In the midst of the most successful period of his career, we examine where Lil Uzi Vert goes from here.
When assigning attributes to Lil Uzi Vert, master tactician likely isn’t one of the first that springs to mind. Adored the world over for his potent mix of fashion-laden flashiness and romantic misadventure, it’s easy for a generation of jaded hip-hop fans to write the Philadelphia native off as just another SoundCloud rap alumni from the conveyor belt. Or at least they could until he entered the pantheon of hip-hop’s top selling artists with his new record.
Earlier this month, Uzi’s sophomore major label project Eternal Atake arrived with such a colossal thud that it siphoned the shine off of other new releases in the process. An interstellar trip rendered in his own distinctive image, the project and its deluxe expansion pack acted as a cultural diversion that implored everyone—lover, hater and floating voter alike—to listen. However, the sense of occasion that surrounded its release was birthed by the fact that we, the listeners, had endured such a long and winding journey with him. Over this agonizing two-year stint in the wilderness, Uzi and his fanbase have contended with extensive label drama, Roc Nation intervention, premature cries of retirement and a near-endless array of leaks.
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After enduring this firestorm of adverse circumstances, the hype around Lil Uzi’s first project in three years was enough to elevate him far beyond any sales projections that he’d obtained in the past. To put it into perspective, the project’s 288,000 worth of first week sales allowed Uzi to surpass the initial numbers of another blockbuster surprise release in Eminem’s Music to Be Murdered By.
Doubling the 135,000 worth of first week sales that 2017’s Luv Is Rage 2 accrued, it’s here that we see Uzi's masterclass in brand management. By making Eternal Atake into a near-otherworldly commodity, the audience’s eagerness meant that they fiendishly devoured every last second of it to the tune of over 300 million streams. At a time where omnipresence is seen as a sure-fire business strategy, “Baby Pluto” reasserted the power of keeping the audience yearning for more.
Now, as the dust begins to settle, attention turns to where Uzi goes from here. After pulling off a promotional coup with EA, it seems implausible that he’s going to slink back into the shadows. After all, a magician’s sleight-of-hand is a lot less astounding when you know how the illusion is accomplished.
Entering a period of enhanced visibility that’s been compounded with his feature on The Weeknd’s “vaporwave remix” of “Heartless,” it remains to be seen whether the success of his new project will inspire him to embark on a feature spree. Nonetheless, Uzi’s remarks would imply that those who yearn to see Uzi in the flesh will have the opportunity to do so.
Although the world has been thrown into a state of dysfunction by the pandemic, the inability to congregate en masse doesn’t mean that shows aren’t being pencilled in behind-the scenes. In tow with comments on Instagram live about shows that’ll feature “fireworks and spaceships”, the emergence of his new project prompted an excitable Uzi to announce that “This is a Performance Album. #ETERNALATAKE TOUR!”
If and when a run of dates arrives, it’ll mark his first major live jaunt since his 2018 co-headline shows with G-Eazy and-- when you consider the thematic scope of the record-- all signs suggest that it’ll be his most visually impressive undertaking to date.
Image by HNHH
In releasing Eternal Atake, Lil Uzi Vert delivered one of the hip-hop internet sphere’s biggest holy grails and quelled the endless memes, theorising and forum discussion over what it’d sound like. However, there’s still one elusive project that’s out there in the ether and it’s one that it appears Lil Uzi is waiting on for different reasons.
Cryptic in the most thinly veiled sense, a recent tweet from Uzi simply read “Soon as HE drop imma drop again.” Almost immediately, many concluded that there was only one contemporary he’d be talking about. Subject to even more leaks than Uzi, Playboi Carti’s Whole Lotta Red has become a record of almost mythical proportions due to the setbacks and delays it’s faced.
At one stage, Uzi and the Atlantan artists were firm friends, collaborating with one another on tracks such as Die Lit’s “Shootas,” “Of Course We Ghetto Flowers” and ASAP Mob’s “RAF” among others. Then in November 2019, Uzi claimed that the pair were no longer on good terms before walking back his claims in the wake of EA’s release. Amid retweeting a fan’s plea for an unreleased track to be released, it appears that Uzi is looking to test his mettle against the groundswell of hype that surrounds Carti’s first project since May of 2018.
As for other tracks that remain in the vault for now, Uzi informed fans that “I got different plans wit the lil baby song and the a boogie song they hit different” while “Don’t Want It,” his frequently teased team-up with Lil Nas X, continues to take on a life of its own as an elusive property.
At the moment, Lil Uzi’s current formula is transfixing audiences the world over. Cruising in the trap-infused hip-hop lane that became his staple, Uzi’s persistence with the sound casts an uncertain fate over one sonic shift that he’s alluded to at regular intervals.
Over the years, Lil Uzi has been forthcoming about his disdainful relationship with the categorization of rapper. Seeing himself as more of a “rockstar” than an MC by traditional metrics, his love of the nihilistic punk of GG Allin and the horror-based work of Rob Zombie has been discussed at length but it’s yet to result in any specific genre-melding work. That said, it’s not as if he hasn’t vocalized his ambition to create a rock album in the past and even outlined what the project would entail during a lengthy chat with Zane Lowe.
Speaking in 2017, Uzi’s rough schematics for the project included an “all chicks” band. In terms of who the ensemble would include, Uzi had his sights on his idol in Paramore’s Hayley Williams, claiming “It’s hard to top that. She’s like the best, just of my generation... There’s nobody bro.”
Although it may have been three years ago, it seems as if this was a pressing concern for Uzi at the time. In fact, his plans had even met the approval of one of his biggest inspirations—and a man who he has the likeness of on a $200,000 chain— Marilyn Manson.
"He wants to do a rock album next, and I would love to see that happen because I think that he could make a new thing," Manson informed CoS. "Not some rock/rap type of thing, something special and new that I think needs to be created just to fuck the world up more…. I think that if I had to pick what Lil Uzi Vert should be, if he’s involved in rock, it’s an early Bad Brains or Faith No More, but with a catchier element."
The rampant success of Eternal Atake could provide him with the necessary creative free rein to bring these plans to life and, if the daily social media enquiries from fans about its status are an indication, the appetite is very much there for a crossover project.
While Uzi is willing to propagate the idea that he’s got another album waiting in the wrings, it’s important to remember that this could be hubris when you consider what went into making Eternal Atake. Comments from his long-time engineer about EA’s structure go some way to lifting the lid on the painstaking process of refinement that took place behind-the-scenes.
Image by HNHH
"I thought it would be cool if there was a whole storyline with it," Kesha Lee informed Rolling Stone. "So, I went ahead and started working on one. That version of it took me a year. There were some changes as far as some of the skits. When I only had two weeks to finish up everything, I had to cut it down to a couple seconds."
Coupled with Supah Mario’s claims that he sent him over “300 beats” and TM88 spending “multiple hours” on the phone with him every day, it’s evident that Lil Uzi Vert, beyond all of the hype and misdirection that dogged the project, is a perfectionist that’ll only release music that he feels is up to his preordained standards.
Only time will tell exactly what the next stage of Lil Uzi’s career will look like. Yet in light of Eternal Atake’s success and the levelling up that it’s came to represent, all signs suggest that we won’t be going back into hibernation for a long, long time.