In ‘17, Lil Uzi Vert released not only one of the best songs of the last decade, but potentially the defining record of his career in “XO Tour Llif3”. I quickly proclaimed on twitter that Lil Uzi would be a rap superstar. He was already popular (his tape from 2016, LIL UZI VERT VS. THE WORLD is one of the most notable tapes from the soundcloud era of rap), but he was pushed into rap superstardom after he followed up “XO Tour Llif3” with the exceptional LUV IS RAGE 2 (my 25th best album of ‘17, for reference). But very quickly after that, Lil Uzi music become a rarity.
For the next two years, Uzi was in the news for viral videos (“It’s only my third day out here”) or for fighting Rich the Kid in Starbucks more than for releasing music, mostly because his label seemed to be making it impossible for him to drop content. There was whispers that he was trying to drop ETERNAL ATAKE but couldn’t, even though there was always leaks or releases that felt like leaks (“Free Uzi” comes to mind). Though the songs were always impressive, a release for ETERNAL ATAKE never seemed like it would happen. The idea that Uzi had a masterpiece trapped in a vault by his label caused the hype for ETERNAL ATAKE to reach unattainable heights. And yet, a week before society was plagued by COVID-19, Lil Uzi finally dropped ETERNAL ATAKE. It surpassed all expectations.
On ETERNAL ATAKE, Lil Uzi raps like a supercharged energizer bunny. Uzi never used to be that kind of rapper, either. On his come-up, Uzi was more of a rapper that relied on vocal melodies and cadences and less on rap abilities (and those songs were still brilliant, regardless). It wasn’t until he released LUV IS RAGE 2 and then, later, “New Patek” (an unbelievable six-minutes of flex-rapping where Uzi compares throwing up gang signs to the hand-signs that ninjas in Naruto use) that he really started to show true growth as a rapper. Those strengthened rap abilities are on continued display for the entire hour duration of ETERNAL ATAKE. To put it quite frankly, Uzi raps his ass off for the entire album.
ETERNAL ATAKE is, allegedly, connected by a concept of Uzi flying off into space in the first half of the album and returning back to Earth in the second half of the album. This is “shown” through various skits through the album, which are totally unnecessary (skits never age well beyond one listen) and really my only gripe with the album (it’s EXTREMELY minor because the rapping is so good). Calling ETERNAL ATAKE a concept album would be utterly blasphemous. ETERNAL ATAKE is, to put it simply, a master class in rapping for an hour and change over a bunch of impressive production from Philadelphia production team Working on Dying that sounds stripped from Saturn.
The tape opens with “Baby Pluto”, which spends a necessary minute to build up to a magnifcent beat drop that propels Uzi to explode into the start of the most effective rapping of his career. He bounces around the beat, rapping about how he wears Tschi and eats fettuccine and that he hasn’t had sex in so long that he would be willing to “do it in a Honda Accord”. The following track “Lo Mein” continues to feature the same themes that much of the album features: lyrics flexing designer clothes, the absurd amount of money that Uzi has, and how all the women around Uzi want to sleep with him. He manages to flex absurd things with bars like, “It’s amazing to me how I eat so much and still didn’t gain no weight”.
The following three tracks are what I consider to be the weakest of the album (“Silly Watch”, “POP”, and “You Better Move”) and even then, they’re incredibly rapped songs. Uzi attacks all of the beats with unbelievable veracity and ferociousness, and though the flexes are still amusing and clever, it ALMOST becomes so much flexing (both of how incredible Uzi’s life is and how competent he has become as a rapper) that it becomes exhausting, even if “POP” features one of the best moments of the album, where Uzi chants “Balenci” 15 times straight (in reference to how he spends all of his money on Balenciaga).
Uzi finally arrives to “Homecoming”, which is the last of the Uzi flex-rap songs (but probably the best of the early similar tracks), where he spouts off how he’s “turned to the boss” and “can’t deal with no middleman” while also namedropping Anthony Davis and how he can’t deal with no pelicans. From that point, every song on ETERNAL ATAKE is incredible. There are no misses, or even near-misses for that matter. The next string of songs (“I’m Sorry”, “Celebration Station”, “Bigger Than Life”) feel like much needed relief from all of the spastic flexing. By this point, Uzi has already proved his prowess as a rapper and he finds himself returning to more of his musical roots and finding ways to combine his ear for heartsick crooning and melody into his songs with his penchant for rapping about how much he loves Gucci or how he can’t help but spend eighty racks in Louis. It’s incredible.
“Chrome Heart Tags”, produced by Chief Keef, sounds like something produced straight from the universe of BLADERUNNER 2049. The beat feels futuristic and hypnotic, while also managing to accentuate and capitalize on all of the aspects of Lil Uzi artistry that helped him find the spotlight when he started out. His voice stretches out in depraved and desperate ways, but he still oozes confidence and swagger as he raps about making 10 mill in one day or how he can pull up in a lambo and pick any woman up. He proves to be just as effective on “Bust Me”, which on my first listen of the album, was my early favorite. What this stretch of tracks does is illustrate how effective Uzi is able to combine his blisteringly great pop sensibilities (which he’s always had) with his improved strength as a rapper.
What follows is one of the best stretches of Uzi’s career. It begins with “Prices”, which, for my money, is far-and-away the best song on the album. It samples the outro of Tr*vis Scott’s “Way Back” (one of the few songs of his that I don’t mind, despite all of the love it shows James Harden) and Uzi unrelentingly rips the beat apart and shines on the chorus. He floats and skirts all over the song, rapping bars like “Get money like Anthony Hop/Silence the lamb and your ass’ll get chopped”. It feels like the moment he finally ascends to that “Top-15-Rapper-on-the-Planet” status. He’s never sounded more confident and effortlessly cool than on this one and it was great to finally hear a legitimately talented rapper rapping over that beat. It’s followed by “Urgency”, which has the sole feature from the album, with Syd. It’s a nice change-of-pace for the album and is probably the calmest and easiest Uzi has ever sounded. Both he and Syd combine to sound lovely and serene on the track as they sing.
The album closes out on a three track run of “Venetia” (another remarkable track where Uzi compares his Diors to wearing old vans and claims he can turn gay girls straight just by his mere presence), “Secure the Bag” (another excellent addition to the back half of the tape supported by super dark and moody production), and finally, “P2”, which serves as a sequel to the biggest (and arguably, the best) song of Uzi’s career: “XO TOUR Llif3”. Sequels to hugely successful songs should never work (see: Eminem’s “Stan” sequel from MMLP2, “Bad Guy”, which is fine, but unremarkable), yet here, Uzi not only makes it work, but manages to make it serve as a fitting closer to his opus.
ETERNAL ATAKE also has two bonus songs: “Futsal Shuffle 2020”, which would’ve been a number one hit if it had came out during quarantine (it would have been on every TikTok with people having nothing but time to learn it), and “My Way” (which I already wrote about), which superbly flips the iconic Backstreet Boys song upside down and turns it into an absurdly fun and hazy, dreamy sci-fi rap ballad.
Lil Uzi followed up ETERNAL ATAKE by releasing a whole second album the following week (as one does when they go two-and-a-half years releasing nothing): LIL UZI VERT VS. THE WORLD 2, which is also great (especially the intro ‘Myron”, which is glisteningly fun), but at times felt slightly overlong, even though it’s full of incredible features (see: 21 Savage, Future, Young Thug (on one song), Chief Keef, and even…Nav, who has become such an internet meme that I almost have grown to like him?). The rapping on the tape is great all-around, but it doesn’t feel as essential or as important as ETERNAL ATAKE feels.
ETERNAL ATAKE was something that people felt like they would never get to hear, and it became so anticipated that many (myself included) assumed it could never match expectations. With Uzi managing to exceed everybody’s idea of what the album could be, he, at long last, finally completed his ascent towards the pinnacle of rap superstardom and solidified himself as one of the best rappers alive. Many artists will try to capture the magic of ETERNAL ATAKE in the years to come, but most all will fail: Uzi is wholly unique and not easily imitated and his dazzling masterpiece should be celebrated as such.