It’s been three years since the 2016 XXL Freshman class was introduced to mainstream Hip-Hop. Since their unveiling, many rappers from that class have grown into their own entities while others have either stayed stagnant or declined.
As discussed on Episode 17 of the Pops Culture Podcast (that you can listen to here at the 27:29 mark), I asked which artist has had the best career? That class includes heavy hitting artists such as Lil Yachty, Lil Dicky, Lil Uzi Vert, Denzel Curry, Anderson .Paak, Dave East, Desiigner, G Herbo, 21 Savage and Kodak Black.
The guidelines to this question are not solely limited to their music but also incorporate their cultural impact and business acumen at this stage in their careers. While an argument can be made for various artists on this list, the debate boiled down to Lil Uzi Vert and 21 Savage between my co-host Gabe and I.
My choice remains 21 Savage for these reasons:
image via Variety
Lil Uzi Vert’s debut album Luv Is Rage 2 debuted on August 25th, 2017 and the album is closely approaching it’s two year anniversary. Since 2018, fans have been clamoring for his next release Eternal Atake, which he was due to drop by 2018’s end, but could not deliver.
With rumours of retirement to go along with the set back fans were left wondering what was going on behind the scenes. While we still don’t have a formal answer on the matter, what we do know is that Uzi has issues with his label Generation Now and he’s been unable to release his album and consequently songs have been leaked by an unknown party.
According to TMZ, a source familiar with his current deal tells TMZ “The rapper’s being exploited because the contract allows little room for growth and doesn’t do enough for his bottom line. We’re told Generation Now is supposed to cover Lil Uzi’s studio time and recordings, but the label’s refusing to pony up — so he’s being forced to seek financial assistance from people close to him.”
Therein lies the first issue with Uzi’s career, in that he’s signed to a bad contract and cannot profit from his own music the way he sees fit. As a response, Uzi has sought out new management in the form of Roc Nation who will try and aid him in restructuring a new deal that is a little more favourable to the rapper.
However, new management comes at a cost which will also cut into his bottom line going forward regardless of if he gets a new deal or not.
Conversely, 21 Savage is signed to a lucrative deal with Epic Records which allows him to retain 100 per cent of his ownership in music and the master recordings for his entire catalogue.
Both artists have sold well in their careers with Uzi’s Luv Is Rage 2 debuting at number one, and 21 Savage’s Issa/I Am> I Was debuting at number two and number one respectively.
Undoubtedly, Uzi has had the bigger hit between the two with his song XO Tour Lif3 racking up over a billion streams and becoming one of the biggest cultural hits in 2017. However, 21 Savage is not shy to mainstream success neither with his solo hit Bank Account also achieving cultural status, along with a number one feature in the form of Rockstar with Post Malone.
XO Tour Lif3 is also the only argument seemingly ever made for why Uzi’s career is better, even though as we now know, he makes a fraction of the money from his own song.
With a lack of music coming from Uzi, 21 Savage continues to rack up songs through a multitude of features with his most recent feature being Wish Wish on DJ Khaled’s new album Father of Asahd, and an appearance on ScHoolBoy Q’s song Floating off CrasH Talk.
Even though Uzi and Khaled share the same management in Roc Nation, Uzi failed to make an appearance on Khaled’s new album at all.
Based on Uzi’s solo career one theory suggests that the 24-year-old rapper is simply not ready for the spotlight. Uzi resides from the SoundCloud era of rap where you put music out on your own terms, on Luv Is Rage 2, XO Tour Lif3 was that major hit that pushed him into the mainstream light.
With no current major hit, Uzi may be feeling the pressure to live up to the hype and as a result is the proprietor of the delay for Eternal Atake.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” – Ben Parker
With his elevated status in Hip-Hop, 21 Savage has made it a personal mission to give back to his community. The Atlanta rapper has set up an annual back to school drive for kids in his community which will enter its fourth year this August, along with a donation made to help kids learn about financial literacy.
When it comes to Uzi’s impact, he attempted a venture to set up a charity for XXXTentacion’s family after his passing, a noble act, but there’s been no news of what actually transpired from his efforts. This is not to say Uzi doesn’t help in other ways, however, 21 Savage has made it a priority in his career to give back to his community.
It’s safe to say 21 Savage has had the better career.
Reblogged this on The Hip Hop Library.