Whole Lotta Red (Playboi Carti) Album Review

Hunter Horan, Writer

Whole Lotta Red‘s reception has been polarizing to say the least, asking the question whether or not the album’s image is hurt by its own doing, or didn’t really have any chance to start out with due to the massive hype behind it.

Playboi Carti’s signature style can be described as psychedelic-minimalist trap. The repetitive beats and production provide a hypnotic loop which leads to an entrancing listening experience for viewers. This combined with Carti’s odd, baby-voice-like delivery, creates one of the most intriguing and forward-thinking acts in rap right now. His last album, Die Lit, quickly gained popularity to become one of the most critically acclaimed auto-tune trap records of the last decade and a peek into the future of psychedelic rap in general. Die Lit was praised for its consistency in quality and vibe.

The hype for his next album started all the way back in 2018, and the massive amount of time between Whole Lotta Red’s reveal and its actual release date only fueled the hype even more.

The album can be encapsulated in one word: inconsistency.   The initial tracks  are alternative, unfiltered, and aggressive bangers. While his previous works were clean and auto-tuned, often on this album Carti is straining his voice and comes off being much more raw than ever before, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. On the song “Stop Breathing,” Carti is so animated and aggressive that he even makes rappers like Young Thug seem calm in comparison.

The production is also much more low-fi than on previous projects. Some beats are very glitchy and experimental for a mainstream rap record, which can be off putting for some listeners. The distorted nature of the production on Whole Lotta Red benefits the psychedelic vibe on tracks like “Stop Breathing,” “Rockstar Made,” “M3tamporphosis,” “On That Time,” and “New Tank,” but can also be messy like on “Meh.” Some of the vocal mixing reveals Carti’s voice completely overshadowing the production, unlike the well balanced mixing on his previous project.

More oddities appear in the album’s middle third with some tracks feeling like knock-offs of other artists. The song, “Beno!” echoes what Lil Uzi Vert was doing on Eternal Atake. This is quite a departure for Carti who emerged as more distinct and cutting-edge than the vast majority of rappers These songs aren’t bad, but come off as being tame and by-the-numbers compared to the expressive creativity found on Whole Lotta Red‘s best moments.

While the album has its low points, several tracks build on what Carti has done well before. “New Tank” incorporates the hard-hitting and alternative production with the repetitiveness of the beat to create an entrancing and hard-hitting listening experience. “Vamp Anthem” perfectly encapsulates the emo-vampire vibe sampling an 18th century Johann Sebastian Bach composition. “F33l Like Dyin” is a genuinely gorgeous closer with Carti’s performance and the amazing samples in the backgrounds blending together perfectly. One of the best highlights is Carti and Kid Cudi’s vocal chemistry on “M3tamporphosis” with Playboi Carti rapping over Cudi’s famous hums: a stroke of genius.

Is this album’s lackluster reception due to the massive hype before its release?  With just how long fans had to wait for this project, anything that did not exceed expectations would naturally be deemed a disappointment in the internet’s view, but the album itself has its own problems too. The predictability, safeness, and messiness of some tracks hold this album back from being something great. However, the highlights are enough to makes this album slightly better than the average rap album released today. There is creativity and expressiveness on here, just not found consistently throughout the album’s runtime. The absence of immense hype for a future album could be very good for Carti, with him not being constantly bombarded by fans to release his album.  While this album may be disappointing for fans, Carti still remains one of the most interesting voices in modern music today.

Best Tracks: Rockstar Made, Stop Breathing, Teen X, M3tamporphosis, New Tank, F33l Lik3 Dyin, Place, Sky, Over, Control, Vamp Anthem, JumpOutTheHouse, On That Time

Worst Track: Not Playing