Leave it to someone like Lil Uzi Vert to simultaneously release their album 2 years late and 1 week early. Release date shenanigans aside, the long-anticipated Eternal Atake has finally arrived along with the promise of a project that’s a bit more conceptual from a rapper who has been rather one-note in the past, coasting through on his animated persona. Although the project is often intergalactic in theme as some incredibly generic and repetitive skits about space travel connect the tracks, that concept never really fully materializes. Regardless, this is easily Lil Uzi’s best work so far. Although he hasn’t done much to switch up his lyrical content in the long time he’s been away, the production work behind him has skyrocketed in creativity, often blending fizzy 80s techno sounds and wild vocal samples with his usual trap fare. While it’s far from the masterpiece that many expected, Eternal Atake reflects enough of Uzi’s out-there persona that it’s a very fun ride if you don’t take it too seriously.
The album is seemingly broken up into three sections, signifying different personas – which, honestly, isn’t elaborated upon at all nor can much distinction between the three be found – but whatever Uzi perceives as his “Baby Pluto” persona, the one that the first six tracks belong to and the most futuristic, is certainly the most enjoyable one. The opening track of the same name introduces listeners to Uzi’s higher degree of urgency and chameleonic tendencies, speeding up his flows and shifting his voice through numerous cadences as he plays with a piano beat that cuts out and drops the bass in just the right places, but the next two tracks are the best ones on the whole project.
The cosmic synths on “Lo Mein” make me feel like I’m in some kind of futuristic scenario where trap has evolved, Uzi’s “up, up, uppity” hook displaying the trademark giddiness we all love him for, but “Silly Watch” might be the banger of the year so far. Producer Supah Mario honestly still hasn’t missed once, and it’s his only beat here. Displaying some pretty impressive rhyme schemes, Uzi unleashes some of the best flows in his career and ratchets up the energy with audible wide-eyed glee over a menacing synth-piano loop that sounds like a warning alarm – “Homecoming” sees him just as spastic. Uzi continues to display all of his most eccentric and enjoyable aspects in the opening sequence with the track “POP,” where he unexpectedly repeats the word “Balenci” to a hilarious degree to really drive his point home over a grimy and industrial beat, and “You Better Move,” which backs up Uzi’s many lyrical punchlines referencing the pop culture he grew up on with a beat that samples an old-school Windows pinball game.
The next section of six tracks is what Lil Uzi describes as his “sweet, nice” side of his personality, Uzi taking the time to briefly reflect on some of his personal struggles with relationships amid the exact same bars flexing his cars and designer brands that he dropped in the first section – although the instrumentals continue to stay fresh and surprising, switching things up in this section for softer pop-influenced tones and 80s-inspired synth lines, after the initial novelty wears off many of Uzi’s flaws as a rapper begin to get exposed as the album progresses. “I’m Sorry” is another excellent instrumental featuring some pitched vocal samples and rumbling bass, but as Uzi tries his hand out at singing the energy of the track lulls at points – he is at his best when he catches listeners off guard as he yelps an off-kilter line that only he could come up with.
If you can excuse hearing a lot of the same things in some aspects of these track over and over, Uzi never lets up on the surprises – it’s just that these tracks could be so much better if a little more effort were put into the parts that lag behind. Uzi rolls his Rs in line with the trap hi-hats on “Celebration Station” and drops another anthemically repetitive chorus on “Prices,” but recycles lines from his most famous verses in the less sonically adventurous “Bigger Than Life” and sounds bored singing over another great vocal sample on “Bust Me.” The final section is credited under Lil Uzi’s own name, and features some uninspired trap bangers to close it all out.
For all of the repetition on this project, it’s oddly appropriate to end the album with the track “P2,” which is essentially just Uzi singing new lyrics to the tune of his biggest hit and arguably his best song, “XO TOUR LLIF3.” The textural changes in the instrumental keep the track highly enjoyable regardless – that infectious melody is still one of the best hip-hop creations of the decade – but the energy he spent getting so hung up on trying to recreate his hit could easily have been used making some of the other lacklustre melodies here just as iconic. I never could have expected the tracks where Uzi is just rapping to have been by far the best ones here. There’s enough irreverent creative spirit and aspects of Uzi’s lovable personality here to make this one an overall enjoyable record, but I’d love to see him capitalize on his obvious potential even more in the future.
Favourite Tracks: Silly Watch, Homecoming, POP, You Better Move, Lo Mein
Least Favourite Track: Secure The Bag