By: Billy Bugara
ARTIST: Lil Uzi Vert
ALBUM: Eternal Atake
GENRE: Hip-Hop, Trap
RELEASE DATE: 3/6/2020
There is nothing, absolutely nothing like finally receiving an album that has been teased, built up, and/or repeatedly delayed for a ridiculously substantial amount of time. This suspense places such an unruly amount of weight and influence on that very project once it finally drops, that it can convincingly cloud even the most stoic of critics’ first impression upon hearing it.
This anecdote is being presented for an immensely important reason right now, as not too dissimilar to the likes of The Life of Pablo by Kanye West and Frank Ocean’s Blonde, the release of Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake entails everything that this scenario represents from a critical standpoint.
To say that this project – even by name alone, mind you – has held nothing less than the tightest of vice grips over the hip-hop world is arguably the biggest understatement any contemporary music fan could ever make. Month by month and year by year, Uzi continued to tease the simple idea of this album dropping; yet with each and every announcement made, they were each proceeded by a respective delay.
These delays ranged from label disputes, concept changes, and even Uzi’s at one point shocking “retirement” at the dawn of 2019. And somehow, someway, the hip-hop world found itself finally subjected to this enigma of an album (a week earlier than originally intended, believe it or not).
Uzi sprinted into 2020 guns absolutely blazing. He dropped two enthralling singles – “Futsal Shuffle 2020” and “That Way” – that all but supplemented his ever-increasing and unmistakably signature singles catalog; he led a Kanye-esque Twitter saga where he teased this release more than he had ever done in the past (and that is indeed saying something); he even went full ARG-mode and let the fans dictate certain aspects of the album’s release, such as letting them vote on the final album cover out of three different designs by three different artists.
The build-up to this project was already nothing short of a rollercoaster ride through the mind of one of this generation’s most captivating, influential, and essentially important acts in full, and even with just two short months of promotion in 2020, Uzi proved to capitalize on all that has surrounded, embodied, and encompassed those two simple words: “Eternal. Atake.”
Everything that led us to the day of this project’s release is reminiscent of a cinematic masterpiece — something of a fantasy, even. But from a purely musical standpoint, does the album itself even scratch the surface of its lofty ambitions?
Well, just as its long-winded and completely chaotic rollout reflected all that he had come to represent in the waning years of the 2010s, Eternal Atake is, without question, the most ideal culmination of every single shred of musical personification that Uzi has taken from, started on his own, or perfected thus far in his career.
That statement does not even serve as a judgment on the album’s caliber in the slightest, it is more of a passing, yet integral observation — one that cannot be ignored given all that has already been said in the analysis of this release as a whole. From a spectacle, one may think this would entail a project that is “typical Uzi.”
But oh no, that is not the case whatsoever.
For just as the rollout of the album clearly represents all that he has come to be known as in the grander social lexicon over the past years since its first announcement, Eternal Atake as a musical project paints what can only be described as an entirely vivid culmination of Uzi’s telling musical career up to this point.
With that being said, this album is anything but an hour-long trudge through past stylistics found on past projects like Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World and Luv Is Rage 2. With all due respect to those two projects entirely – as they helped to cohesively define and develop the artist in question as we know him today – Eternal Atake sees Uzi essentially burying these offerings and the rest of his discography as a whole with only the slightest slivers of their influence left above ground.
Such a departure resulted in an experience that is saturated with moments of surprise, confoundment, and above all else, unpredictability; the sheer amount of potentially reputation-shifting risks that are present within this project reflect all that this statement means as it stands, especially with regards to its aforementioned level of hype that could never completely dissipate at this point.
It would have taken a great deal to convince anyone that Uzi would do anything else but play it safe with a release of this magnitude, but as the album experience rolls onward and onward, it becomes so very clear that we were all wrong in having this take.
Uzi wastes no time in conveying this sentiment, as the first “portion” of the tracklisting showcases off-the-wall and zany instances of production, absolutely off-putting lyrical moments, and an overall uncharacteristically ill-defined and fluid thematic musical approach — all of which are aspects that Uzi has only dabbled in at certain times (if that).
The all-encompassing opening track “Baby Pluto” – which kicks the album off in an awe-inspiring and completely thrilling fashion – may be reminiscent of that “typical Uzi” tag in its most pure essence, that aura does not last long in the slightest once the seamless transition into “Lo Mien” hits.
This track in particular eases further into that previously mentioned daring approach, with its staggered, detached intro and Uzi’s later divulgence into a flurry of contrasting flows that are delivered so rapidly and with such finesse. At this point, one may think that the experimental suggestions that these tracks offer are just that… merely suggestions.
That is, until “Silly Watch” comes quite literally right out of nowhere and turns those nuanced elements from a modest 7 to somewhere around 25 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Featuring an all-too-simplistic spiraling piano riff that could genuinely be mistaken for something that SmokePurpp would have produced in 2015 and a convincingly ignorant sensibility that pairs in perfect correspondence with it, this track sets the album off the deep end just like that, at least for the time being.
The proceeding tracks confirm this notion by not letting up in the slightest when it comes to that aura of genuine aberrance and perplexity, as “POP,” “You Better Move,” and “Homecoming” all take that unexpected and unanticipated approach into overdrive. These tracks all feature blatantly manic instrumentals that Uzi has never shown any inclination of being able, or even just interested in rapping over, what with their eccentric sampling and brazen departures from the atypical trap stylistics that Uzi himself has laid claim to.
Despite that being the case, he matches that exact energy with his equally cofounding delivery — one that is entrenched in off-beat flows, nonsensical lyrics, and an energetic force that takes not a single second to slow down.
But slowing down becomes the name of this game immediately after this set of tracks, as yet another curveball is thrown with the album’s middle portion of tracks. Beginning with “I’m Sorry” and lasting all the way down to the culminating “Bust Me,” the album abruptly ends its erratic thematics and shifts back onto the smoothest of roads, as these tracks see Uzi rollick in a style far more characteristic of his past releases. That is not to say that the album loses its sense of place, pace, or reason, as these songs – with their almost medley-like progression – still do enough in their own ways to keep the album rolling as a unit, and an interesting one at that.
What can be described as the “final portion” of the album is a set of tracks that take the project’s prior two segments and combines them into a conclusive send off that balances the unpredictability of the first portion with the sonic manners of the second — all at once offering its most focused sense of direction and purpose.
Again, each track has those blatantly random lyrical motifs that do nothing else but confuse and confound, yet through this instance, they work in contrast with the present instrumental rather than in any sort of tandem.
And as if this album could end in any other way imaginable, it sees itself concluding with arguably its most bewildering moment with the track “P2” — a complete sequel to in every way possible to one of Uzi’s most well-known and equally essential singles in 2017’s “XO Tour Lif3.”
Though the album concludes there (with the exception of the predictable addition of the previously-released bonus tracks), one would be remiss to not mention its intertwined narrative that peaks out at the end of a few particular tracks. These instances are just as confusing as some of the most telling moments in the music itself, and as of right now, they really offer nothing impressive from a conceptual standpoint, mostly due to the fact that they make absolutely no sense. Taking in these descriptions at their most basic value, one may come to the conclusion that Eternal Atake is a disjointed mess of a project that lacks any sort of consistency from both a musical and thematic standpoint all the same, basically confirming its place as a mid-tier release at best, and a complete failure at worst. The most interesting thing about this statement is that, well, they might be right about all of those facets.
But those exact facets – those that are rooted in flagrantly negative and critical expressions – actually make this album something of a miracle, because it cannot be stressed enough how much of an immersive, captivating, and frankly astounding musical experience that this album brings.
Eternal Atake revels in its absurdity. It takes the most daring steps imaginable with the loosest footing that it possibly could in its approach. It is full of flaws that would hamper and even ruin numerous other projects. With that being said, no album of equal significance thus far this year can match its sheer amount of enthrallment, and it would take a rare occurrence for it to be topped in this way as the year moves forward.
To put it bluntly, this album does everything that it shouldn’t, yet still finds a way to enamor its subjects through pure entertainment alone. That is why it so graciously embodies everything that Uzi has made both himself and his music up to be at this point. In doing so, it actually does accomplish what it was meant out to do in the end; perhaps it just takes a little bit of reasoned effort to realize.
Despite its disjointed narrative, lapse of any sense of direction, and slight moments of disinterest, Eternal Atake made an impression that adequately made up for the years of anticipation, disappointment, and frustration that shrouded its name. One should not overlook the fact that it truly did attain this status just because it did so in an admittedly unorthodox manner.
Any project of this caliber that dabbles in experimentation will face this issue and its coordinating criticisms; some are completely deserving of it, and some absolutely are not. In a perfect world, Eternal Atake should only be ever classified by the latter.