ALBUM REVIEW: Whole Lotta Red by Playboi Carti

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WRITTEN BY: Dylan Stevens

It had been over two years since quintessential mumble rapper Playboi Carti announced his third major studio release, Whole Lotta Red. Carti is not new to hype. He had been making waves on SoundCloud in the underground for years before he taught anyone to Milly Rock. His platinum selling debut mixtape was released in 2017 and he followed it up with one of trap music’s most polarizing albums, Die Lit, in 2018. Announcing his next project in the August following Die Lit, the hype train returned with something new and groundbreaking began to roll.

Carti’s slurred and high-pitched “baby voice” flow he toiled with on songs like Die Lit’s “Flatbed Freestyle” would soon become a hot commodity. Over the 27 months it took to deliver Whole Lotta Red, Carti had countless songs leak. This gluttonous hunger for more music that ran through his rabid fanbase ironically led to the project undergoing numerous delays as the hype continued to build through various popular unreleased songs and snippets.

In April of 2020, Carti released the bubbly single “@ Meh” to mixed reception. Carti’s style had begun to morph and change again. This time he was utilizing more abstract baby voiced flows over a video game inspired trap beat. To some the song was refreshing and intriguing, but to many who were not expecting a style change so extreme, it caught them off guard and turned many fans away. 

Carti’s hype and unconventional style turned the road to Whole Lotta Red into a meme gold mine. The rapper’s dedicated young fan base was the subject of many jokes across Twitter and Reddit. To those who were fans of Carti, the baby flows and beat selection signaled a new chapter in a growing artist’s career. To others it was an easy opportunity to clown those desperate fans who had no inclination of when new official music would come.

Finally, Playboi Carti delivered Whole Lotta Red at 12 AM on Christmas day. Buzz about the album immediately started bubbling on social media. It was Christmas Eve and fans all around the country stayed up to hear what all the hype was about. The artist’s ravenous Reddit fan page was locked for an hour so everyone could finish the album before posting.

Whole Lotta Red is 24 songs long, undeniably raw, and powerful. Its cover references the iconic Punk magazine Slash and Carti’s brings an aggressive energy on many tracks. The opener “Rockstar Made” is an ode to the punkstar lifestyle Carti lives by. The track features heavy 808s and a cutting synth melody. During the refrain, “never too much,” Carti’s chains jingle around underneath his dry auto tuned voice. This happens on multiple songs and ends up adding to the atmosphere of the many spacey beats heard across the album.

The songs mostly live in between two distinct styles. Songs like “New Tank” and “On That Time” are filled with bass that rattles the track and Carti strains his voice as he shouts his lyrics into the microphone. The best example of a song like this is “Stop Breathing.” Like multiple songs on the album, it is produced by underground legend F1LTHY. The 808s on this song distorts the other drums in the mix as Carti screams lines like, “I’m on demon time” and “I’m a young b*tch, but I’m in my prime.” Never has Carti displayed such a guttural and aggressive style. 

Another kind of style Carti brings is one older fans might be more familiar with. There are a few tracks on Whole Lotta Red with some fluttery and ethereal beats akin to Carti’s self titled mixtape era. “Place” and “ILoveUIHateU” are both produced by Pi’erre Bourne. The latter is a bouncy tune that sounds exactly like what many baby voice Carti fans were expecting. The rapid flows sound just like classic Carti as they ride smoothly over the sunny landscape that Pi’erre had crafted.

Between those two styles, Carti creates a handful of cloud trap bangers. A few feature rapid nasally flows and some feature gasping, powerful bars. Throughout the project, fans agreed that many of the beats steal the show. Carti included the previously leaked, glittering “New N3on” produced by Maaly Raw as well as the spooky “Vamp Anthem” that is surely going to be featured in Halloween party playlists for years to come. The latter song samples probably the most iconic piece of music associated with vampires. The opening melody of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” featuring its gothic synth chords are heard at the beginning of the song before being chopped and laid plainly onto trap drums for Carti to improvise over.

Ultimately, Carti delivered an experimental and ambitious project that may have polarized many at its release, but will surely grow acclaim in time. The album is a slap in the face to anyone who expected Carti to just dump out a stylistic sequel to Die Lit. Whole Lotta Red challenges the listener to experience the outer creative walls of trap music that no mainstream artist has managed to touch. Soon enough, people will realize this is Carti’s most mature and groundbreaking project yet.

Tracklist:

  1. Rockstar Made
  2. Go2DaMoon (feat. Kanye West)
  3. Stop Breathing
  4. Beno!
  5. JumpOutTheHouse
  6. M3tamorphosis (feat. Kid Cudi)
  7. Slay3r
  8. No Sl33p
  9. New Tank
  10. Teen X (feat. Future)
  11. Meh
  12. Vamp Anthem
  13. New N3on
  14. Control
  15. Punk Monk
  16. On That Time
  17. King Vamp
  18. Place
  19. Sky
  20. Over
  21. ILoveUIHateU
  22. Die4Guy
  23. Not PLaying
  24. F33l Lik3 Dyin

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