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How Lil Uzi Vert Turned ‘Pink Tape’ Metalcore

Bring Me The Horizon frontman Oli Sykes discusses working on one of the year’s biggest rap albums

Lil Uzi Vert Bring Me the Horizon's Oli Sykes

Taylor Hill/Getty Images; Matthew Baker/Getty Images

Lil Uzi Vert’s long-awaited album, Pink Tape, arrived last week and found the eclectic MC in decidedly new terrain. With features by everyone from Nicki Minaj to New York electro-pop duo Snow Strippers, Pink Tape is as inventive and untethered by convention as Uzi’s forward-thinking fashion sense. As such, reactions to the record have so far been mixed, with traditional rap fans lamenting Uzi’s forays into unknown genre territory and others celebrating the musician’s daring left turns. Regardless of your feelings, it’s made for one of the most exciting releases of the year.

Toward the end of Pink Tape, following the Minaj feature and a remarkably faithful flip of System of a Down’s “Chop Suey,” Uzi lands in full screamo territory with “Werewolf,” featuring the U.K. metal band Bring Me the Horizon. The song has the feeling of early Deftones and marks one of the biggest left turns in recent memory for any hip-hop artist. While rappers like Playboi Carti and his cohort of Opium label signees have dabbled in punk and heavy-metal influences, both aesthetic and sonic, Uzi dives all the way into the deep end. The result is still being digested by fans and, as it turns out, the collaborators on the track. Bring Me the Horizon frontman Oli Skyes talked to Rolling Stone about working on one of the biggest rap albums of 2023.

How did you guys end up working on this song together?
We reached out to him first, actually. I’m pretty sure the day we emailed his management, he rang me that day and was like, “I need to see you. What do you want?” So it was super quick. He recorded the final record the first day I spoke to him. We did some tweaks and stuff, but, yeah, he just rang me. I hadn’t spoken to him prior to that. And so it all kind of happened very quickly. We got it quick. So then he said something like, “I want you to be on my record as well.” We’re like, “Cool, just let us know.”

What made you initially reach out to Uzi?
We had an idea that he was into our band, but we were looking for features for our record, and I’m not a massive hip-hop guy, but I just think his aesthetic, his style, and the way he does stuff is just special, I just felt like it would be a sick idea. We had no idea if it would work out, but fortunately, it did.

What was it like working with him on his album?
We basically just spoke over Zoom. I was in Brazil at the time, so the time difference was crazy. I was waking up at like 2 a.m. Their studio looked crazy. It was like crazy horror-movie scenery. Every time I woke up talking to them at like 3 a.m., I was like, “I don’t even know what’s going on right now.” It was a trip, for sure.

When you got some of his recordings back, did it seem to fit easily with your guys’ sound?
They were adamant about what they wanted. Even when they said to send some stuff, I was like, “OK. So let’s send them some shit where it’s kind of like some trap or hip-hop influences in the verses.” I sent them one track, and they said, “That’s cool, but what else you got?” Every time they were just like, “No, this isn’t it. This isn’t it.” I was like, “Well, I got this one, but I don’t think it’s going to fit,” And they were like, “Yeah, send it in.” I sent that in, and he said, “That’s the one. That’s the one. A hundred percent, that’s going on my album.” I was like, “Seriously?” He was like, “Yeah.” It was eye-opening. They knew exactly what they wanted, you know what I mean? I think when people think of Uzi, they think he’s just all over the place, but there’s a method to the madness.

What was your reaction to them picking what would eventually become “Werewolf?
I was super excited as well when they said they wanted this track to be on the album. I don’t know if we would have used it because it seemed like heavy Deftones influences on his track, almost to the point where I was like, “Should we release this? People are going to say something.” So when they said they wanted it, I was like, “Fuck yeah. It’s not for us. It’s not for our album. It’s fine.”

It’s interesting you mention Deftones, who are having a bit of a revival among younger listeners. And there are a few other features on the Uzi record that are in a similar space as you guys. Do you feel there’s increasing collaboration between artists from genres like hip-hop and genres like metal or rock?
I don’t know, man. This is so different from what we’ve been doing because this is not like we’re Jay-Z doing some shit with Linkin Park or like a slight crossover with Playboi Carti. I appreciate the influences he’s taken with his music, but this is something totally different. I don’t know if you can see people reacting to the song, but a lot of times, it’s like, “What the fuck is this?” Because it’s fully in the deep end. It’s not just like, “Oh, some influences from rock.” This is like, even in my scene, the beat cooks. You know what I mean? The real shit. They also covered “Chop Suey” in their own way. I told Uzi, “It’s not that you’ve changed the game, it’s like you took a shit on it. You’re just doing something where no one can copy what’s happened there.” No one can copy how they’re doing there.

Have you noticed any reactions or new listeners as a result? 
I’m not someone that goes on the internet often, but sometimes I’ll get sent a post from Reddit or whatever, and people are intrigued, like, “What is this shit?” Like, “I listened to this song with Uzi and a band from England. This guy is screaming.” It’s kind of exciting for real because we’re not just bringing some watered-down version of what we do to the masses. It’s like what we would do ourselves if we weren’t so caught up in this whole music-industry game. So it’s really special. It’s really special.

How much do you remember about writing the track?
I don’t know if it would’ve seen the light of day if it weren’t for Uzi, but we sent that demo to them, and obviously, they said they loved it. So he played the verse for me and then was like, “Can you do a chorus?” So we cut a chorus pretty quickly, and I was like, “What do you think?” And they were like, “I love it. I love it.” And I’m like, “Cool.” And then I didn’t hear anything for months, and then literally a week ago, I saw all the promotions for the album. And I texted him, and I was like, “What about our song? We never finished it.” And they were like, “Oh, it’s on there.” I said, “Huh? With the demo we recorded and the lyrics?” And they were like, “Yeah. We produce the shit out of our other songs. We never stop.” So at first, I had a mini heart attack because I was like, “You had the demo. We didn’t do anything to it. We didn’t …” The structure, everything was just the first take. And then I took a step back from it and realized, “You know what? That’s pretty fucking cool.” I’m glad someone actually stopped me from going in there and fucking with it too much. It’s just raw. It’s the first version.

What was your reaction to first hearing it?
It was kind of a trip because we got three days between knowing it was going to be on his record and then it actually being out in the wild, and I hadn’t listened to it in ages, so I’d almost forgotten about it. And then I actually really, really loved it. Someone sent me a random TikTok where someone made an edit of Sonic the Hedgehog, like, “This is how this track makes me feel,” and I’m like, “Whoa. This is cool.”

I remember I was with a few friends from the U.K. the night it came out, and I mentioned you guys’ name as one of the features. They couldn’t believe it.
Yeah, it’s random as hell, man. It’s random. It is. We’re doing OK in our own way, but, yeah. For me, it’s two opposite worlds, but I fucking love that. You know what I mean? We did work with Ed Sheeran last year and then Uzi this year, and I’m all for that. Not to get too cheesy on you, but I just think music is the last kind of pure thing where it can bring people together. I hate the gatekeeping shit. I hate it. We should all be accessible.

From Rolling Stone US