They were the final rapper to appear in the Grammys’ 50th anniversary tribute to hip-hop mega-medley, and now they’re back in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100: Lil Uzi Vert, whose “Just Wanna Rock” climbs from 12 to 10 on the chart dated Feb. 11.
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Uzi started the 2020s as one of the biggest artists in popular music, with their Eternal Atake album blanketing the Hot 100 and posting one of the year’s best first-week numbers. But they haven’t released a new album since then, and their single and EP releases over the last three years failed to generate the same level of excitement — until the Jersey Club-influenced “Rock” started taking off in late 2022.
Is Uzi officially back? And what might be able to put “Rock” over the top on the Hot 100? Billboard staffers answer these questions and more below.
1. “Just Wanna Rock” peeks into the top 10 this week, in its 16th week on the listing. What do you think the biggest reason is behind its late growth into a top 10 hit?
Carl Lamarre: I think it took people time to get it. The Jersey Club sound has a place in hip-hop but picked up incredible steam as of late, courtesy of “Rock” and the DJ Smallz 732 remix of Coi Leray’s “Players.” Later, it became a huge hit — as most of Uzi’s records do — on social media. And, of course, Uzi’s penchant for showy dance moves also gave the track an extra boost, as previously proven with their “Futsal Shuffle.”
Cydney Lee: Good question. I’m going to throw a dart and say the timing of its release. Uzi dropped this in October and the video came a month later then the holidays hit which slowed things down. Now it’s a new year, people’s energy is different and the countdown to spring and summer has started. Maybe that’s it. But “Just Wanna Rock” and Jersey Club in general, has been going crazy on TikTok, being the soundtrack to viral dance trends and I think this popularity and growth is mostly coming from the youth. (Also, the song will climb even higher when my (the) Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl!!!)
Elias Leight: The track’s growing presence at radio helped push it into the upper reaches of the Hot 100. “Just Wanna Rock” has been earning more than 18 million on-demand streams a week (including UGC) since back in November, according to Luminate. (That number was actually above 21 million for much of December.) Radio often lags behind streaming, and sure enough, the audience that encountered “Just WannaRock” on the airwaves has grown more slowly. But it has risen considerably since Christmas, closing in on 30 million and helping to propel Lil Uzi Vert back into the top 10.
Jason Lipshutz: “Just Wanna Rock” is a proudly strange single that rejects normal song structure, swerves away from Lil Uzi Vert’s established sound and deploys hooks that take time to worm their way into your heart; I was reluctant to embrace “Rock” when it was first released, and now, I play it multiple times a day. I’d bet that plenty of Uzi fans and casual hip-hop listeners have experienced a similar evolution — perhaps spurred on a little by hearing the song in a sports arena, where it’s been absolutely inescapable this winter. “Just Wanna Rock” is not a one-listen type of smash, so it makes sense that it needed a few months (a several dozen NBA arena spins) to surge into the top 10.
Andrew Unterberger: Not sure if it’s the biggest reason, but I do think its increased use within the sports world — as both a go-to jock jam in arenas and stadiums and a locker-room favorite of teams (including Uzi’s Super Bowl-bound hometown Philadelphia Eagles) has helped its momentum, and given it much-needed pop culture context for those who might’ve otherwise found it confusing. Regardless, I look forward to hearing it during pre-game intros and timeouts for the next few decades.
2. “Rock” already marks the seventh top 10 hit of Lil Uzi Vert’s career — though it’s their first in three years now. Are you surprised that “Rock” would be the song to return Uzi to the chart’s top tier?
Carl Lamarre: Again, with Uzi, I think you never know what to expect. The unpredictability of their music makes them an enviable threat in rap culture. Sonically, Uzi rarely misses, but you never know if the records will be appreciated commercially the same way it’s received culturally. Thankfully for them, they’ve been able to straddle the lines seamlessly.
Cydney Lee: Not surprised! Given the type of artist Uzi is and the fact that Philly, Jersey and Baltimore club are so similar, them making a Jersey Club song seemed bound to happen. Uzi is no stranger to tying dance moves with their songs also (their little shoulder move and 2020’s “Futsal Shuffle”?) so adding a hip dance to “Just Wanna Rock” was the perfect recipe for TikTok creators to recreate and even add their own moves.
Elias Leight: “Just Wanna Rock” is a ferocious intro, a frenzied ramp-up, the musical equivalent of a violently shaken champagne bottle. But it never fully explodes — it’s a lot of build with little release. Lil Uzi Vert’s music is often deliciously off-kilter, and “Just Wanna Rock” fits the bill.
Jason Lipshutz: I am, simply because Uzi is prolific enough that I would have assumed a new single attached to a major album, or a high-profile guest spot, would have gotten them there first. And maybe “Rock” will lead into a new Uzi full-length to follow 2020’s Eternal Atake, or at least point to where their sound is headed next, but regardless, its success is divorced from any larger project or grand plan. “Rock” is a singular smash, accentuating itself from the rest of Uzi’s discography and becoming one of the more uncompromising top 10 hits of the decade.
Andrew Unterberger: A little, just because Uzi had been trending so far in the wrong direction over the few years leading up to it, and because the song seemed pretty alien and unfamiliar to the current mainstream, even by the artist’s already-extraterrestrial standards. But maybe I just didn’t realize how much Jersey Club had begun to spread nationally, or how much fans were just waiting for the right Uzi song to jump back on board with.
3. When Uzi released Eternal Atake in early 2020, it debuted to blockbuster numbers and mostly rave reviews. After a tumultuous past three years — both commercially and legally — is the strong response to “Rock” an indication to you that Uzi’s next full-length will be similarly greeted as Atake? Or are they unilikely to match that level of pre-pandemic stardom again?
Carl Lamarre: Their new album, which I believe is the Pink Tape, will be greeted with incredible fanfare. Since their 2017 mainstream breakout Luv Is Rage 2, Uzi’s fanbase has grown exponentially, and the demand for their music has since followed suit. If you check out the festival lineups, they’ve ascended to headline status. There’s been pandemonium for them, whether a single or a mixtape. For the younger generation, only Uzi and Playboi Carti can accrue that type of interest and eagerness in new music –because they’ve also mastered the beauty behind the rollout, making every release an event.
Cydney Lee: This might be a toss-up, and I say this because they released an EP Red & White last year, and I don’t remember hearing too much buzz around it. It peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard 200, so obviously people were listening, but “Just Wanna Rock” seems so niche that I’m not sure which way their next full-length will lean.
Elias Leight: Lil Uzi Vert fans are a dedicated bunch. While it may be hard for the rapper to match Eternal Atake‘s 400 million first-week streams, they’ll almost certainly have a big bow with their follow-up and debut at No. 1 (barring a surprise album from someone like Drake).
Jason Lipshutz: I think Uzi’s next project will be even bigger than their last. Although some of its commercial effect got overshadowed by the pandemic shutdown of March 2020, Eternal Atake (including its full-length deluxe edition that followed a week after its release) was a blockbuster, particularly when it came to Uzi’s younger audience (400 million streams in its first week!) — and keep in mind, the album thrived even without a mainstream-courting single, mostly functioning as a showcase for Uzi’s heliocentric flow. If its follow-up includes hits with the chart impact of “Just Wanna Rock,” watch out: we are in for one of the biggest album releases of the year.
Andrew Unterberger: They’re probably closer than I would’ve guessed a few months ago, certainly. I do think it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t just underwhelming song releases that have hurt Uzi’s momentum — they were accused of felony assault in 2021, with some pretty gnarly specifics, to which they ultimately pleaded no contest. But have those headlines really stuck to them, to the point of altering their career trajectory? Maybe not.
4. The clear Jersey Club influence evident in “Just Wanna Rock” has been much discussed as a potential bellwether crossover moment for the dance subgenre. Do you see “Rock” as the start of a larger Jersey Club presence in the mainstream, or do you see it mostly being kept to the underground outside of this hit?
Carl Lamarre: The dance subgenre can swell into something bigger if another notable artist takes a crack at it. Dance enjoyed a splashy moment with Drake and Beyonce dipping their feet in the genre last year, and artists are becoming a bit captivated with what they can deliver on their own accord. With “Rock” and the “Players” remix generating interest on the mainstream level, all it takes is a resounding third hit to shift the paradigm.
Cydney Lee: I think the song is exposing a wider audience to the Jersey Club sound, but I do think its popularity will stay regional. Like NYC drill. In other words, we’ll probably only hear songs like this by artists from the mid-Atlantic region, with maybe a few exceptions (NLE Choppa and 2Rare’s “Do It Again”).
Elias Leight: Rap that nods to Jersey Club has already been seeping into the mainstream. Not surprisingly, the breakneck tempos make it popular for TikTok dance videos, and one of the scene’s rising stars, Newark rapper Bandmanrill, landed a deal with Warner Records last year. (Bandmanrill works frequently with Mcvertt, who co-produced “Just Wanna Rock.”) Philadelphia also has its own variant of this sound, which has helped rapper 2Rare go viral and score collaborations with Lil Durk and NLE Choppa. 2Rare is signed to a joint venture with Warner as well, and he appeared in Drake’s “Sticky” video.
Jason Lipshutz: I’d love a full-on Jersey Club movement in the upper reaches of the Hot 100, but I’m predicting that “Just Wanna Rock” is instead a lone crossover moment. That propulsive sound is simply difficult to translate into a mass-appeal single, and even “Just Wanna Rock” took months until it beguiled enough listeners and grew into a top 10 hit. Happy to be proven wrong, but I doubt we look back on this moment as the start of a major trend.
Andrew Unterberger: Jumping on a Jersey Club trend is perhaps easier said than done, since it requires an adjustment to energy and flow that a lot of rappers might not be inclined (or equipped) to make — though it’s a great fit for an already frenetic, right-brained MC like Uzi. More likely perhaps, we’ll see the trend explode through DJs remixing established hits; lord knows folks can’t seem to get enough of sped-up versions these days, so at least going the Jersey Club route with remixes would allow producers to be a little more creative and specific with their edits while cranking up the BPMs.
5. A climb into the top 10 for “Rock” is impressive, but it’ll be hard for the song to threaten the top five without major radio support — which it seems unlikely to get, as a two-minute and largely structureless song without an obvious format radio base. If you were to commission a new remix to help get it over the top, which special guest would be your first call to be the remix’s featured star?
Carl Lamarre: Playboi Carti. If anyone can fully immerse themselves into the jungle gym of Lil Uzi Vert, it’s their one-time partner in crime. Let’s make it happen and finally get the album we’ve been dying to hear.
Cydney Lee: Coi Leray. She’s from Jersey and has already dabbled in Jersey Club. A Jersey or Philly artist is the only right answer here and I think she has the right energy for a track like this.
Elias Leight: Several radio formats are actually embracing “Just Wanna Rock.” The single has become Lil Uzi Vert’s third most-played track of all time on the airwaves — behind “XO Tour Llif3” and “You Was Right” — according to Mediabase, and it’s currently inside the top 5 on both Mediabase’s Rhythmic chart and its Urban chart. Where “Just Wanna Rock” lags behind other Hot 100 hits right now is pop airplay, a format that isn’t always receptive to rap singles. A remix may not help sway pop radio, but Cardi B had fun last year jumping on tracks like Kay Flock’s “Shake It,” and she’s on the same label as Lil Uzi Vert…
Jason Lipshutz: How about Quavo and Offset? Following the death of Takeoff last year and reports of feuding between the remaining Migos members, a reunion on a “Just Wanna Rock” remix would be major news and a must-listen. Plus, Migos gave Uzi their star-making turn on their No. 1 hit “Bad and Boujee” — time for Uzi to return the favor.
Andrew Unterberger: Too much to hope Dee Snider has a great-nephew or someone who’d be willing to introduce him to Uzi? Even if not, maybe let’s just imagine a cut-up duet with Snider barking those “ROCK!” response vocals. There’s some Billy Ray + Lil Nas cross-generational potential here, certainly.
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