point in their careers.

It’s just that, in a millennium where hip-hop has already seen its first out LGBTQ artists in Frank Ocean; Lil Nas X; Tyler, The Creator and others; in a decade where one of those artists—Nas X—has pushed even more boundaries with some racy, non-sexually conforming music videos (and still sold lots of units); in a month when one of the biggest female rappers of the ‘90s—Da Brat—gave birth in a same-sex marriage; and in a week where the biggest rapper on the planet—Drake—donned pink fingernail polish and called out homophobia in response to some folks’ predictable reactions, Lil Uzi Vert didn’t have to spend most of Pink Tape trying to prove their masculinity.

Separately, the fact that it took seven months for hip-hop to get its first No. 1 album in 2023 isn’t a death knell for rap, but it should be a wake-up call.

Several big name rappers—Gunna, Young Thug, Lil Durk among them—tried and failed to unseat a country artist who’s been sitting at or near the top for months, with his only true competition up to now being Taylor Swift and K-pop.

Lil Uzi Vert finally succeeded in knocking off Wallen’s juggernaut, but their long-awaited Pink Tape moved just 167,000 units—or 121,000 fewer than their last album Eternal Atake did three years ago, and the newer album had eight more tracks to stream during its debut week (Eternal Atake was later expanded in a deluxe edition).

Rappers (and their record labels) have gotten lazy by regurgitating the same messages (and beats) release after release.  While streaming of rap is still high, consumers are starting to send messages of their own. 

In its mid-year report last week covering sales/streaming activity from January through June, 2023, Billboard noted that—for the first time in over six years—hip-hop/R&B was not the most consumed genre of music in the U.S.

That distinction now belonged to pop.

Bottom line: In order for hip-hop to evolve and continue expanding, it needs stars who will continue to experiment and push boundaries beyond the mostly genocidal and unhealthy messages being pedaled to its core audience today. 

To their credit, Lil Uzi Vert, who turns 28 on July 31, is one of the more exciting artists out there…far from what one might consider a normal rapper.

In an Instagram post last week, they told fans that if Pink Tape went to No. 1, they would deliver a whole new album in short order that would be the album fans “really wanted.”

The fans did their part in sending Pink Tape to the top.

But will Uzi’s next project just be more of the same as a result?

Or will they be willing to start a new trend and show fans what they’ve possibly been missing.


DJRob (he/him/his) is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop, rock and (sometimes) country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.

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