Lil Uzi Vert reminds us that he’s not from this planet on his sophomore album, “Eternal Atake”.
When the anticipation for Lil Uzi Vert’s sophomore album reached desperate heights, he would repeatedly be rushed by fans demanding an expected release window. Uzi would often give a nonchalant response to this pestering, as if the question didn’t really concern him. In one instance, when someone shouted “When could we see the album?” as the Philadelphia rapper was entering his car, he paused for a moment to ponder. He seemed like he was deciding where he could conveniently fit an album release into his schedule, but then he just gave up, tossing out an “I don’t even know” before disappearing. While this uncertainty could have been attributed to Uzi’s well-publicized label issues, deep down, fans knew that his interest wasn’t in the album at that point. If Uzi wanted to drop, he would have found a way to drop. His indifference wasn’t performative.
Uzi fans may have been left in the dark for some time, but he made it up to them with the Eternal Atakerollout. Uzi pivoted from secrecy to total transparency. His Twitter page became a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the album’s creation process. It all started with the December release of “Futsal Shuffle 2020”. The dance challenge associated with the single got everyone up on their feet. Uzi’s energy was back in the game and it was contagious. All the people waiting around for him were now rapidly stepping in a procession towards his sophomore effort. Uzi was skipping at the front of the pack, his newly-dyed orange hair serving as the fire that led the way.
A week ahead of Eternal Atake’s sudden release, Uzi descended in a spaceship to beam up his followers for an intergalactic trip. His anime-inspired alter-ego, Renji, had been swapped out for Baby Pluto, a cosmic traveller who was eager to take off. After teasing that the album would be arriving in two weeks time, Baby Pluto grabbed the wheel a week early and pushed the big red button to unload all that was in store: 18 tracks.
Shortly after Eternal Atake was launched into the world at the odd time of 10 AM on a Friday, Uzi confirmed that the project is comprised of three parts. A fan speculated that Uzi’s personas take turns presenting themselves: Baby Pluto on Tracks 1-6, Renji on Tracks 7-12 and Good Old Uzi on Tracks 13-18. Uzi retweeted this theory and complimented the fan’s acuity. With this table of contents, the album can be dissected as encounters with foreign creatures on distinct planets.
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For years, Uzi has been trying to communicate the message that he’s not one of us. It’s been Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World. Being perpetually misunderstood has led to some despondent moments - which have been documented on social media - but at other points, he has floated above dull earthlings with glee. In the first section of Eternal Atake, we get to see Uzi fully embrace his extraterrestrial self. The opening track is named after it, “Baby Pluto”. The plinks of keys evoke shimmering stardust and Uzi is swirling in the midst of it. The sense that you’ve left Earth is either manifested through these ethereal effects or through beats that sound like ill-fated space missions.
“Silly Watch” is when you suspect something has gone amiss with the ship. However, Uzi appears to be either in total control or blissfully uninterested in the looming danger. A brooding synthline lurks in the background but Uzi remains one step ahead of it. His music is always most invigorating when his youthful energy translates to a rapper who refuses to color inside the lines. “Silly Watch” sets off a four-track run of industrial bangers. Over clunking production, Uzi indulges in his brashest bars. “Neck is achoo, might catch the flu / Banana clip, straight from the zoo,” he swaggers on “You Better Move”, a song which could be considered as the sequel to Luv Is Rage 2’s “For Real”. Uzi is so good at tackling these sparse, off-kilter instrumentals because his flows are rarely constrained by whatever madness is occurring around him anyway. On “POP”, he spins himself into a frenzy when shouting, “Balenci, Balenci, Balenci, Balenci, Balenci, Balenci, Balenci, Balenci, Balenci, Balenci, Balenci, Balenci, Balenci, Balenci, Balenci.” Meanwhile, the beat is similarly self-destructing with spastic hiccups. It makes you feel as untouchable as Uzi sounds.
Renji arrives to pull you out of this dark region. If there was still any doubt about Uzi’s strong pop sensibilities, it’s put to rest with “I’m Sorry” and the two bubbly songs that follow, “Celebration Station” and “Bigger Than Life”. If there’s any justice in this world, at least one of these will be sent to the top of the Hot 100. He pulls out the catchy melodies and sing-songy cadences that turned “XO Tour Llif3” into a hit. While the first act of the album featured songs with impulsive interludes and stray thoughts, Renji returns to more conventional structures. These anthems are meant to get everyone to hold hands and run into the rainbow-painted animated world Uzi created.
The dancing comes to a halt with “Chrome Heart Tags”, where you can just float in the euphoric atmosphere designed by Chief Keef. Eternal Atake’s final stretch re-introduces the rapper that we have grown to know and love. It even houses “P2”, the subdued sequel to “XO Tour Llif3”. While these tracks might not reflect some otherworldly narrative, they have enough quirks to stay interesting. The sunshine of the Renji portion trickles into “Urgency”, where Uzi passionately sings alongside Syd (of The Internet), the album’s unexpected sole feature.
Lil Uzi Vert engaged fans in what was perhaps the most immersive album rollout in recent years. When an album can come and go so quickly these days, its embarking on these kinds of rollercoasters that allows the consumption process to exist beyond a Friday release. There will now be weeks of memories associated with these songs. The world of Eternal Atake is still expanding. Uzi is currently interacting with fans as they plot the album’s deluxe edition as a communal endeavor. We have always suspected that there was so much going on inside Uzi’s mind that we couldn’t penetrate. Eternal Atake and the whole experience that came along with it delivered what fans were desperately waiting for.