Playboi Carti has always been a trendsetter, an explorer of new worlds, and Whole Lotta Red finds him further pushing the boundaries.
"Damn my sh*t so radical," Playboi Carti caws over giddy synths and meticulous high hats on his 2017 debut mixtape.
To be fair, to call Playboi Carti's discography anything other than progressive is to do the emcee a disservice. From the guileful braggadocio of his self-titled mixtape to the unhinged, animated mania of 2018's Die Lit, Playboi Carti has always walked the line between groundbreaking art and nonsensical absurdity.
His biggest chart-topper, "Shoota," featuring an equally cartoonish Lil Uzi Vert, is as rambunctious as a sugar-high toddler, while tracks like "R.I.P." are gut-wrenching and exhausting in their hyped aggression. It all just shouldn't work, and rap traditionalists have forever scoffed at Carti's immature candor ("she wanna suck on my lil peepee") and his die-hard legion of angsty teen fans. But Carti's undeniable charisma on the microphone, combined with Pi'erre Bourne's inventive instrumentals that have become his calling card, somehow make it all click together.
Those same fans, who have tweeted and pleaded for Whole Lotta Red to drop for over two years, finally got their wish on Christmas Day. Still, in the days that followed, hashtags like #WholeLottaSkips and #WholeLottaTrash have polluted Twitter, with many calling the project 2020's biggest disappointment. Some felt it was the final nail in the coffin of an already disastrous year.
In many respects, fans are correct in criticizing the project. None of the well-received leaked singles over the last two years or even the project's official lead single "@MEH" made it onto the album. In its stead remained 24 gumby and disorienting throwaways, all cranked up to 110% with no rhyme or reason to any of it.
"JumpOutTheHouse" is Carti just repeating the song title over and over again as growls and unrestrained synths assault the eardrums. "On That Time" takes "R.I.P's" delirium and gives it a steroid shot, making the track's brief runtime still almost too long, and "Go2DaMoon" is merely a platform for more of Kanye's incessant ramblings. Carti's demonic energy remains present, but Whole Lotta Red's reckless pacing makes Die Lit feel and sound almost conservative.
But is it really all that disastrous? Carti has always been a trendsetter, an explorer of new worlds, and Whole Lotta Red finds him further pushing the boundaries already expanded by Die Lit. The instrumentals are harrowing in their hysteria, and Whole Lotta Red admittedly feels and sounds unlike anything that's been released this year.
Let's remember this is the same rapper who rapped about "sexing thick white girls" for 4 minutes and 31 seconds. This is the same rapper who confused a frisbee for a boomerang and didn't correct himself. This is the same rapper who recycled the verse: "She sucked my d*ck like a tick" over and over again.
But no one questioned any of it, and it was all somehow perceived as cutting-edge. While Whole Lotta Red is far too long, sprinkled along the way are tracks like "Vamp Anthem," which playfully experiments with vampirical organs, and "Slay3r," whose "whole lotta mob sh*t" hook is an earworm.
Other tracks like "Place" find Carti reunited with the swollen intergalactic production of P'ierre Bourne, and while it takes a while to get there, the album's closer, "F33l Like Dyin," is a fun and inventive use of a Bon Iver sample, with Carti traversing sing-song lyrics in a way he hasn't before.
Before we completely trash the project, it's important to remember that Carti has always pushed the boundaries of what is kosher in rap music. It's what made him so punk rock in the first place. The power of Whole Lotta Red is in the question that swirls around it as you listen: Is this actually bad, or have I just not caught on yet?
Whole Lotta Red
- The 20 Best K-pop Music Videos of the Year (That Aren't "Gangnam ... ›
- The Worst XXL Freshman Freestyles - Popdust ›