Lil Uzi Vert is from another planet. Since he released Luv Is Rage 2 in 2017, he’s carried a generation’s worth of expectations atop his shoulders. The delays, label fights, and general chaos surrounding Uzi’s much discussed Eternal Atake reached near-Detox levels of notoriety, but the album has finally arrived, and boy was it worth the wait. The fact that Eternal Atake exists at all feels like a minor miracle; that Lil Uzi turned in an album this stellar from beginning to end establishes him as one of the best hip-hop artists of his era.
It’s not just the satisfying pop structures that effortlessly climb down from his brain and fill his music that makes Eternal Atake such an electric ride, nor is it simply the unending string of witty one-liners, coming consistently but never sounding forced. It’s also that Uzi sounds better as a rapper than he ever has before, remarkably confident and funny. No one on Earth sounds like him, and he’s well aware of this fact.
Eternal Atake is the closest thing Lil Uzi Vert has ever made to a straight-ahead rap album. And it works with thrilling results. On “You Better Move” he raps, “I live my life like a cartoon/Reality is not my move.” It’s the most self-aware line of the year and crystallizes where Uzi is on the rap food chain right now. He’s not only playing a different game than everyone else, he’s doing so on an entirely different timeline.
No one on Earth sounds like Lil Uzi Vert, and he’s well aware of this fact.
The guiding principle of any particular Lil Uzi Vert song is that there is truly no guiding principle. In less assured hands, this chaos-as-process would dissipate into occasionally good ideas thwarted by poor execution, but with Uzi, unpredictability is a badge of honor and one that dictates every moment of Eternal Atake.
All of this started on July 31st, 2018, Uzi’s 24th birthday. He deleted every one of his Instagram posts except for a snippet of “New Patek” and cover art for a mysterious new project called Eternal Atake. “New Patek” was released two months later and in December Uzi announced that the album was done. Shortly after the new year, though, Uzi stated on Instagram that he was quitting music. Three months later, he returned with “That’s a Rack” and “Sanguine Paradise,” the latter of which is one of the best Lil Uzi Vert songs to date.
The irony of this situation―that three of the songs he released in the run-up to Atake are nowhere to be found on the album―is classic Uzi. Only he could spit out three world class pop-rap songs and ignore them when album time rolls around. While EA may not have any straight-to-number-one singles in the vein of “XO Tour Llif3,” the album’s consistency across one hour and 18 tracks suggests that Lil Uzi Vert is at the top of his game.
Uzi’s decision to make Atake a featureless affair (aside from one track with Syd) is a brilliant move, allowing the album to serve as a coherent aesthetic vision for Uzi’s mission. EA’s early run features Uzi’s strongest rapping to date, and once the record settles in, he flips through a variety of modes and moods to landscape this world he’s been hinting at for a few years.
Opener “Baby Pluto” finds Uzi moving between a rapid-fire flow and a sing-song style with ease, showing off serious chops and an unmatched ear for melody. Because of all of the fun tricks and sly turns Uzi litters his music with, it’s easy to overlook some of his stellar lines. On “Baby Pluto” he raps, “I stay with the baddest/I’m counting the cabbage/While making my lady come.” No one throws images together quite like Uzi. His is a vivid world that’s simultaneously impossible to fully imagine and nearly tangible.
“You Better Move” to “Homecoming” is one of the strongest one-two punches on the album, with Uzi handling skull-crushing, bass-heavy beats in his upper register, producing a fascinating blend of low and high-end. But he rarely stays in one specific style for more than a song or two. “Celebration Stations” teases with techno and a great Uzi line about dancing in leather pants, while “Bust Me” previews what an extra-terrestrial love ballad may sound like when the aliens finally arrive.
“Chrome Heart Tags” is a particularly exciting track, featuring production from Chief Keef, who is quickly becoming underrated as a producer. The duo create a hazy, hallucinogenic experience; disconnected and spacey, but with enough heft to punch in the weight class these two fight in.
On “Venetia,” Uzi sums up his stance with matter-of-fact directness: “I'm not from earth, I’m from outer space.” Some of Uzi’s excessively weird tendencies may be clever marketing tactics rather than the whims of an eccentric genius, but wherever the origin of his identity comes from, he plays his role with believability, authenticity, and passion. He’s rap’s most exciting alien since peak Wayne or dress-wearing Jeffery, poised to continue surprising for the decade to come.
Because of how theatrical Uzi can often be, it’s almost surprising that Eternal Atake is as sturdy and workmanlike as it is. There’s flash, certainly, but it’s all in service to the music. It’s almost normal by Uzi standards, but Lil Uzi Vert’s normal is still something we’ve never heard before.