This essay appears as part of the 2020 Uproxx Music Critics Poll.
The year is 2023. You’re at a festival, any festival. Just pick one. The one you missed the most in 2020. Let’s say this festival is called Nardwuar’s Doot Doola Doot Doo (Doot Doo!) Festival sponsored by Bang Energy, which doesn’t presently exist but goddamn that’s a good idea and someone should definitely pay me for it. The 2023 headliners are Megan Thee Stallion, Haim, Blink-182 with Tom DeLonge (a one-night-only reunion), a post-Jesus and post-Trump Kanye, Rico Nasty, 100 Gecs, Post Malone backed by Fleet Foxes, and the master of modern mosh himself, Lil Uzi Vert.
With Uzi next up on the mainstage, you made the random but ultimately well-timed decision twenty minutes earlier to accept a stranger’s invitation for a few licks of molly off their surely shared finger, washing it down with gulps of crisp Bang. The stage lights drop, and you hear the intro to “Baby Pluto” cascading over the crowd.
Welcome to Eternal Atake…
Suddenly, you think back to the first time you heard Eternal Atake and are struck with a deep existential pang. As the molly kicks in, you ascend with Bang wings and turn to your friend, trading the icky/hickey/sticky/picky/busy lines from the song while embracing the anonymity of this burgeoning mosh pit.
Sure, this meticulously imagined scenario still feels eons away from being a possibility. But that’s a key part of a mid-pandemic spin of Eternal Atake.
The album, after being relentlessly teased with admirable-in-hindsight calculation since 2018, finally worked its way into our collective bloodstream on March 6. Within days, any hope of ascending with a crowd of thousands as soon as Uzi dropped “Baby Pluto” were dashed, though we all clung to a blind optimism that had us believing ascension was merely paused. “We’ll ascend later in the summer,” we thought. As masks became commonplace among fellow brain-possessors, and as a failed steak salesman sewed a sinewy promotional campaign in support of hoax-ifying it all, we shifted again. “We’ll surely ascend in the fall,” we told each other.
Had to get ready for war…
Yet here we are in December, still on pause.
In retrospect, it’s fitting that a key inspiration point for both the aesthetic and conceptual aspect of the Eternal Atake experience was a religious cult — Heaven’s Gate — built on the idea that one could graduate from “the Human Evolutionary Level” through death to achieve entry on a space vessel they believed was following Comet Hale-Bopp.
At this stage in the extended Eternal Atake rollout, we were under the impression that the album cover — as seen above — would draw heavily from logos and statements from the Heaven’s Gate canon. At one point, Uzi had changed his Instagram profile picture to a photo of the cult’s co-founder Marshall Applewhite.
Surviving Heaven’s Gate members, as you may recall, even went as far as to publicly condemn Uzi’s 2018 references to the group in an emailed statement to Genius.
“[Uzi] us using and adapting our copyrights and trademarks without our permission and the infringement will be taken up with our attorneys,” a rep said at the time. “This is not fair use or parody, it is a direct and clear infringement.”
By the time the album arrived, the cover had changed. Gone were the more direct Heaven’s Gate nods, yes, but in their place stood the striking depiction of a welcome daydream inside which we could later thrive.
Because as pandemic weeks turned to pandemic months, and as many of us came to the realization that we may very well not see our friends and families for the rest of the year, losing ourselves in thoughts of what might await us beyond this planet felt pretty f*cking good.
Push me to the edge
All my friends are dead
The Eternal Atake journey drops the curtain (save for bonus tracks “Futsal Shuffle 2020” and the Backstreet Boys-flipping “That Way”) with the deceptively grounding “P2,” a sequel to his flagship 2017 single, “XO TOUR Llif3.” The still-ubiquitous megahit took on the kind of life of its own that’s impossible for an artist to outrun, even if they wanted to, and cemented Uzi among the most defining creators of a generation. But instead of ignoring his biggest song, and one of the most popular songs in recent memory, Uzi chose to face its legacy head-on.
As “XO TOUR Llif3” and “P2” producer TM88 explained to me when asked for the sequel’s origin story, Uzi simply wanted to give fans an update on where he was at in his life while using a familiar palette as a jumping-off point. This cathartic do-over, he said, had a certain magic to it.
P2 – Lil Uzi Vert pic.twitter.com/T7DA82Vo2s
— Winnie the Pooh Transcends (@WinnieTranscend) December 5, 2020
“I wanted to do whatever Uzi wanted to come up with,” TM88, who has a new project on the horizon with Pi’erre Bourne, said. “He wanted to do a continuation of ‘XO TOUR Llif3’ with more details to show where he’s at now. [The process] was just talking to him on and off throughout last year. He called me up and was like ‘Let’s do it’ and we stayed on the phone for hours just working on the record and then we magically came up with ‘P2.’”
The album, as Uzi himself confirmed shortly after its release, is intentionally divided into three six-song chapters. The first chapter sees Uzi’s Baby Pluto character in full force, while the subsequent Renzi chapter balances that let’s-leave-Earth energy with more introspection. “Bust Me” notably ends with Uzi tapping on what’s believed to be an escape button of some sort.
How did you know 😳🤯 ? You smart https://t.co/aiUf2cuaDs
— Uzi London 🌎☄️💕® (@LILUZIVERT) March 6, 2020
“You are now leaving EA, the Dark World,” a voice informs both Uzi and the listener. After “Prices,” the final six-song chapter gives us a slew of decidedly 2016-nodding entries, including this segment’s centerpiece “P2.”
Lyrically, “P2” sees Uzi in a similarly reflective space as “XO TOUR Llif3,” albeit with the newfound benefit of passed time. “I don’t wanna get older,” Uzi sings. “I’m still livin’ in my last year.”
After spending 10 months on pause with Eternal Atake in high rotation, we’re all living in the last year, thinking back — sometimes with anger, more often than not with intravenous sadness — to the private promises we made to ourselves about how 2020 would be different. Better, even. It remains to be seen if 2021 or even 2022 can feasibly house all our respective do-overs, but — for now, at least — this writer has a feeling in his stomach that feels remarkably like, dare I say it, measured hope. (Either that or I’ve had too much wine).
At any rate, think back, if you can, to that theoretical 2023 edition of Nardwuar’s Doot Doola Doot Doo (Doot Doo!) Festival sponsored by Bang Energy. As Uzi finishes his set with a Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World throwback in the form of “Money Longer,” the stage goes dark.
While pondering additional finger-in-mouth sessions prior to Uzi’s inevitable encore, a spaceship not unlike the one featured on the Eternal Atake cover makes a rough landing nearby, at which point an extraterrestrial being emerges with a message. After explaining that their craft had previously circled the festival earlier that night to catch the blink-182 reunion set, the being invites the audience to join them on their journey home.
“A fresh start,” the being says. “Light years away from this heap of pain,” the being promises. But for the first time in years, you aren’t tempted. “I’ll stay,” you tell yourself.
After all, Uzi still has to play “Silly Watch.”
Lil Uzi Vert is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.