Playboy Carti

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Playboi Carti (2017), 6/10
Die Lit (2018), 6.5/10
Whole Lotta Red (2020), 5/10

Playboy Carti (Atlanta's rapper Jordan Carter) debuted with singles such as Yungxanhoe (2014), with druggy production, Broke Boi (2015), a "mumble rap" classic, which eschewed wordplay and reduced rapping to its barbaric minimum, Fetti (2015) and Smash (2016); but it was the mixtape Playboi Carti (2017), largely composed and produced by Jordan "Pierre Bourne" Jenks, that established him as a major trap rapper with Location (spastic industrial beat and cosmic organ drones), the histrionic rapping of Woke Up Like This, and especially his breakout single Magnolia (previously released as In My Sock).

Die Lit (2018), again almost entirely produced by Pierre Bourne, was considered a milestone in the evolution (or involution) of trap rap, and it legitimized the "soundcloud rap" sound with the mainstream. It contains Poke it Out, a track of brainless lyrics and vocal effects over videogame-grade beats, FlatBed Freestyle, another deliberately substandard delivery over another druggy production, Shoota (a duet with Symere "Lil Uzi Vert" Woods), an orchestral piece with minimalist repetition a` la Steve Reich (perhaps the standout), and Pull Up, derailed by vocal effects and ominous orchestral lines. Everything seems to be "wrong", sloppy, out of tune, from the dissonant organ of Foreign to the abrasive "dirty" drone of Long Time. And somehow "wrong" are also the atmospheres, whether the melodramatic one of Old Money or demonic one of R.I.P.

Perhaps inspired by the old punk scene of the late 1970s, Carti began to adopt a provocative "bisexual vampyre" look (provocative for those who were too young to know Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Iggy Stooge, etc). The idea of coining a sort of "punk-trap" fusion is cute but the implementation on Whole Lotta Red (2020) is tentative at best. The bloated 24-song album is mostly filler, random collaborations with a variety of producers: it should have been a six-song EP. The production is promising in the glitchy synth-heavy Rockstar Made and the raspy vocal delivery has that punk tone, and so does No Sl33p over a frantic production. The vocal delivery is creative in Beno but the production is minimal. Surreal and haunted moments like M3tamorphosis feel underdeveloped (and his "punk" tone here sounds a bit too much like Michael Jackson in Thriller, i.e. fake) and in any case are outnumbered by trance-y moments like New N3on and Sky. Kanye West embarrasses himself in Go2DaMoon. The albums is neither boring nor monotonous, but it seems to suffer from a lack of quality control.

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