"Do What I Want" or "Do What Thou Wilt"? Getting to the bottom of the absurd Satanic conspiracy theory surrounding Lil Uzi Vert.
Sometimes, new music drops and it's so dark and so unprecedented that people can't help but blame it on Satan. Average bluesman Robert Johnson disappeared for a few weeks in the 1930s, came back with legendary skills, and said he'd acquired them in a deal with the devil. After Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page purchased a house once owned by occult icon Aleister Crowley, the band released its most successful album and Page faced accusations of Satanism for the rest of his career. Hell, some people even believe that Mozart's haunting Requiem in D minor was inspired by visions of a sinister, possibly demonic spirit.
But why Lil Uzi Vert? The purple-haired, yelpy-voiced, oddly-dressed rapper is the last artist you'd expect to be the target of devil-worshipping accusations. Dude sampled the Reading Rainbow theme song. Dude released a mixtape inspired by Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Dude has a song with an accordion in it. Uzi's music is technicolor trap-pop, just about the least demonic-sounding thing that's ever been housed under the umbrella of hip hop. But here we are in 2017, and he's just about the only rapper who's currently facing conspiracy theories about his alleged allegiance to Lucifer.
Is Uzi's anthem "Do What I Want" in fact a cleverly-reworded version of Crowley's "Do What Thou Wilt" mantra? When he rapped, "No I'm not Jordan but I am the GOAT," was he using the popular acronym for Greatest Of All Time or invoking Baphomet, the goat-headed deity pictured in the Church of Satan's official sigil? Let's see just how Satanic this Lil Uzi Vert character really is.
The case for Lil Uzi Vert as a Satanist
This all started back in December of last year, when Daylyt (a niche battle rapper) called out Uzi (a young star with radio hits and hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide) with some harebrained reasoning. This is a standard pattern in hip hop, if you haven't noticed by now. The only difference was that instead of claiming that Uzi wasn't "real hip hop" or that he was feminizing young men-- the classic old head complaints about young stars-- Daylyt came forward with several pieces of evidence that he believed identified Lil Uzi Vert as "the devillllllllll," as he wrote on Instagram:
- Say "Lil Uzi Vert" quickly enough and it sounds like "Lucifer." Fair enough.
- The only person Uzi follows on Instagram is Marilyn Manson. Marilyn Manson is a known Satanist. Okay.
- "Lil Uzi Vert means that he’s pointing an Uzi vertically, which means he’s shooting at the sky. Which means he is actually trying to kill God… Yet we know bullets don’t go high enough to kill God, and that’s why he got signed by Wiz Khalifa, a rapper that is known for getting high... Wiz Khalifa is gonna get Lil Uzi Vert high enough to kill God.” Alright Daylyt, are you just fucking with us?
Daylyt certainly didn't help his case by accompanying these IG revelations with claims that his posts kept getting deleted and that he "may have cracked somthing [sic] they didn't want me to," in addition to writing, "#christianity help me !" Also, Daylyt has a large face tattoo inspired by comic book character Spawn. Anyone with a comic book-inspired face tat automatically loses a little credibility, right?
Not even these eye-catching claims were enough to get Daylyt the attention he sought, and the world kept ignoring him and the Lil Uzi theory until more prominent rappers became involved. On May 22, Offest (who recently topped the charts with Uzi on "Bad & Boujee") took to IG to express his concern about the upside-down cross chain that Uzi has been wearing recently:
“All y’all n****s wearing upside down crosses, my little partners man," Offset said, "Stop that shit boy, you look lame. All that worship the devil shit. Get with God, man."
The inverted cross has an interesting history. Initially used as a symbol of Saint Peter, who was crucified upside down because he didn't want to bite Jesus' swag, it's gradually become more of an anti-Christian icon, gaining popularity in horror films and punk and metal artwork. But let's be real: no one's going to think you're repping Saint Peter if you rock one in 2017.
Lil Uzi responded by posting a drawing of another inverted cross, the numbers "666," and a face with yet another inverted cross drawn on it, to IG, and tagging Offset. Read their ensuing exchange below.
This exchange awakened the internet's deepest caves of conspiracy theorists. Plenty of threads popped up on Reddit, KanyeToThe, and the like, with many young rap fans curious about the ins and outs of Satanism, using this moment as a learning opportunity about its actual beliefs and its history in music. Amateur theories abounded, but none as wild as this one published under the all-caps title "LIL UZI VERT IS SATAN" (subtitled "READ THIS, THIS ACTUALLY ISN'T A JOKE"). In addition to restating Daylyt and Offset's concerns, the author goes on to win the gold medal in "what the fuck are you smoking" by a mile:
"another weird thing is that lil uzi vert is actually very attractive (i know that sounds gay af) for some hood rapper that rises to fame out of nowhere. they always said that satan would use looks to deceive."
Other outlets, such as rap conservative haven KollegeKidd.com, published in-depth investigations and/or videos about Lil Uzi's beliefs and affiliations, many of them fixating on the rapper's connection to Marilyn Manson. Uzi is indeed a fan of the '90s industrial metal icon, as revealed by Nardwuar last year, and as was hammered home when Uzi commissioned a custom chain of Manson's likeness from jeweler Ben Baller a few months ago. Manson also appears to be a fan of Lil Uzi, and has expressed this in his own unique way, commenting "Lucifer is in full form" on an IG video of Uzi performing "XO Tour Life" and captioning a photo of Uzi with his new chain, "Lucifer rising."
So far, this is the extent of the evidence of Lil Uzi Vert's ties to the Church of Satan or belief in devil-worshipping practices: a few pieces of jewelry, a beef with Offset, and a fondness for Marilyn Manson. Now let's look at the case against this theory.
Why Lil Uzi Vert's probably not a Satanist
Shock value has been around in art in one form or another for centuries, from the actual cannons Tchaikovsky fired during performances of his 1812 Overture, to Piss Christ, a 1987 photo by Andres Serrano depicting a plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of Serrano's urine. Methods of provocation vary, and in hip hop and pop music for the past few years, the most popular form has been the cooption of gruesome metal and punk imagery (I wrote about this extensively last fall). As I mentioned before, these genres have had a lot to do with the popularization of the inverted cross as an anti-Christian or even Satanist symbol, and artists' fascination with darkness encompasses every imaginable scary or evil thing, from death to Baphomet to Crowley.
Does this mean that the metal world is filled with people who actually worship Satan? Not really. Black Sabbath, one of the first artists to invoke pagan or anti-Christian imagery, was comprised entirely of guys who "all believed in Jesus" (according to their bassist) and released "After Forever," a decidedly pro-Christian song. The "Satanic panic" of the 1980s-- a wave of media hysteria kick-started by allegations of child abuse at a preschool-- meant that bands that referenced the devil ended up on the news and became favorites of kids looking to horrify their parents. You can see this echoed in hip hop artists such as Three 6 Mafia and Odd Future, both of whom used Satanic iconography to varying degrees. Their are a few grisly exceptions (like Mayhem, a profoundly disturbing band that counts Robb Banks as a fan), but for the most part, truly satanic metalheads are almost as rare as devil-worshipping rappers.
Many rappers wear metal merch or recreate metal bands' logos (as Lil Uzi himself has done with Metallica's), perhaps hoping to gain some attention via shock value, or perhaps because dark aesthetics are just cool as fuck. Uzi is the rare case of a rapper who actually appears to be a genuine fan of an artist in the metalsphere, namely Manson. Manson is an interesting character, on one hand a confirmed honorary priest in the Church of Satan, but on the other, an iconoclast who clearly takes pleasure in angering the Christian establishment. His album AntichristSuperstar, a rock opera that parodies Jesus Christ Superstar and critiques Christianity in America, was the pinnacle of his career, and every date of the ensuing national tour was picketed by religious groups. His reputation worsened when the Columbine Massacre was wrongfully blamed upon his music, to which he eloquently responded in the documentary Bowling for Columbine.
It's easy to see why Uzi, a guy who refers to himself as a rockstar more frequently than a rapper, idolizes Manson. When Uzi was a kid, Manson was the wildest act out there, incorporating experimental, abrasive elements into his music while still topping charts, selling out shows, making the news, and pulling the hottest chicks. He was an enigma, a truly one-of-a-kind star. There may be few similarities in their music, but similarly to the way Young Thug admires Elton John for his outlandishness, Uzi clearly sees something in Manson's persona and/or career that he'd like to emulate. Oddly enough, Uzi's music was also at the center of a recent school shooting news story.
The last thing we have to consider is the recent wave of young rappers coopting symbols previously associated with devil worship for their own uses. When Offset lashed out at Lil Uzi, breakout stars SahBabii and XXXTENTACION also took offense. XXX, who basically seems eager to beef with any established rapper about anything, addressed Offset, claiming that the inverted cross is "... nothing Satanic. Just so you know. Stop saying that, it’s not controversial.” Sahbabii's case is more interesting though. He too responded to Offset with several videos, saying among other things, "My cross gon' stay upside down," but elaborated on the significance of the symbol in further posts. The young Atlanta star has created a personal belief system called 'Unknownism" that makes use of the inverted cross and the number 666, but for reasons completely unrelated to Satan (the 666, for example, refers to a piece of human DNA composed of six protons, six electrons, and six neutrons-- at least according to Sahbabii). It's unclear if Uzi has created his own meanings for the symbols he rocks, but the actions of his peers suggests a pattern of younger artists adopting shocking iconography for reasons far removed from their original significance.
Lil Uzi Vert is far from the darkest, most demonic rapper out there-- especially considering the charges against him, XXXTENTACION seems much more like the spawn of Satan-- and although he's clearly fascinated by some symbols and artists linked to Satanism, equating that to full-blown devil worship is quite a leap. The fact that he's been targeted for this reads as nothing more than intolerance to things outside of the norm in hip hop, part of the same toxic blowback that singles out Lil Yachty's positivity, iLoveMakonnen's sexuality, or Young Thug's clothing. Uzi's music addresses depression and attracts weirdos and outcasts, people he openly courts on social media, but it's nothing to be afraid of. He'll probably continue to bait old heads with controversial moves and reveal interest in parts of culture far-removed from Golden Age hip hop, but that's part of the reason why he's so vital and so popular.