When Lil Uzi Vert dropped the Pink Tape trailer in late June, announcing their first full-length project since 2020’s Eternal Atake, it was an open question where they were headed. They have a famously wacky and experimental sensibility, constantly pushing hip-hop’s boundaries; anything is on the table, including Jersey club beats, anguished pop-punk shrieks, and blistering, relentless raps that harken back to the fury of early Meek Mill and Chief Keef. Pink Tape is a Frankenstein creation that attempts to marry all the parts of Uzi’s personality, creating a sprawling realm of pulsating rap, death metal screams, and rock riffs. With features ranging from Bring Me the Horizon and Snow Strippers to Nicki Minaj and Don Toliver, it slots metalcore right alongside Uzi’s rap stylings. The result is a cacophonous mishmash of an album that struggles to live up to its ambition.
Part of the allure of Eternal Atake stemmed from the rapper’s imaginative references, like the Space Cadet 3D Pinball sample on “You Better Move,” or the interpolation of the eponymous Backstreet Boys classic on “That Way.” Those remain on Pink Tape, but Uzi’s rapping gets drowned out by the surrounding noise too often, instead of working in concert with the chaos. The pounding BNYX production of “Aye,” which could soundtrack a supervillain’s entrance, feels wasted by two uninspired verses from Uzi and Travis Scott. The slowed-down interpolation of Eiffel 65’s “I’m Blue” on “Endless Fashion” lacks the sample’s rambunctious energy, making it feel lackluster, even if Nicki Minaj delivers a solid feature. Elsewhere, the System of a Down cover “CS” misses the pure rage and anguish of the original source material.
Other transitions into rock and metal are far more successful, producing some of the album’s peaks. On the grandiose “Nakamura,” Uzi oscillates between plaintive howls and breakneck flows, his voice accompanied by the strings of the WWE theme song. And the Bring Me the Horizon-assisted “Werewolf,” with its full-throated screeching and thrashing guitar riffs, is the most entertaining and effective harmony of Uzi’s interests. These ventures register as extensions of Uzi’s powers, not random shots in the dark.
Pink Tape produces (rare) occasions of tenderness and vulnerability, like when Uzi pays tribute to friends and family who held their hand during a recent rehab stint on “Rehab.” Just like they would spit about Balenciaga pieces or endless racks, they confess insecurities with stark clarity: “I got brain damage, but they overlook ‘cause I got cash,” they rap on “Days Come and Go.” At the beginning of the album, Uzi addresses rampant speculation about their sexuality, using hyper-masculine boasts that seem empty and obligatory: “First of all, I fuck eight bitches a day/How could you ever say Lil Uzi gay?” they rap on “Flooded the Face.” There is one notable omission from the record: In 2022, Uzi pleaded no contest to an assault charge from ex-girlfriend Brittany Byrd, a situation which they don’t overtly address, instead letting the hype of a surprise release wash away the gravity of the allegations.
At 26 tracks, Pink Tape is bloated and messy, with occasional flashes of excellence between grating screamo misfires and unremarkable songs that feel like retreads of Playboi Carti or Trippie Redd hits. It undermines Uzi’s sterling record and acts as a cautionary tale about undiscerning genre adventures; instead of driving into exciting new terrain, it seems like they are just veering in the wrong direction.