REVIEW: Lil Uzi Vert’s latest project reflects all his social media flexing

It was the summer of 2018 when I was relaxing in my quaint Airbnb near Times Square. It was around 2 a.m.  I was listening to snippets that were set to premiere on Lil Uzi Vert’s newest project, but the eager fan in me couldn’t help but hear what is next for the punk-trap crossbreed of an artist. Fast-forward to March of 2020 and I am returning to New York City. My flight lands and I get suspiciously convenient news that Lil Uzi Vert’s immensely hyped project “Eternal Atake” dropped, with that return to the tarmac feeling as if I flew right back up into the clouds, wherever Uzi’s transcendent journey planned on taking me. 

If Uzi is foreign to you, this all may seem a bit perplexing. His name appears all over social media, the prevailing “Lil” prefix, the mysterious allure of his music. All of this is nothing without context, and Uzi’s discography and social media presence have been the key to Eternal Atake’s successful unveiling. Uzi kept this album’s release date perpetually unknown while simultaneously plugging the mysterious release. He’s already unique: posing in almost cartoonish ways, sporting Goyard bags and Rick Owens sneakers, wearing an anime-inspired T-shirt. I get this genuine sense that Lil Uzi Vert would be the same person if he wasn’t a mega-famous rapper. He’s honestly adorable, seemingly harmless, with a glimmer of idiosyncratic light in a genre plagued with repetitive mediocrity. 

“Eternal Atake” begins with a digitized voice announcing “Welcome to Eternal Atake” on “Baby Pluto,” as Uzi keeps rapping and distorting his flow with colorful rhymes that decorate him as one of the silliest spitters in the rap game. Thus begins the journey to space and back, one that Lil Uzi Vert clearly embarks on quite frequently. 

At the end of the song “POP,” after Uzi audaciously belts “Balenci” (in reference to the Balenciaga clothing line) for a solid ten seconds, we reach a new height for narrative sound design in trap music. The melody fades out, as the producer tag of “Working on Dying” slides in right before Uzi is seemingly sucked up in a UFO and shot up into space. The communication of this is seamless, even on its first listen, which is perfectly executed considering the wide age range of Uzi’s demographic. Lasers float through the mix from left to right, just before the next song “You Better Move” breaks the wall with a “Space Cadet 3D Pinball” sample from the Windows ‘95 age. The flows and vocal rhythms shift side to side like a pinball bouncing from bumper to bumper. 

The kinetic energy of the album is felt through every instrumental, ad lib, bar and braggadocious vocal melody that Uzi graciously provides us with. The inspirations span from galaxy to galaxy, as highlights like “Chrome Heart Tags” pay special tribute to drill and trap legend Chief Keef. Keef not only produced the track, but also rapped on it once himself, with Uzi taking the instrumental and breathing a whole new layer of glittery swagger onto it, just as he does with many of these spacey instrumentals. Many of the track’s instrumentals are thanks to underground Philadelphia production crew Working on Dying. Their aggressive trap drums and hi-hats are beautifully contrasted with lovey-dovey synths that make for some beautiful melodic endeavors for Lil Uzi Vert to ride. 

Despite its consistent success, Eternal Atake did leave me confused with tracks like “Urgency” that clearly do not belong in their respective places amid the track list. But, small issues like this are minor next to the album’s achievements in narrative coherence and characterization. 

Hearing Lil Uzi Vert put together a body of work that reflects all of his social media flexing and mysterious musical whirls must be as rewarding for fans as it is for novice listeners. The lyrics are nothing but self-sufficient gloating, but matched with the transformative sound design of the narrative escape to space and back, the gaudy yet contentious production, and the inherent characterization make this an adventure that I have continued to take day after day. Whether I’m in the shower, completing assignments or making dinner, Uzi makes me feel like I’m on another planet, when in reality I am just in my apartment for the umpteenth day in a row.