By Geoffrey Rowlands
There is a saying that good things come in small packages. Symere Woods would certainly subscribe to this adage. At barely more than five feet (one metre 52 centimetres) tall, Symere needs a step stool to look most people in the eye. But if he has been dealt a hand which did him no favours in terms of physical stature, the man better known to music fans as Lil Uzi Vert transforms into a giant when he walks on stage.
Uzi commands the arena with the confidence and presence of a music veteran. Yet it is just six years since the then 16-year-old Symere created his first rap. This was only done because he felt jealous of the attention gained by one of his high school friends, William Aston, who recorded a freestyle rap over Chris Brown’s Look At Me Now.
“His song took off around school,” recalled Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-born Uzi. “So I’m like, if he made a song, I can make a song. I recorded freestyles over beats I found on YouTube.”
Rather than becoming rivals, the boys joined forces as Steak Town Zombies. Their name derived from the famous Philadelphia dish of cheesesteak, standard fare for most of the crowd at a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game.
Their work together was heard by local DJ Buzz Worthy. He offered the boys a management deal. William Aston declined but Uzi gratefully accepted.
“I figured I had nothing to lose. I was on the bottom rung of the music ladder. I needed people to help me climb so I thought signing with Buzz was a step in the right direction.”
Buzz Worthy was able to connect Uzi with producer Charlie Heat, known now for his work with Kanye West. Charlie produced Uzi’s EP, Purple Thoughtz Vol. 1, his mixtape, The Real Uzi and his breakout song, 2014’s U.Z.I. The track was played on local radio and heard by Atlanta DJ / producer Don Cannon during a trip to Philadelphia.
Suitably impressed, Cannon signed Uzi to Generation Now, the label he co-owns with DJ Drama and Leighton Morrison.
“My mom was pressurising me to give up music and get a proper job. I’d been a stock boy at Bottom Dollar and knew that wasn’t for me. My mom said she’d kick me out of the house if I didn’t get a real job.
“I moved in with my grandma. She is my best friend and has a totally different outlook. She actually bought me my first CD. It was by the Ying Yang Twinz. None of my friends liked it but I did. My grandma always said she knew I was going to make it and encouraged me to keep rapping.”
A guest artist spot, along with ASAP Ferg and Rich The Kid, on Carnage’s single, WDYW, brought Uzi more critical acclaim and set up the release of his 2015 Generation Now debut mixtape, Luv is Rage.
The music world was taking such a close interest that Uzi found himself named among the 2016 Freshmen to Watch by XXL magazine. He was also asked to provide guest vocals on a song called Bad and Boujee by hip hop trio Migos.
“(Migos member) Offset (real name, Kiari Cephus) had worked with me on a track for one of my mixtapes so I was returning the favour. I co-wrote Bad and Boujee. We felt we had a special song but we couldn’t have hoped it would become so popular.”
That popularity saw Bad and Boujee spend three weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100 earlier this year. It was the first time either Migos or Uzi had come anywhere near the upper reaches of the Hot 100, let alone pole position.
A new EP, Luv is Rage 1.5, cashed in on Uzi’s success with Bad and Boujee. Lead single, XO Tour Llif3, has so far peaked at number eight on the Hot 100.
“I always wanted to rap to get rich. I didn’t want to go back to school or get a proper job. I just wanted to make money from rapping.
“But I’m starting to think differently. I’m making money from my songs but I also have people paying attention to me because of what I say in them. I want those people to keep paying attention. My attitude has changed. I want to keep delivering quality material. It’s got to be about more than money now.”
Ariana Grande / Katy Perry
There wasn’t a dry eye among those watching the One Love Manchester concert organised so wonderfully well by singer/songwriter Ariana Grande and her manager, Scooter Braun. Held to pay tribute to, and raise funds for, the victims of the terror attack at Manchester Arena after Ariana’s concert, the show was performed to a sold-out audience at the Emirates Old Trafford Cricket Ground and viewed by Britain’s biggest television audience of 2017.
For anyone who was unable to see the concert, it is posted in full at www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9yak899MUs
The first 33 seconds are blank so don’t think there is a problem.
Something which may have been missed by many viewers was the touching tribute offered by Katy Perry. Her dress was specially designed for the concert. Photos of the bombing victims were printed on the back within the shape of a heart.
Following the show, Ariana Grande, members of her “Dangerous Woman” tour crew and some of the other artists who performed during the concert got tattoos of the Manchester bee as a permanent tribute to the victims. Manchester area textile mills were described as “hives of activity” during the Industrial Revolution. The worker bee became symbolic of Manchester and remains so to this day.
Manchester tattoo artists have even created a fundraising campaign based around the bee. Anyone who wishes to join Ariana in getting the Manchester bee tattoo will be charged 50 GBP with all proceeds donated to the families of the attack victims.
Former Oasis and Beady Eye frontman Liam Gallagher released his debut solo single, Wall of Glass, just one day before the official UK charts were calculated. Little wonder that the song could only reach number 60.
Liam performed the track during his appearance at the One Love Manchester concert. With an audience of millions exposed to his work, it would be surprising if Wall of Glass did not enjoy a significant sales surge.
The official song video can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdJc7-ZEuT0
Many fans believed the One Love Manchester concert could have prompted an Oasis reunion. But as Liam constantly refers to his brother as Potato and loses no opportunity to insult him on social media, it is hardly surprising that Noel Gallagher had no interest in the idea.
His absence from the concert was noted though. Noel was holidaying in Italy but, as Liam commented, he could have “got on a plane and been there to play his own tunes for the kids.”
However, Noel did waive royalties from the performance and subsequent sales of Live Forever and Don’t Look Back In Anger, both of which were performed during Liam’s set.
Reports also suggest Noel was either not asked to appear at the concert or chose not to perform because the show was pop rather than rock. Similar reasons have been given for the non-appearance of Manchester legends such as The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Johnny Marr and Morrissey.
It has also emerged that while he says his brother could have got on a plane, Liam actually demanded a private jet to fly him from Germany to Manchester. He is further said to have only appeared with the proviso that he could perform Wall of Glass.
Foo Fighters fans were looking forward to seeing the band during their upcoming concert tour. There was certainly no expectation of any new material. So it was that Foo Fighters actually wrote ‘surprise’ in capital letters on the YouTube posting of their newly released single, Run.
The video can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifwc5xgI3QM and on the band’s website, www.foofighters.com. Directed by band founder Dave Grohl, it is more like a short film than a music video. The band are depicted as pensioners in an old people’s home. They start a mosh pit riot with the elderly residents battling their attendants and fleeing the home.
Stills and gifs from the video have been made available at the band’s website for anyone who wishes to save them or post on social media.
In other news, Foo Fighters are now officially a sextet. Keyboardist Remi Jaffe has performed and recorded with the band since their 2005 album, In Your Honor. But he had never previously been mentioned as a full member until Dave Grohl’s interview with Zane Lowe about the release of Run. Remi’s inclusion in the publicity pictures for Run also marks the first occasion that he has featured in an official band photo.
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