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Playboi Carti falters on Whole Lotta Red

Rating: ⭐⭐

It’s been a long and agonizing wait for the rapidly expanding and dedicated fanbase of Atlanta rapper Playboi Carti. After 2017’s self-titled, which elevated him from SoundCloud rapper to world superstar status, he released the even better received Die Lit the following year, marking a brand of psychedelic trap which has branded him as one of the most distinguished and beloved artists in the rap game today. Since then, listeners have had to make do with merely the odd single and a string of teasingly catchy online leaks, with tracks such as Pissy Pamper and Molly toying with fans in their ethereal, transcendent trap sound. 

Whole Lotta Red sees Carti giddy and baby voiced as ever, but as a sonically revamped version of himself. The most notable absence is that of Pierre Bourne; despite the producer’s considerable input on the previous two albums, his instantly recognisable tag is only audible on one or two of the 24 tracks here. Furthermore, the typical earworm, repetitive sound that Carti applied to essentially all his lyrics on previous work is disposed of, now with a balance of strangled rasp and high-pitched mumbling in its stead, particularly on tracks like ‘Go2DaMoon.’ The features are also considerable. Kanye’s verse on ‘Go2DaMoon’ has a devilishness to it which recalls ‘Freestyle 4’; “She ugly hot / Like a chick that call you to borrow / Five hunnid, then promise she gon’ pay you back tomorrow.” Not to mention the inclusion of the infamous trademark Cudi hum on ‘M3tamorphosis.’

Possibly what will stand out most, however, is the darker, more brooding persona that Carti takes on here. Recently in the news for missing the birth of his son to ‘play videogames with Lil Uzi,’ according to ex-girlfriend Iggy Azalea, one questions the extent to which the rapper has really matured. Across this project, however, he raps about suicidal thoughts, oral sex while playing videogames, and everything in between. Yes, the juvenile debauchery still stands at the fore, but this time with a more ruminative, even tortured, slant. On ‘No Sl33p’ he raps of dreaming about murder while falling asleep. The final track, suffused with a Bon Iver sample, is titled ‘F33l Lik3 Dying.’ Carti’s seemingly invincible brand of hedonism is broken down to reveal a conflicted inner self, and the contents of is brain are divulged in a great, sprawling mass. 

But the length of this album does not exactly work in Carti’s favour. Spanning sixty six minutes, tracks like ‘Beno’ prove predictably addictive, but the listener’s ears are treated to a succession of pounding bass and purposefully coarse production which inevitably wears thin. Remove the headphones, and one is left in a strange state of numbness, as if you have just scrolled mindlessly through your phone for an hour. In this sense, Carti is an archetype of this generation; restless and impatient, constantly in desire of instant gratification. 

An album analogous to the mosh pit it surely deserves to be played for, Whole Lotta Red is an adrenaline-fueled Bacchanalia which can only go on for so long. A catchy listen, but by no means a rewarding one

Image: Getty Images