Playboi Carti Gets Experimental with Punk-rap Record ‘Whole Lotta Red’

(Courtesy AWGE/Interscope)

(Courtesy AWGE/Interscope)

By Parker Dunn, Online Managing Editor


It’s been over a month now since rapper Playboi Carti dropped his long-awaited second studio album “Whole Lotta Red.” Released on Christmas Day of 2020, “WLR” shows Carti embracing his more alternative side, with the shades of punk and emo apparent on past works coming in full force on this new record. And as expected, this move towards experimentation made for one polarizing album among audiences.

Leading up to Red

Carti first came onto the rap scene under the wing of the A$AP Mob, and specifically as an apprentice to A$AP Rocky. Songs “Broke Boi” and “Fetti” helped Carti first garner attention in 2015 on Soundcloud, and in 2016, the Atlanta native was signed to A$AP Rocky’s record label AWGE.

In 2017, Carti released his self-titled debut mixtape, with popular tracks like “Magnolia” and “wokeuplikethis*” breaking the rapper into the mainstream. The following year, Carti gave usDie Lit,” which set in stone his signature psychedelic trap and cloud rap sound, and the album charted at number three on the Billboard 200. Prominent tracks on the record include “Shoota” featuring Lil Uzi Vert and “FlatBed Freestyle” which features baby-voice Carti at his best.

Now, after a whole lot of waiting and a whole lot of leaks, we’ve finally received the much anticipated “Whole Lotta Red,” an album that, for me, easily competes with the triumph that is “Die Lit.” It’s an album that proves Carti refuses to be put in a box — showcasing Carti’s versatility in vocal delivery and a lineup of some of the hardest and darkest Carti beats to date.

Track by Track

The 24-track “WLR” opens with the banger “Rockstar Made,” a perfect tone-setter for an at times extremely aggressive album. This song also introduces us to the old-school video game type of production that shows up frequently on the record. Following is the ominous “Go2DaMoon,” which features one of the boldest and best Kanye West verses I’ve heard in a long time. The all-out assault track “Stop Breathing” plays next. 

The album shows no signs of slowing down with the next installment of an 8-bit-sounding beat in “JumpOutTheHouse,” a song that also has Carti giving one of his most eccentric vocal performances — a common theme on “WLR.” Comparably crazy is Carti’s breathy and emotive delivery on “M3tamorphosis” — which also features rap legend Kid Cudi. 

Tracks number nine and 10 are a pair of some more game boy-sounding songs — “New Tank,” a throttling throw of aggression, and “Teen X” (feat. Future), a spacey, high-pitched beauty that gives us our first real glimpse at “WLR” baby-voice Carti. Coming after is the almost comically hard “Vamp Anthem,” featuring a sample of the original organ-led vamp anthem “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” by Bach.

Next up are some of my favorite tracks on “WLR,” a couple of songs that break away a bit from the darker themes of the record and venture a bit into the light. “New N3on” runs with a tweaked, hoarse version of baby-voice vocals on top of an airy, atmospheric beat. “Control” contains a futuristic staccato synth beat produced by Art Dealer and Star Boy, the man behind the famous Lil Uzi Vert track “Futsal Shuffle 2020.”

Another favorite of mine, “On That Time,” follows shortly after. This track is peak aggression on “WLR” with easily one of the best Carti beats ever — one that integrates the 8-bit theme — and an incredibly emotional, expressive vocal delivery. Track 18, “Place,” feels like a brief throwback to the “Die Lit”-era Carti production-wise, and track 19 is the high-energy, synthy fan-favorite “Sky.”

The album comes to an end with an ode to Carti’s brother Reggie in “Die4Guy,” the upbeat alien-sounding “NotPLaying” and the finale “F33l Lik3 Dyin” — which makes use of a beautiful, soulful sample of Bon Iver’s “iMi” and features some personal lyrics touching on Carti’s mental state and road to success.

Final Verdict

“Whole Lotta Red” shows Carti’s desire to push his sound forward, even if it means upsetting some fans, which is a mark of a true artist. This album gives me hope that Carti will continue to experiment and embrace his more punk and alternative side. It’s clear, based on “WLR”, that Carti thrives when he is unhinged in vocal delivery and goes with what he feels. 

This record is a breath of fresh air in the rap game, and there’s no doubt Carti is paving the way for new generations of punk rappers with this direction he has unapologetically taken.


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