I turned my back on Playboi Carti because he lied about releasing repeatedly. I could not be more excited to hear that he was finally dropping “Whole Lotta Red” on Christmas day. The shoes that he left himself to fill after his first two albums were enormous. The self-titled album “Playboi Carti” was a highly influential project that signified a shift in rap music. I believe that the revolutionary album had no bad songs much like Carti’s next album, “Die Lit.” The snippets Carti released in the weeks before the album slightly scared me, but I still had hope.
After listening to four songs, the hope began to turn into worry. Worry that the album may not even be average. Despair was the only emotion left after three full listens. “Whole Lotta Red” did not need to fit a specific mold, it just needed to be good music. I thoroughly enjoyed Kanye’s and A$AP Rocky’s experimental albums “Yeezus” and “Testing.” Cardi’s third studio album is not at all comparable to other quality experimental projects.
Pierre Bourne needs to come back out here immediately. Carti’s past albums were filled with catchy creative Pierre beats and his absence is noticed. The beats on this album are almost all simple 5-second loops. They do not have the wow factor that put Carti on the map. You can listen to songs like “Location,” “Flex,” or sister songs “Let it Go” and “Middle Of The Summer” and nothing on his new album is nearly as mind-blowing. Not only are the Pierre produced beats in these songs transcendent, but Carti’s verses were astounding as well. Carti has never been particularly known for his lyrics, but his delivery and ability to use his voice as an instrument in tandem with the beats were unique and coveted. These wow factors are simply nonexistent on “Whole Lotta Red.”
A completely listenable album was apparently too tall a task for Carti. The album being 24 songs did not help his case at all. At least half of the songs are simply unlistenable. The production feels rushed, and the verses do not provide anything substantial. Playboi Carti even went as far as to ruin a Kid Cudi song, to no fault of Kid Cudi. On their song “M3tamorphosis, the beat sounds like tv static and Carti just screams with no fluidity or attention to the beat. The Future feature was sub-par making Kanye’s verse the only decent feature. When Carti wasn’t screaming offbeat, he was squealing awkwardly. The leaks that we heard with Carti’s baby voice were somewhat euphonious due to him meshing the beat. I expected the songs with his regular voice to be better, but I was unimpressed by those as well.
Aside from the Kanye feature, “Beno!” and “Vamp Anthem,” the first half of the album is just bad, and those songs are still not good by his standards. “Vamp Anthem” had unique organ instrumentation and Carti managed to find pockets within the beat which was a rarity on this album. I thought “Stop Breathing” was the worst song that Carti has ever officially released until I heard worse later. Carti claims to have lost his mind and I believe him. Carti’s attempt at being creative came off as sloppy. This is not music that will inspire future musicians.
The second half of the album brought the project from terrible to sub-par. To get the horrendous part out the way, “Control” is definitely the worst officially released Carti song ever. I never thought I would hear DJ Akademiks on a Carti album, but he delivered yet another disappointing surprise on Christmas. The beat is not bad but Carti has absolutely zero awareness of it. It is as if he recorded his verse without hearing the beat. His inept attempt at singing is outright disgusting. He goes on to talk on this track putting his lack of effort on display.
While “New N3on” and “Place” are decent, they are leaked songs that have been out for about a year now.
“Sky,” “Over” and “ILoveUIHateU” are the other songs on the album worth a mention. These three consecutive songs are the only bright streak on this album. The beat on “Sky” is not special but at least Carti has awareness of it. His flow is one that fans are slightly familiar with but the way he uses his voice is new. There is a rhyme pattern present signifying some level of effort. “Over” contains another simple video game type beat. Being listenable is all it takes to make this song one of the better tracks on the album.
“ILoveUIHateU” is my favorite song on the album and it is no surprise the producer is Pierre Bourne. Carti rides the catchy beat in a way that is reminiscent of his old ways. Shades of his infamous baby voice are present, but it is not annoying or misplaced. We are gifted some of those quick short bars that he slides into beat pockets so well. The second to last song, “Not Playing,” is ok for this album but would easily be the most skippable on his first two albums which sums up “Whole Lotta Red.”
In the past two years, Carti has built up a cult-like following with his leaked songs and mysteriousness. Many fans tried to downplay the lack of quality in this album due to the anticipation. Comparing “Playboi Carti” or “Die Lit” to this album song for song, you are forced to face the truth that this project is exceedingly weak. It is hard to believe that this is the same revolutionary artist whose songs previously produced astral projection memes. Had Carti put this album under the Christmas tree, I would have had to fake a smile with tears in my eyes.