This is a shame, especially considering that there’s a photo of Lil Uzi Vert that deserves to be hanging inside every American dorm room or at least the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was taken at Miami’s Rolling Loud festival in 2018, and it finds our hero stage-diving off a lighting truss from more than 20 feet above the adoring crowd. It could easily pass as a reenactment of Yves Klein’s “Leap Into the Void,” a photograph taken in 1960 in which the French conceptual artist flung himself from a second-story window, generating a breathtaking metaphor for the artist’s journey into the unknowable. Thing is, Klein’s leap was faked. Uzi’s was real.
But on the rapper’s new album, “Eternal Atake,” reality is a slippery concept. “I live my life like a cartoon,” he declares on “You Better Move,” a song in which everything feels tart and loud. “Reality is not my move.” His voice leaps an octave on the final word of each line, as if he’s trying to repeatedly jump clean out of his life, but the real world still casts its shadows. In the song’s first verse, Uzi defends his freaky sartorial choices with crushing rationale: “They say, “Why your chain it look like a choker?’ That’s for the slaves that had to wear the noose.”
In a Lil Uzi Vert song, anything and everything goes, with cosmetic emo sadness and profound ancestral trauma swirling together into a litany of brags that feel like high-fructose fun until you realize how depressing they are. Smothering his heartbreak in money on “Chrome Heart Tags,” Lil Uzi says, “I don’t ever wanna talk about it,” then consoles himself with a luxury shopping spree. “Bust Me” features an even bolder, sadder flex: “When you got this type of money, you are never ugly.”
On “P2,” he reprises the melody from “XO Tour Lif3,” a signature 2017 hit that finds two star-crossed lovers threatening suicide in the form of a pop hook: “Push me to the edge, all my friends are dead.” Three years later, Lil Uzi is rapping about a similar romantic deadlock, but he de-escalates the tension with a numb shrug: “Everything I said, messing with your head.” Instead of plunging into the void, he steps back from the precipice.
Bonus paragraph about the two bonus tracks: “That Way” jacks the melody from the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” which is a tedious move, but Lil Uzi knows it, so sings the hook straight out of his sinuses. It sounds like a playground taunt: Nyaa-nyaa-nya-nyaa-nyaaa. “Futsal Shuffle 2020” is sweeter and twitchier, the kind of song that makes you feel like it’s eating your brain, specifically any neural tissue that might object to the idea of “Futsal Shuffle 2020” being the greatest song you’ve ever heard.