The wait is finally over! On Christmas day, Playboi Carti officially released his long-awaited album “Whole Lotta Red.” For many fans, this wait was excruciating. Between the leaked songs, vampire-themed Instagram, and hints from Carti himself, “Whole Lotta Red” felt more myth than music. Executive produced by Kanye West and features production from frequent Carti collaborators such as Pi’erre Bourne, Art Dealer, and Richie Souf, “Whole Lotta Red” seems like another triumphant album from Playboi Carti. Coming off the masterpiece that was “Die Lit,” it may be hard to replicate that kind of success. So, the question is, does it live up to the hype?
The Wait for Whole Lotta Red
Before diving into the quality of the album, it’s important to understand why this release is so important. A lot has changed for Playboi Carti in the past two years since his debut album “Die Lit.” He was at the center of a plethora of memes based around his signature “baby voice” after the success of “Die Lit”, he had the highest-charting song of his career earlier this year, and even started a family with fellow rapper Iggy Azealia. Needless to say, if you were expecting the same Playboi Carti from 2018 in 2020, you will be sorely mistaken.
All artist suffers from leaks. No matter how big or small the artist, they all have experienced the unfortunate outcome of leaks. Playboi Carti is no exception. He has always been known to not have very tight security when it comes to his music. His lead single to “Die Lit” even leaked a few days early back in 2018. Yet no one expected an entire album’s worth of tracks to leak between late 2018 and 2020. Many think that the majority of the twenty songs that leaked were the original “Whole Lotta Red”. They sounded very similar to his previous album. Most of the songs featured the “baby voice” and production reminiscent of “Die Lit”.
One song, in particular, stood out among the rest. The track was titled ‘Kid Cudi’ and featured fellow Atlanta rapper, Young Nudy. When this song leaked, it immediately became the center of attention. It was one of the best songs of 2019 and it didn’t even officially release. Leaks such as ‘Kid Cudi’ gave fans a window into Playboi Carti’s creative process when making the album. Many of the leaked songs weren’t complete but they had been worked on enough to get the concept. While they may have not been finished songs, all the leaks sounded great and had many fans (myself included) excited to hear how the finished album would sound.
A Sliver of Hope
For many Playboi Carti fans, “Whole Lotta Red” was thought to be a scrapped project. The more time that passed, the less likely we’d get the album we had waited what felt like forever for. In April of 2020, Playboi Carti released the promotional single ‘@ MEH’. The song was met with lukewarm responses on social media. Regardless of the response to the single, fans were hopeful. Fans were sure the album was coming soon after Carti’s resurgence on social media. After a few cryptic tweets and Instagram posts, Playboi Carti yet again vanished.
After nearly six months of silence, Playboi Carti posted on his Instagram that the album was finished. This caused a frenzy within his fanbase. The news began to slowly trickle in. He slowly began to reveal features such as Pharrell, Post Malone, Travis Scott, and Kanye West. Unfortunately, fans had been burned before. Many of us were still skeptical whether or not “Whole Lotta Red” would ever see the light of day. On December 22nd, Playboi Carti unveiled the album cover and announced the release to be Christmas day. It pays homage to the 1980s punk rock magazine “Slash Magazine.” While the Playboi Carti is no stranger to the “punk” persona, this cover is the complete embodiment of who he is at this stage in his career.
A New Era for Playboi Carti
Throughout the twenty-four tracks, the best way I could describe the album is hectic, brash, and rebellious. Playboi Carti has a knack for using his voice as an instrument. Rap is a very lyric heavy genre, if an artist doesn’t have bars, it uses to be much harder for them to become a success. While in the last ten years, we’ve seen the importance of lyrics have dwindled, Playboi Carti has completely disrupted the entire genre with his melding of vocals and production. Carti utilizes adlibs and repetitive lyrics to wiggle his songs deep into your brain. “Whole Lotta Red” is no exception.
The first track on the album, ‘Rockstar Made’ serves as a pallet cleanser. Anyone who was expecting “Die Lit 2,” might be disappointed. His coveted baby voice is missing off the intro track and is replaced with a raspier voice. The track features mind-bending production from F1lthy, who produces five more tracks on the album. The second track features Kanye West and is titled ‘Go2DaMoon.’ While this Kanye feature is probably the best music he’s made all year, it becomes an afterthought when Playboi Carti starts his (very) short verse.
Is Playboi Carti Punk?
The energy Playboi Carti brings to each song on this album commands attention. Carti is a pioneer of “punk rap.” Throughout Carti’s career, he has likened himself to a Rockstar. His “Die Lit” album cover is a photo of him front flipping into a crowd in true Rockstar fashion. On “Whole Lotta Red,” he continues the Rockstar comparisons. On the track titled, ‘Slay3r,’ he namedrops metal band Slayer, “I’m a Rockstar, I could’ve joined Slayer.” On the final track on the album ‘F33l Lik3 Dyin’, he says “Rockstar like I’m Jimi Hendrix.” Some may disagree if Carti can successfully utilize the punk aesthetic because he is considered a mainstream artist. Whether this album is truly punk or not, is up for debate. But it is undeniable that the tone, production, and complete direction of “Whole Lotta Red” takes inspiration from the punk rock genre.
Although some songs are pure spectacle, Carti also showcases some of his best raps on this album. On the track ‘Stop Breathing,’ Carti pays homage to Atlanta legend, Gucci Mane by interpolating the hook of his song ‘Shirt Off.’ Gucci isn’t the only legend he acknowledges on this track. He also says “I just hit a lick with a mask, MF DOOM,” name-dropping rap icon MF DOOM (RIP MF DOOM).
The production on “Whole Lotta Red” is some of the best of the year. Playboi Carti has an impeccable ear for beats and it clearly shows on this album. The album has some of his longtime and some new collaborators, and they all bring the best of the best for this album. The album closer, ‘F33l Lik3 Dyin’ has one of the most surprising Bon Iver samples and is easily one of the best songs of the year. Tracks like ‘Gone2DaMoon’ and ‘Vamp Anthem’ sound like they are straight out of the 1931 “Dracula” film. There something sinister about all the beats on this album. They fit perfectly with his vampire/horror theme. Then there are tracks like ‘New N3on’ and ‘Over’ that sound very reminiscent of his “Die Lit” sound. While songs like ‘Place’ sound similar to something you’d hear on his debut mixtape. This gives fans that may not like the direction of “Whole Lotta Red” something to listen to and not be disappointed.
Playboi Carti’s second studio album “Whole Lotta Red” is a huge success. He has been able to morph his style yet again and keep fans on their toes wondering what he’ll do next. With tracks like ‘Over’, ‘Sky’, and ‘Vamp Anthem’, Carti continues to impress through his energy, choice of production, and overall catchiness on this album. “Whole Lotta Red” is not only a worthy successor to “Die Lit” but it is also one of the best releases of 2020. If Playboi Carti can continue to release albums like this, the wait is worth it.