Across nearly two hours of new material, Lil Uzi Vert demonstrates his mad skills as an MC on the highly anticipated ‘Eternal Atake’ project.
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As the 2010’s have wound down, Lil Uzi Vert has functioned in the hip-hop community much the same way as his fellow member of the Lil family, Weezy Baby, did a decade or so prior. Both have thrown fans off with their extraterrestrial personas (“I’m not from Earth, I’m from outer space,” Uzi informs us, much as Wayne once declared, “We are not the same, I am a martian… get in my spaceship and hover.”) Most of all, they’ve discovered an extraordinary range of methods of staying relevant throughout lengthy hiatuses between LPs: raucous festival appearances, feuds with a handful of other MC’s, and releasing more music for free via online mixtapes than many artists put out for a price in their whole careers.
All of this activity has been more than enough to keep Lil Uzi Vert’s profile high and mighty in the nearly three years since Luv is Rage 2. But like Lil Wayne in 2008, the year of the long-hyped Tha Carter III, the Philadelphia rapper born Symere Woods has decided it’s time to return to releasing a traditional full-length album after years of sticking to alternative means of drawing attention.
Even while honoring customs in that sense, Uzi has continued to find unorthodox means of going about his business. For most rappers, “releasing an LP” amounts to putting out a single disc of 12-15 new songs. What has Woods preferred to do? Pull off a surprise release with the unannounced Eternal Atake; then return a week later with a sequel to an old mixtape, Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World, that’s dubbed the deluxe edition to Eternal Atake; then glue on two previously-released singles as bonus tracks so that, all told, we’ve been serviced with 32 songs and close to two hours of new material from Lil Uzi Vert in the space of a couple weeks.
It’s a bit of a brain-tickler to get a grasp on all of this. But what is especially dizzying is seeing one of the top MC’s of the moment pull off a wide variety of verbal gymnastics across this immersive circus show of an album. Sometimes, it’s Uzi’s clever rhyme patterns that grab our attention (“I turned to the boss, can’t deal with no middleman. Anthony Davis, don’t deal with the Pelicans,” he marvels on “Homecoming.”) At other points, it’s his infectious choruses that do the trick (his “up-up-uppity!” chant on “Lo Mein” is delightful). No matter his approach, we consistently feel as though we are in the presence of a man who has spent many of his 25 years honing his craft as a rapper and now is as eager as ever to display his formidable abilities on the mic.
In terms of profound socio-political content, this album is no To Pimp a Butterfly. But while the accounts of Lil Uzi Vert’s sexual escapades and material wealth aren’t exactly the most innovative of hip-hop subject matter, hopping aboard his spaceship and joining him for a ride across a dazzling new universe is certainly an original and creative experience. Along the journey through this new Uzi-ruled galaxy, we are treated to some impressive science-fictiony beats– especially that of “You Better Move,” which sounds as though a bunch of Storm Troopers are firing off their laser guns throughout the track– and plenty of accounts of Woods livin’ and lovin’ the extraterrestrial life (“Geeking on Mars yesterday, now I’m on Pluto today,” he celebrates).
Detailing this intergalactic voyage is enough for Lil Uzi Vert to hold down Eternal Atake on his own — other than some singing by Syd on “Venetia,” it is completely cameo-free. By the time he moves on to Part II of this project, the lead man decides to make room for a considerable number of guest artists on his spacecraft. Plenty of payoffs ensue.
“Wassup” marks the third collaboration between Uzi and Future, and the two build upon their established chemistry by chronicling a lifestyle defined by “[walking] around with lots of enemies.” On the Chief Keef-featuring “Bean (Kobe),” Woods works in a tribute to the late NBA legend and his fellow Philadelphia native. Elsewhere, further guests such as Young Thug, Lil Durk and 21 Savage contribute to the success of this 2020 space odyssey.
While it’s the formerly-unheard material that’s the main highlight here, the bonus track singles elevate the listening experience as well. As most of us know full well from karaoke nights, it’s all too easy for the masses to get fully consumed by the song “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. By extension, the interpolation of that immortal chorus becomes an all-conquering earworm on “That Way,” with more clever wordplay on Uzi’s part adding to the enjoyment. The EDM-dominated “Futsal Shuffle 2020” is sure to be a stellar attraction as well, not least because it is now the rapper’s best-performing solo single to date, having debuted at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Being quarantined has been tough on all of us. But not only does it provide us the free time to make it through a lengthy record like Eternal Atake, but also the futuristic hip-hop thrills packed into Lil Uzi Vert’s latest are sure to do wonders in terms of breaking the mundanity of the moment.
In the long run, those same thrills will likely prove effective in just about any context.
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📸 © Lil Uzi Vert
Eternal Atake (Deluxe)
an album by Lil Uzi Vert