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Playboi Carti delivers on innovative, punk-inspired ‘Whole Lotta Red’

| Friday, February 12, 2021

Elaine Park | The Observer

In the years following Playboi Carti’s sophomore project, “Die Lit,” the Atlanta rapper’s cult following satisfied its desire for new music with snippets, leaks and features posted to SoundCloud and YouTube. Leak compilations circulated online, with Carti validating popular leaks (“Kid Cudi/Pissy Pamper”) during live performances.

Although the proliferation of Carti leaks and compilations satisfied his rabid fan base, it consequently delayed his next release. Two years is a long wait, especially when most rappers teeter between relevancy and irrelevancy at any given moment.

Fans (somewhat) patiently waited for any news from Carti’s camp, while hype grew exponentially with each new leak or pixelated Instagram Live snippet. By the time Carti officially announced a release date, expectations for the album had reached stratospheric heights. Hip hop pundits like DJ Akademiks drummed up hype, telling fans to “expect a classic” during a Twitch stream that was ultimately featured on “Whole Lotta Red.”

So did Playboi Carti live up to expectations? The reaction to “Whole Lotta Red” was polarized and visceral, with fans firing off hot takes on Twitter and reactions on TikTok. If the expectation was another “Die Lit,” Carti did not deliver. “Whole Lotta Red” certainly builds on elements of “Die Lit,” but its energy and delivery are completely different. Listening to “Whole Lotta Red” makes “Die Lit” and Carti’s self-titled debut feel like snoozefests. This album is aggressive, and its most aggressive tracks are produced by Working On Dying’s F1LTHY, who rose to fame making beats for tween rapper Matt Ox

The instrumentals on “Whole Lotta Red” are washed out and intense, with “Rockstar Made” instantaneously setting the tone for the rest of the album. Carti’s voice sounds raspy and strained as he shouts, “Rockstar maaaade! Rockstar maaaade!!” over a F1LTHY beat. Carti is channeling his inner punk rocker on “Whole Lotta Red,” with multiple references to punk culture throughout the album. During “Die 4 Guy,” he proclaims, “We some rockstars, we the new Black Flag!” The song “Slay3r” pays tribute to the band of the same name, and the artwork on the album’s cover is a riff on another cover from punk publication Slash Magazine. Carti’s punk influences are wildly innovative — few if any rappers from the SoundCloud era have taken creative risks to the extent seen on “Whole Lotta Red.”

Interspersed between mosh pit ready tracks like “Meh” (different than “@ MEH”) and “New Tank” are melodic songs featuring syrupy “Hotel Transylvania” beats, providing a welcome reprieve from the album’s skull-rattling bass and aggression. The second half of the album is more melodic than the first, and tracks like “Sky,” “Over” and “ILoveUIHateU” gained traction on TikTok following the album’s release. The track “Vamp Anthem” is noteworthy because it samples and flips a Bach composition that is frequently used in vampiric or ghastly entertainment. These songs are a fun break from the album’s aggressive production.

Compared to “Die Lit” , I found “Whole Lotta Red” significantly more enjoyable. I know this is a renegade take, but I haven’t stopped playing “Whole Lotta Red” since its Christmas release.

At The Observer, our ratings are relative in the sense that the reviewer can give albums that they like whatever score they want. This results in many fours and fives, a few twos and threes. The only other album I have given a five-star review to was “Titanic Rising” by Weyes Blood. Did I like “Whole Lotta Red” more than “Titanic Rising?” It certainly comes close. “Whole Lotta Red” was creative, hard-hitting and exactly what I wanted from a “Die Lit” follow-up. When “Die Lit” was first released, the reaction was polarizing, given how people were expecting an album exactly like Carti’s self-titled debut. “Whole Lotta Red” will certainly gain popularity over time, especially as some of the more melodic songs become staples in Carti’s discography. Now fans must wait for the follow up to Carti’s best and most innovative project yet.


Artist: Playboi Carti

Album: Whole Lotta Red

Label: AWGE/Interscope Records

Favorite Tracks: “Meh,” “New Tank,” “Rockstar Made,” “Slay3r,” “Vamp Anthem,” “New N3on,” “Sky,” “ILoveUIhateU,” “Die4Guy”

If you like: Black Flag, Lil Uzi Vert, Gunna

Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5

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