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Five Burning Questions: Lil Uzi Vert Dominates With ‘Eternal Atake’

Lil Uzi Vert
Erika Goldring/FilmMagic

Lil Uzi Vert performs during Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park on Oct. 11, 2019 in Austin, Texas.

At long last, Lil Uzi Vert has returned -- and not just with the long-awaited new album Eternal Atake, but with a deluxe edition, Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World 2, that could stand on its own as a fresh full-length from the Philly MC.

On this week’s charts, however, it’s Eternal Atake that rules everything around it: Uzi’s album tops the Billboard 200 chart with 288,000 equivalent album units, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. And with 400 million on-demand streams during its first week of release, Lil Uzi Vert has notched the biggest streaming week for an album since Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V debuted in 2018. In addition, Uzi guides three new songs into the top 10 of the Hot 100 chart: “Baby Pluto” debuts at No. 6, “Lo Mein” at No. 8 and “Silly Watch” at No. 9.

How shocking is this massive debut? And how does Eternal Atake stack up to its even newer deluxe edition? Billboard staffers debate these questions and more below.

1. Eternal Atake just scored the biggest streaming week for an album since 2018. On a scale of 1-10, how surprised are you that Lil Uzi Vert was just able to gain more streams for an album in a single week than any other album in all of 2019?

Carl Lamarre: 3. I think everyone knew Uzi was on the verge of superstardom after Luv Is Rage 2 in 2017: besides being a crafty hitmaker, his swagger is stitched together with drip and charisma, which are vital attributes to have to in this bloodsport. Plus, he kept everyone on their toes when he fired away impressive one-offs like "New Patek" and "Sanguine Paradise." The hype for EA was already there. All he needed to do was show up and go big. He did both.

Christine Werthman: 6. I’m medium-level surprised, though maybe I shouldn't be. Uzi is a rock star — like, a rock star when rock was still relevant on that level. His album would've done well whenever he dropped it, but the fact that it's been nearly three years (!) since Luv Is Rage 2, and he dropped this album with no warning, sent the anticipation, and the streams, sky high.

Jason Lipshutz: 5. More high-profile artists than Uzi have dropped new albums over the past 18 months, but few have had such a consistent dominance on streaming services with new music, dating back to how well Luv Is Rage 2 performed in 2017. Uzi is a star, and whenever he returned with Eternal Atake, it was guaranteed a major debut; “biggest streaming week for an album since 2018” is a surprising achievement, but given the track record, I’m not floored that it happened.

Josh Glicksman: 4. Given the massive — and long-standing — amount of hype surrounding Eternal Atake, a huge streaming week seemed to be nothing short of a foregone conclusion. Lil Uzi Vert has built a rabid fan base that consumes music by and large through digital service providers, and given that many of them are spending the vast majority of their time at home right now, it’s not shocking that the streaming numbers benefitted. That said, no matter the situation, it’s still always a bit surprising when an artist out-streams albums from the likes of Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift and Post Malone.

Trevor Anderson: 2, because 1 is cliché. People have been craving an Uzi album for years, and given the underlying label drama of the past years, this album’s eternal tease (hey!) and, to top it off, a surprise drop, the intrigue around hit its crescendo. And in a moment where Lil Baby, Jhene Aiko and others can hit their career highs as well, we should hardly be surprised that an artist with as much hype and backstory as Uzi dominated the streaming sphere.

2. Now that you’ve had a little over a week to sit with Eternal Atake, do you think the album was worth the prolonged wait from Uzi?

Carl Lamarre: Definitely. Not only did Uzi gift-wrap us 30-plus tracks in two weeks, but he made sure EA was essentially feature-free. We're in a time where albums are guest-friendly, and here, Uzi ventures solo on this 18-track expedition. And for those who were salivating for those gaudy collaborations, he carted out another 14 songs on the deluxe alongside Young Thug, Lil Baby, Gunna and more. That's altruism at its finest.

Christine Werthman: I'm into it! It has a really nice flow, and I like how it comes in hot and then mellows out in the latter half. The melodies are really strong, and I think his attention to that detail sets him apart, as does his wildly innovative, space-age spirit and his crisp raps. I don't know how long a good album takes to cook versus an OK album, but it seems he used the hiatus well, and I'm quite delighted with the results.

Jason Lipshutz: What a way to live up to expectations! As a huge fan of Luv Is Rage 2, I was anxiously awaiting the release of Eternal Atake like a lot of hip-hop fans, and upon first listen was mildly disappointed that the hooks weren’t in the same stratosphere as “XO Tour Llif3,” “The Way Life Goes” or “Sauce It Up.” But then a few listens later, I was utterly hooked by the process of hearing Uzi hopscotch across futuristic beats, his cartoon flow a pleasurable constant. Eternal Atake is an album to sink into, and Uzi’s best project to date.

Josh Glicksman: Absolutely. With Eternal Atake, Uzi accomplishes the increasingly rare feat of delivering a compelling, captivating 18-song project. He’s bouncing seamlessly from rap star to pop star to everything in between over the hour-plus LP, bolstered by standout production and a track list that successfully rejuvenates the listener at key points (“Celebration Station,” “Prices”). And in Uzi's defense, “prolonged wait” might be a bit unfair! Sure, the typical timeline between album releases has shortened, but we’ve certainly waited longer than two-and-a-half years for other major projects.

Trevor Anderson: Overall, sure. Atake is probably the most anticipated album since Drake’s Views, which, despite its stellar performance on the charts, didn’t stick the landing in our hearts. Luckily, Uzi meets the moment overall. The 18-song track list could use a trim, but it never gets stuck in bland territory, with most of the good songs evenly sprinkled throughout. The production, melody, and even time to many more rapid-fire raps all get proper shine, and remind us why Uzi is one of the leaders of the pack with this new generation of hip-hop.

3. Eternal Atake was a true surprise release, dropping with little warning a little after 10 AM EST on Friday, March 6. In 2020, do you still like out-of-nowhere album releases, or just want artists sticking to the Thursday-at-midnight model? 

Carl Lamarre: Only a few artists can pull off what Uzi did. You have to have a dedicated fanbase with a voracious appetite to deliver a surprise release. The reason Uzi is melting the competition is because of his supporters. They will fervently war with any fan army at the drop of a hat, if necessary, to protect their Soundcloud ruler. The only rappers who can win with this kind of blueprint in today's climate are probably Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Uzi, Travis Scott and Post Malone. Everyone else should probably keep things traditional and continue to drop Thursdays at midnight.

Christine Werthman: I love a surprise. Keep 'em coming. But from a practical standpoint, working for Billboard magazine in 2020 means that I don't have to bug out over surprise drops while closing an issue quite as often!

Jason Lipshutz: Who doesn’t want more pleasant surprises in this increasingly dour world? While it’s enjoyable perusing all the new songs and albums issued on New Music Friday, I’m always in favor of a major artist mixing it up and pulling a Beyonce -- especially if it leads to more communal album listening experiences, like the one we got on the morning of March 6.

Josh Glicksman: Apologies for ducking the question, but it really depends on the artist. As a general rule, I think that if an artist relies more on the big single than the full project, don’t go for the surprise release. It’s better in those situations to tease a handful of singles to build hype rather than risk the potential big hits getting lost in the fold with the rest of an album. However, Uzi’s Eternal Atake has more than enough gas in the tank to keep listeners coming back well after the initial shock wears off.

Trevor Anderson: Insert the “why not both?” meme. From a marketing perspective, I get the midnight model – you want to build that anticipation and have everyone set that reminder on their calendar that 12-1 AM is reserved for my artist! On a charts level, it works too: if you wanna maximize your debut performance, you need that full tracking week, with not a second missed. But I enjoy that Uzi surprised us all – particularly with the album that could have been condemned to wander in the Detox universe. What that team understands is that the Internet and social media will be the best marketers. It’s a risky bet that won’t pay off with every act, but “losing out” on 10 hours of streams to own the Friday cycle and this year’s best streaming mark? I’d take it.

4. Eternal Atake also sent multiple songs from the album into the top 10 of the Hot 100 chart. Which song from the album do you foresee being Lil Uzi Vert’s next big hit?

Carl Lamarre: I adore "Baby Pluto” -- that intro bangs so hard -- and lyrically he went off on "You Better Move.” But I'm going to go with "Celebration Station." It's such a spacey, celebratory bop. Besides being littered with fun IG quotables about staying hater-free, something tells me that he has another dance in the stash for this dance-happy jam.

Christine Werthman: Can I pick something from the deluxe edition? 'Cause I'm gonna! I'll go with "Myron," the first one from the deluxe. Fun, steal-your-girl song with a nice little bounce to it.

Jason Lipshutz: “That Way” is lower on this week’s Hot 100 chart than some of the brand new tracks from Eternal Atake, but the Backstreet Boys-interpolating single seems primed for a spring surge up the tally. The song most clearly showcases Uzi’s pop sensibility -- BSB homage aside, “That Way” gets lodged in your head thanks to his rap-crooning, and I’m expecting it to be, er, that way for months.

Josh Glicksman: I’m going to put the smart money on “Silly Watch,” since the song debuted at No. 9 on the Hot 100 and, with its choppy lyrics and menacing, thumping beat, has the elements of a hype track that could stick around for some time. But my heart is rooting for “Prices,” which enters the tally at No. 25. Flipping a sample of a well-known hit is always a risky undertaking, but Uzi’s spin on Travis Scott and Kid Cudi’s “Way Back” breathes new life into the trap-influenced, intergalactic-sounding beat. And it’s not the only time he flips a familiar song, either: “That Way,” which pulls from the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” is also fun as hell.

Trevor Anderson: “Baby Pluto” – it strikes the right balance of sting with its lyrics and delivery, but keeps an enjoyable, bouncy beat that won’t make the pop radio programmers throw off their headphones in disgust. Laugh if you want, but airwaves still play a significant role in crossover success!

5. As if one new album wasn’t enough, Lil Uzi Vert released a “deluxe edition” of Eternal Atake, Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World 2, this past Friday, with 14 new tracks and a lot more guest stars. Which new Uzi project are you gravitating toward so far?

Carl Lamarre: I prefer EA because it's Uzi doing all the heavy lifting. This isn't to say his features outshine him on the deluxe edition, but the original storyline remains fluid without any glitzy appearances by some of Atlanta's favorite rap heroes (Future, 21 Savage, and Young Thug). Baby Pluto, Renji, and Uzi, himself, to me, are a formidable gang on any given day.

Christine Werthman: The guests are exciting on the deluxe, but the songs on Eternal Atake sound tighter. But give me some more time and maybe that'll shift.

Jason Lipshutz: Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World 2 is a rich dessert with unexpected flavors, but Eternal Atake is still the main course. Even if they had been released in reverse order, Eternal Atake is more cohesive, singular and definitive in Uzi’s canon.

Josh Glicksman: Eternal Atake. It’s Uzi’s crowning achievement to date in every sense. Even as someone who nearly always pushes for a shorter track list and runtime, 18 tracks somehow still left me wanting more.

Trevor Anderson: LUV vs. The World 2 – it’s shorter and a bit more streamlined, and though it may sacrifice some variation in terms of production, inviting a roster of guest stars who each hold their own with Uzi makes up that difference.

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