Playboi Carti - “Whole Lotta Red” Review
The Atlanta trap scene houses a lineage of genre-defining artists, and Playboi Carti looks to be the heir apparent to the throne.
But Carti is not a typical trap artist. The 24-year-old transcends the concept of rapper and embraces the idea of a modern-day rock star. With a middle finger to traditionalism, Carti is as punk as it gets despite the stigma surrounding the genre.
Simply put — Carti does as he pleases, which may come to the chagrin of fans.
In the two years it has been teased, Carti’s “Whole Lotta Red” has served as an urban legend for rap.
With the project being mired by leaks and delays, the hype garnered by the day as fans wondered if the album would ever see the light of day, and for good reason for that matter. Carti’s previous releases showcased a blossoming artist finding his footing in a rising genre.
Carti’s self-titled debut mixtape launched him into stardom overnight, with tracks like “Magnolia” and “Wokeuplikethis*” demonstrating the young artist’s charisma and moxie. “Die Lit” took said charisma and mixed it with a darker sound — creating an earthy, ecstasy like sound that was unparalleled at the time.
So, when more rumors spread that “Whole Lotta Red” would be releasing on Christmas, the hype surged even more.
Combine that with Kanye West and Kid Cudi said to be appearing on the record, “Whole Lotta Red” was as tantalizing as ever.
In a stroke of irony, Carti released the album minutes before his Christmas deadline.
At a total of 24 tracks, the culmination of hype and anticipation created a sense of perfection, when in reality “Whole Lotta Red” throws perfectionism to the side and creates a chaotic and frenetic sound that improves upon each listen.
The concept of Carti as a rock star is fully realized on the promptly named opening track “Rockstar Made” where Carti experiments with his vocals, creating a rugged and harsh sounding style that pairs perfectly with the heavy synth driven instrumental.
The theme of being a rock star is prevalent throughout the entirety of the project, such as “Slay3r,” a direct reference to the thrash metal band in which Carti raps “I’m a rockstar, I could’ve joined Slayer.”
Immediately, the tone of the album seems set, taking the darker roots from “Die Lit” and expanding upon it to craft a downright sinister sound.
Many of the tracks on “Whole Lotta Red” embody this grimier style such as “Stop Breathing,” with a booming bassline and hard-hitting percussion to pair with it. Carti’s aggressive vocals create what sounds to be a sure mosh pit anthem.
As a true showman, Carti lives as different personas with different projects. “Whole Lotta Red” shows the artist as a vampire — something ghastly. “Vamp Anthem” samples the classic organ sound paired typically with horror icons like “Dracula” to make a trap instrumental that turns Carti into rap’s Nosferatu.
However, not all the tracks on “Whole Lotta Red” fit the mold of the aforementioned “Vamp Carti.” In fact, the latter half of the project is more reminiscent of Carti's earlier sounds. “New N3on’s” upbeat, JRPG-like production brings back the style that brought Carti into stardom.
Part of Carti’s prior success came thanks in part to producer Pi’erre Bourne’s major contributions to the rapper’s projects. Fans will be disappointed to see very little of Bourne throughout the album, and with songs like “ILoveUIHateU” being a standout among the lengthy track list, the producer’s efforts will be missed.
Despite the wait for “Whole Lotta Red,” one could argue that the hour-long runtime is unnecessary considering the lack of substance in many of the tracks. Some of the tracks seem to serve as filler and could be done without — or at the very least shorten the time.
Take the track “JumpOutTheHouse” for example — while it only runs at a minute and a half, the monotony of the chorus “Jump out the house” makes it feel like it was thrown in at the last minute to extend the time. While Carti has never been known for his lyrics, this track could have been left out and the outcome of the album would not be affected.
Another negative from the album is the lack of features. Many of Carti’s past efforts included trap contemporaries that added more substance to the tracks. With only three features on “Whole Lotta Red,” it felt like something was missing.
Kanye West, Kid Cudi and Future are the only guest appearances, with Kanye and Cudi killing their parts, but Future adding little substance. While at times there can be too many different voices on a project, the lack thereof on “Whole Lotta Red” creates a sense of dullness at times.
Despite the ups and downs throughout, Carti can finish on a strong note to close out the project. Tracks like “Place,” “Sky” and “Over” keep things simple with the trend of synths that Carti seamlessly raps over.
Closing track “F33l Lik3 Dyin” samples folk group Bon Iver, creating a softer, more R&B like song that shows a more soulful Carti following the gruffness seen throughout.
While “Whole Lotta Red” may not be the project it was hyped up to be, it is still an overall solid effort. Despite the roughness around the edges, any time an artist attempts to expand their horizons deserves credit.
He may not always stick the landing, but Playboi Carti always manages to keep things fresh and do things his way.
Reviewer’s Favorite Songs: “Rockstar Made,” “Vamp Anthem,” “ILoveUIHateU”
Reviewer’s Least Favorite Song: “JumpOutTheHouse”
Joe Eckstein is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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Fourth year / Broadcast Journalism