Rising Philly rapper starting to figure it out

On “Do What I Want,” Lil Uzi Vert raps about starting on the bottom and making his way to the top.

This is no idle boast, either. In 2016, the Philadelphia-born rapper was named Soundcloud's most-listened-to artist, and his most recent single, “XO TOUR Llif3,” a dark, Auto-Tuned tearjerker, was just certified platinum. “All my friends are dead/Push me to the edge,” Vert repeats in his punchy, sing-song style as the hazy, downtempo cut draws to a close, coming across like a man emotionally dissociating from reality.

Vert's Charlie Brown-esque persona occasionally surfaces offstage, too, such as in a sneaker-shopping video he filmed with Complex where he deadpanned, “I don't even have friends, remember that.” (Possibly because they are all dead.)

When he's not navel-gazing, Vert flirts with a range of personas, flitting from would-be social media manager (“Erase Your Social” doubles as adept advice for the digital era) to aspiring playboy (the rapper sounds less concerned with minding his manners than landing the lady on “Ps & Qs”). That the young man would audition different roles on record is little surprise. As Vert puts it on “Grab the Wheel,” “I'm only 21, I don't know.” Regardless, it can be thrilling to listen in as the now-22-year-old starts to figure it out.

The rapper's headlining turn at Express Live outdoors on Thursday, June 8, marks his third visit to the city in the last year, following a high-energy turn at Breakaway Music Festival in August and a November Express Live indoor date as part of Power 107.5's #FallFest.