Before Lil Uzi Vert was a singsong mage, he was a quick-spitter whose name came from his compact size and rapid-fire style. The open bolt, submachine-like flow was largely absent during his pursuit of the perfect earworm, but “Free Uzi” proved he was still capable of unloading the clip. A chunk of his long-awaited, newly released album Eternal Atake weaponizes the Old Uzi, but “POP” is where it is most strikingly used. “Straight bars,” he opens, before unleashing an onomatopoeic barrage,”BOW, BOW, BOW,” that you can almost see slapped across the splash page of a comic book.
The best Uzi songs are full of hijinks, and few of his verses match the oomph of “POP,” the centerpiece of the album’s high-powered opening section. Performing under his Baby Pluto persona, Uzi utilizes the grumbled hook to turn entire sentences into a single word, stringing syllables together like pearls along a necklace. His raps can be clever (“Turned a dead nigga to a blunt of weed/And that last boy taste like Reggie”), but the exhilaration comes from his ability to create hair-raising goosebumps by hurling himself around. “Got a million, no Christine/Neck gleam, wrist gleam, fist gleam/Lil nigga but I’m doin’ big things/You ain’t ever seen a nigga this clean,” he barks. Uzi is in rare form, and when his rapping reaches a fever-pitch in the accelerated closing verse, it’s easy to believe that he is out of this world.
From the original Heaven’s Gate-inspired artwork to the UFO abduction of his short film (and by his own admission), it’s clear the idea of being from space resonates with Uzi. Being “alien” has come to represent not just eccentricity but evolution, following genre-shifters like Future, who named his debut album Pluto, and Lil Wayne, who long called himself a Martian. “POP” doesn’t quite tap into the otherworldly, groundbreaking transmissions of Uzi’s predecessors, or of other self-proclaimed extraterrestrials, but it is nearly as spectacular. Zipping through Brandon Finessin and Oogie Mane’s whirring hyperdrive production, Uzi supplies a performance seemingly originating far beyond the furthest reaches of the moon.
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