It’s polarizing, it’s long awaited, it’s Playboi Carti’s Whole Lotta Red. Now that the long awaited album is here, the verdict is split. Some have derided it as a garbage fire of an album, and some believe it’s Carti’s best. I fall into the latter camp. Whole Lotta Red is high energy, versatile, and extremely unique.
Carti is responsible for a change in my thinking when it comes to rap lyrics. Many people believe that repetitive lyrics that discuss drugs, woman, and crime are what makes rap music unenjoyable. In many cases that’s true, but Carti is an example of how there can be exceptions to that rule. When I first heard “Location” off his debut album, I was left surprised at how much I enjoyed it for it’s lyrics. Considering it has a multitude of lines, it hardly actually says anything beyond ‘I like expensive things,’ (it repeats the line “Diamonds, they wet on my arm” twelve times). Yet Carti is able to harness this simplicity and repetitiveness to his advantage, and Whole Lotta Red is proof of that. The album opens with “Rockstar made,” which repeats the line “Never too much” forty-four times. A few tracks later “JumpOutTheHouse” repeats “Jump out the house” or it’s derivative “Jump out that bitch” forty-nine times. These are just two examples of the near constant repetition that makes up the album. But the repetition just makes you want to yell the lines along with Carti, and Carti’s loud delivery makes for some bangin’ choruses. The lyrics themselves obviously reference the same material that most rappers do (I’m rich, I have a lot of sex, I drive fast cars, and I will rob you) but do it in very refreshing ways. Carti compares himself to a vampire, a new breed of rockstar, and exudes an on-top-of-the-world attitude.
As recognizable and relatively gimmicky as Carti’s delivery is, it comes off astoundingly versatile on this project. Carti’s delivery is often characterized as unintelligible or ridiculous, which he says as much with the line “They can’t understand me, I’m talkin’ hieroglyphics” on “M3tamorphosis”. You’d expect his style to become stale, but it doesn’t. From track to track Carti is able to occupy his niche, but push the boundaries of that niche further and further; switching from violent yelling to smooth flows and baby-voiced one liners with no detectable effort.
All of Carti’s delivery, lyricism, and flow would be for nothing had this album not come with some rockin’ production to match, and it certainly does. The overall aesthetic and production choices on the album are fantastic, and they are firmly cohesive despite having 20 different producer credits. Each track is backed by unsettling synths, overblown bass, and an aura of alien trap beats. “Vamp anthem”, could only be pulled off by Playboi Carti, who perfectly embodies the gothic extraterrestrial vampire aesthetic. “Stop Breathing” and “Meh” are both standouts, and are bangers of the year in my eyes. Both are best played at maximum possible volume.
The drawbacks of the album come in the form of its unnecessary length and it’s lackluster features. There are a few tracks which I believe could have been pruned to shorten the hour long run time. The back half especially contains some pretty formulaic (Carti’s formula that is) tracks, but overall none of them are too blatantly throw-away. The features aren’t bad… but they aren’t great either. For as much potential as heavy-hitters like Future, Kanye West, and Kid Cudi have, they aren’t utilized to great effect. Maybe it’s due to the fact that Carti’s style is hard to mesh with, but each feature sounds like they weren’t on their game when they recorded their verses. Bon Iver’s appearance however is a beautiful addition to the project, and a great way to close the album.I’ve heard the naysayers and haters, and I just disagree. I can clearly see why someone would bristle at Carti’s style, it’s obviously not for everyone, but it might be for you. So go listen to Whole Lotta Red, and remember; MAX VOLUME!