Eternal Atake arrives after two years of delays, label drama, and frustrations so intense that they led Uzi to momentarily quit music. It is difficult to remember a rap album released to such fervid expectations, let alone one that lived up to those expectations. Eternal Atake is Lil Uzi Vert’s best album yet, with a cohesiveness, slick concept, and performance that justifies every ounce of hype. He’s still melodically minded—note the almost melismatic flourish of “Got a model/ with vitiligo” on “Prices”—but Eternal Atake sometimes feels like a return to 2013, when he was a nobody in Philly serving the kinetic, drill-adjacent, rapid-fire street raps that inspired his name. Eternal Atake contains some of the best rapping moments of his career, a development foreshadowed by the 2019 G Herbo-sampling loose single “Free Uzi,” as well as the snippets leaked and shared in the interminable run-up to the album’s release.
Eternal Atake plays out across three six-song sides. The first, which introduces Uzi’s Baby Pluto persona, is a relentless barrage of flexes and the site of the album’s most memorable rapping showcases. “POP,” the intensely beating heart of the Baby Pluto section, takes pages from the playbooks of Chief Keef, Playboi Carti, and Waka Flocka; Uzi’s repetition of the word “BOW,” “POP,” and, ultimately, “BALENCI” will make the listener want to ram their head into the nearest hard surface, whether from irritation or excitement.
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The second side, which features Uzi’s Renji alter-ego, is the album’s strongest and most vulnerable. On “I’m Sorry,” a break-up postmortem, he seems to wonder if his fame is preventing him from making meaningful human connections. (“I am so high I can’t land now.”) The bittersweet, Keef-produced “Chrome Heart Tags,” suggests that retail therapy and Bentleys are the best remedy for relationship blues (“Hotbox a Mulsanne/ I just gotta ventilate,” he raps). Angelic vocal backgrounds appear on every song here, giving this side of the record an incredible feeling of uplift the two surviving members of Heaven’s Gate are going to have a hard time resisting, despite the millenarian cult’s recent threat of legal action against Lil Uzi. The stardust-coated sense of wonder that animates the Renji side carries into the third and final side, told from the perspective of Uzi himself. “Urgency” and “Venetia” communicate the distant, kaleidoscopic beauty of nebulas, while “Secure the Bag” and the restrained “XO TOUR Llif3″ sequel “P2” solemnly gesture towards the incomprehensible vastness of the cosmos.
The skits, created by Uzi’s engineer Kesha Lee and stitched to the ends of several songs, together account for less than 45 seconds of the album’s 62 minutes. Lee’s sound design—the rush of Uzi getting sucked into a portal, the hum of the spaceship engine, the unsettling, pulsating rumble coming from the great beyond—co-exists seamlessly with the album’s production. It creates narrative tension and helps create a broader cosmic context for his sex marathons and shopping sprees, for the great eccentric force with which he raps and sings. Artists have singing about interstellar odysseys for what seems like eons. But when Uzi brags says, “I’m not from earth, I’m from outer space,” you can’t help but believe him.