After releasing Luv is Rage 2 in 2017 (Lil Uzi Vert’s debut studio album that has since gone double-platinum,) hype built for over two years for the Philadelphia rapper’s next commercial project: Eternal Atake.
The “XO Tour Llif3” rapper first announced the album in 2018, with intrigue and mystique always surrounding the nature of the record. “New Patek” was released in September 2018 amidst a drought of Lil Uzi Vert music, and was presumed to be the lead single for the upcoming album. Uzi would tweet that the project was complete in December 2018, but “New Patek” remained his only newly distributed music until “Sanguine Paradise” and “That’s a Rack” were released simultaneously in April 2019. Neither track, nor “New Patek” would end up on Eternal Atake.
Earlier in 2019, Lil Uzi Vert (born Symere Woods) would announce he was “done with music” and that he “deleted everything.” He would later reveal the main issue with releasing his music was the control of his record label. The pair of singles released in April would help ease those concerns, but the fate of Eternal Atake still remained very much up in the air.
The album’s rollout officially began on December 13, 2019 with the release of “Futsal Shuffle 2020,” the first track from Eternal Atake’s final tracklist to be released. Lil Uzi Vert began an aggressive social media marketing campaign on February 28, 2020, implying a March 13 release date and changing his display name to Baby Pluto.
In a surprise to long-starved fans, this release date was a ploy, and the album actually released on March 6, ahead of schedule.
Lil Uzi Vert would then crank the fan service up even higher, teasing an extended, deluxe version of Eternal Atake with features from Young Thug, Lil Durk, Future, Gunna, and more. This deluxe version would ultimately take the form of Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World 2, spanning songs recorded over the last few years.
This review will focus only on the original 18 tracks on Eternal Atake.
Eternal Atake: A Hit-or-Miss Trip Through Space
Thematic albums are dying by the day, but it’s no mystery that Lil Uzi Vert had a vision in mind for Eternal Atake: a trip through outer space. This is accomplished mainly through unique production and outro skits that build an imaginary world for listeners.
Unfortunately, Uzi does little to nothing to expand upon this theme with his lyrics. He doesn’t need to be rapping about aliens and UFO’s, but any references to outer space, intergalactic travel, or the feeling of being away from Earth could have easily strengthened the record.
The world building is done almost exclusively through spoken word skits that see Lil Uzi Vert escaping from some sort of entrapment, making it home, and having others struggle to believe his story. The narrative appears to be an allegory for Uzi’s relationship with his record label: a story of being trapped and needing to be freed.
The rapper also jumps in front of songs like “Venetia” to announce “I’m not from Earth, I’m from outer space.” Perhaps when Uzi returns “home” over the course of the album, he’s traveling from Earth to space, not the other way around.
Overall, I credit artists for including themes in their music. So many albums are just a random collection of songs, so any attempt at a cohesive listening experience is good to see. Eternal Atake achieves it’s other-worldly goals only through production and skits. It’s an attempt at a concept album, but without lyrics to support the theme, it falls a little flat.
Cars, Watches, Money, and Women
Lil Uzi Vert may not be known for having complex lyrics, but again, the failure to match his lyrical content to the album’s theme is a little disappointing. Time and time again, we see Uzi rapping about money, cars, watches, and women.
Of course, this is par for the course for the Philadelphia rapper. But there’s still something missing in the lyrics. Uzi exudes a larger than life personality, with intense vocals within the world of the album and a strong social media presence in the real world.
But lyrically, Uzi isn’t able to convey much of that signature personality. There are a few songs about women/relationships, scratching just the surface of Uzi’s personal life. But even these can end up shallow: just when Uzi begins to shed layers on “Urgency,” a duet with Syd, he reverts just as quickly to quippy, braggadocios refrains.
This isn’t a slight to Uzi’s vocal performances, just the words he chooses. Uzi’s voice is, in fact, the highlight of the album. Without the need for features, he hits different ranges, and keeps songs interesting with varied delivery. One minute he’s rapping, the next he’s singing, and sometimes he’s delivering bars with such a unique flow you have to try it for yourself.
As I ran through the album track by track, I found myself often appreciating Uzi’s wordplay. It’s not Kendrick Lamar or Lil Wayne level-wordplay, and it’s often light or silly in tone.
What other album can say they’ve sampled Space Pinball, Ariana Grande’s voice, and a Travis Scott song? Eternal Atake features varied production, with some beats amplifying the space theme, some carrying it, and some forgoing it to just go for a unique sound.
With Uzi’s vocal performance being the highlight of the album, the production comes in at a close second. Most of the instrumentals play well into the interstellar theme of the album. “You Better Move” perhaps makes the most blatant claim to this theme, using a Space Pinball sample. Songs like “I’m Sorry” and “Chrome Heart Tags” feature slower, less aggressive production, leading the listener on a trip through space. “Chrome Heart Tags” features production and co-writing from Chief Keef, and stands as one of the best songs on the tracklist.
Early in the album, intentional efforts at establishing Eternal Atake’s theme allows the album’s second half to shine with these floatier instrumentals, nurturing the vibe and atmosphere that was already created.
Baby Pluto, Renji, and Lil Uzi Vert
Lil Uzi Vert confirmed a variety of fan theories as intended aspects of the album on his Twitter account. Perhaps the most popular, and important, theory to be confirmed was that the album was split into three sections.
The three personas get six songs each over the album’s 18 tracks, and for the most part, the distinction is noticeable.
Still, not each section of the album creates a cohesive experience. The “Lil Uzi Vert” section is especially muddy, with two bonus tracks interrupting the linear flow of the album. There’s variety among these six tracks, but they aren’t bound together as well as the other areas of the album.
“Baby Pluto” sees the 25-year-old rapping over high energy, out-of-this-world beats. “You Better Move” and “Homecoming” fit this mood perfectly, and end the “Baby Pluto” section of the album on a high note. Back-to-back, those two songs are two of my favorite on Eternal Atake.
The six “Renji” tracks see Lil Uzi Vert singing more, touching on relationships and women. It’s a pretty cohesive section, though Uzi’s focus does tend to drift lyrically. These tracks tend to feature psychedelic, smooth production that lends well to Uzi’s singing voice.
Eternal Atake is a solid offering from Lil Uzi Vert. It’s sure to please existing fans of his music, as over the course of eighteen tracks, Uzi hits all his signature styles. “P2,” technically the album’s final track before the pair of bonus tracks, particularly serves as a tribute to fans. The track is a direct “sequel” and features the same melody and structure as Uzi’s smash hit “X0 Tour Llif3.”
Unfortunately, no song on this album will have this kind of commercial success. It’s hard to say Uzi has progressed much as an artist since Luv is Rage 2. He certainly hasn’t regressed, and some areas of the music are a bit more fine-tuned. But there’s no real evolution in the music, and lyrically, you could call it a step backwards from his last full-length album.
My favorite songs on Eternal Atake include:
- “You Better Move:” The in-your-face, hypnotic Space Pinball sample might not be for everyone, but it immediately draws in my attention for this high-energy song. Uzi doesn’t hit the largest range of vocal deliveries, but does hit one of the most unique of the album. And while wordplay and pop culture references are sprinkled throughout the 18 songs, a mound of those sprinkles fell on this track. With Yu-Gi-Oh, Mother Goose, and Blue’s Clues bars, it feels like an intentional childhood theme.
- “Homecoming:” The second song of the tracklist’s best two-song stretch, “Homecoming” keeps the energy high after “You Better Move,” with a frantic, circus-like instrumental. Uzi raps one of the best rapped choruses of the album, covering Philadelphia, Israel, and Anthony Davis over some quickly delivered bars. Over the verses, Uzi keeps it interesting with different flows.
- “Venetia:” While “You Better Move” features unique production, “Venetia” probably features my favorite instrumental on the album. It’s a pretty simple loop, with a building energy in the background as well as sounds that play into the theme of traveling through space. It’s a super soothing song, and Uzi complements it well with a hybrid of singing and rapping.
- “I’m Sorry:” If I had to pick a song to be the lead radio single of Eternal Atake, it would be “I’m Sorry.” It’s the first melodic song, kicking off the “Renji” section of the album. Uzi hits a smooth, sing-a-long worthy chorus with good verses to boot. The croons on the chorus remind me a bit of Juice WRLD.
- “Prices:” I wanted to keep this list to three or four songs, but it would be a shame not to include “Prices.” It utilizes a sample of Travis Scott’s “Way Back,” with Uzi delivering over the choir-like hums of the song’s second half. It’s up there with “Venetia” as a beat that makes it easy to get lost in another world.
And some tracks that I didn’t enjoy so much:
- “Bigger Than Life:” This track slows it down and introduces a stringed instrumental for the first time. It’s not the worst, but the vibe change comes at an awkward time, and doesn’t really lend well to Uzi’s vocal performance. Later, choir voices are inserted, and while on their own they are nice-sounding, I truly don’t understand their presence on this particular track.
- “Futsal Shuffle 2020:” While this song’s instrumental is one of the most unique and “space-like,” it just doesn’t do it for me. It’s a rare instance where Uzi’s voice isn’t enough to keep the song interesting. Lyrically, he’s not really saying much. And as this song was originally released as a single, it pales in comparison to “That’s a Rack” and “Sanguine Paradise,” so it wasn’t exactly exciting upon release either.
Overall, there weren’t many bad tracks, which is a pretty impressive feat for an 18-track album with just one feature. While taking notes for this review, I gave each track a rough score out of 10. Only two songs (“Bigger Than Life” and “Futsal Shuffle 2020”) received marks lower than 5 out of 10, and ten of the eighteen tracks came in at 7 out of 10 or higher. The peak songs were all rated 8.5 out of 10 (“You Better Move,” “Homecoming,” “I’m Sorry,” and “Venetia.”
In other words, there were very few bad songs, and a lot of good songs. Still, I didn’t give any tracks a score of 9 or higher, so there was some potential left on the table.
Eternal Atake is one of my favorite releases of 2020. The album brought the hip-hop community together, perhaps even more so than releases by Eminem and Lil Wayne earlier this year. And while I think those albums (Music to be Murdered By and Funeral) had solid high’s, Eternal Atake stands as a better all-around package.
I haven’t listened to enough music to crown Eternal Atake the “best” rap album of 2020, but so far, it’s probably my favorite. Lil Uzi Vert could have taken this album to epic heights if he took more risks musically and lyrically, but overall, Eternal Atake is a well-rounded listening experience with interesting production and vocal delivery.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
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Header Image: Eternal Atake by Lil Uzi Vert/Atlantic Records
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