Lil Uzi Vert Credit: Spike Jordan

This year hip-hop, long a dominant cultural force, went pop in terms of both setting trends in contemporary music and leading music sales. Philadelphia rapper Lil Uzi Vert is at the apex. His debut studio album, Luv Is Rage 2 (Atlantic), is the most important release of 2017, which has as much to do with his status as an avatar for the current zeitgeist and industry shifts as it does with the quality of his music. His rock-influenced approach to songwriting and his sugary, melting flow hit the sweet spots of the surging, raucous aesthetic of the underground “Soundcloud rap” scene as well as the more melodic mainstream—a place big enough for Drake’s R&B coos (his March “playlist” More Life spent several weeks at number one on the Billboard 200) and Migos’ slippery je ne sais quoi (January’s Culture debuted at number one). And because hip-hop has so keenly embraced streaming (which the industry has finally accepted along with traditional sales), the numbers further favor upstarts such as Uzi Vert—his cathartic, mesmerizing “XO Tour Llif3” has been streamed on Soundcloud more than a billion times since March. The single is on Luv Is Rage 2, and it speaks to the album’s volcanic mix of hook-laden euphoria and lyrical woefulness. This album debuted at number one on its release in August, and six of its songs—nearly half the album—appear on Spotify’s most popular and influential playlist, RapCaviar. The streaming platform also happens to sponsor tonight’s show.   v