After a 28-month long wait, Playboi Carti finally stayed true to his word and released one of the most anticipated albums of the year. Just months after the release of his debut studio album Die Lit, Carti announced WLR in August of 2018. After an abundance of leaked records, a couple of false alarm release dates, and only one official single out, the wait is over. Whole Lotta Red is here. 

The Atlanta native emerged on the scene as a rapper at the peak of the Soundcloud wave. The era who’s biggest influences came from Supreme & A$AP Mob. For the last five years we’ve witnessed some of these rappers fall off from the face of the earth, and watched others go on to become some of the biggest artists in the game. Carti has been able to remain relevant in the hip-hop community. He is one of few artists that has been able to grow his fanbase during a hiatus from releasing music. 

During this period of Playboi Carti’s relevance, the 24-year old has significantly evolved his sound. Now, whenever you listen to breakout tracks such as “Fetti” & “Broke Boi”, it’s difficult to recognize that those are even Playboi Carti songs. Since those early days, Carti has become the godfather of the “baby voice” in hip-hop. A style that has been stolen or revamped by multiple artists, and isn’t particularly popular with the older hip-hop crowd.

In April, Playboi Carti released “@ Meh” his first single in two years, which was the first real sign that WLR was possibly coming out. After comparing the single to this album, it’s clear that “@ Meh” just didn’t match the vibe that Carti envisioned for this project. Fast forward seven months later, and Carti had been active on Instagram & announced that he had turned in the album to AWGE & Interscope Records.

The album’s cover art matches the punk theme of the project. It’s inspired by a Slash Magazine (70s punk rock outlet) cover of Dave Vanian (lead singer of The Damned). The executive producers on this album are Kanye West, alongside the Creative Director of Givenchy, Matthew Williams. After seeing this, you can tell the album is bigger than just music, it’s a whole creative experience.

WLR contains 24 tracks, and no previous singles, so if you haven’t heard any leaks, these are all original songs. Carti sets the tone of the album with “Rockstar Made” produced by F1lthy, who orchestrated instrumentals on six tracks in total. The intro is followed by “Go2DaMoon” featuring Kanye West. Now, most people, including myself dread Kanye West verses in 2020. It has seemed difficult for the 41-year old to find a pocket to rap in all year long. However, this verse was one of his best he’s had in a while, despite that bar being set pretty low.

On the track “Beno!” (reference to Homixide Lil Beno 5), Playboi takes a different direction and deviates from the aggressive rapping style that he’s displayed all the way to this point of the album. On production is Lil 88 and Ken Car$on, with the latter being signed to Carti’s Opium label. “JumpOutTheHouse” might be the go-to anthem for when the stay at home order is lifted, and we can go outside again. “M3tamorphosis” was not the Kid Cudi featured track most of us wanted. The people wanted the highly anticipated “Kid Cudi”/“Pissy Pamper“ featuring Young Nudy & Cudi himself. This collaboration that we received instead, is something I can live without.

“Slay3r” (where he pays homage to the metal band) has a catchy hook, and again Carti claims he’s a “rockstar” and goes over the lifestyle he lives on the turnt up record. On “No Sl33p”, the instrumental sounds reminiscent of a Street Fighter theme song. The influences for this project are very clear in the music. “New Tank” was one of the tracks Playboi Carti previewed on social media when he became active again in November. Carti acknowledges some rumors on this line:

“I’m servin’ that base (Base, yeah)

I got me some thots (Thots, thots)

They thought I was gay (Slatt, woah)”

The third and final feature was fellow Atlanta artist, Future, who has been one of the best feature artists of 2020. He was featured on the track “Teen X”, and even at 37 years of age, the trap legend was able to get on the same vibe as Carti, and mirror the cadence & flow. Future easily had the best featured verse on the album. After the persistent use of the vampire emoji, and always dressing like Dracula himself, Playboi Carti was able bring that imagery to music on “Vamp Anthem” using a Johann Sebastian Bach sample. This was the song that really turned things around. The first half of this album didn’t live up to the hype, despite there still being a couple of solid tracks. “Vamp Anthem” gave off an intro track type of vibe for the second half of this album.

“New N3on” is a track that the Carti fanbase has been anticipating since the song was made about two years ago. The Maaly Raw produced track even sounds like it was made in 2018, because Playboi Carti is already past that sound, and you can hear the difference in the other tracks on the album. On “Control” Carti takes a more love song direction that gives the album’s substance a little more balance. The fact that Akademiks was given the intro for the track is crazy, but that’s a topic for a different time.

People who were waiting for a Pi’erre Bourne produced track had to wait until track 18 “Place” (a song that always makes me think my music is paused from 0:02-0:07). Despite the hiatus, the pair haven’t lost a step in terms of their chemistry. The track was first previewed back in December of 2018. In 2019, a 4-second video surfaced on the internet of a Drake verse on the track, so hopefully a remix is on the way for the deluxe version. “Sky” is an album standout, and Carti opens up about his experiences with different drugs, as well as feelings towards the girl in question. “Over” is very reminiscent of “Long Time (Intro)”, and that makes sense since both tracks are produced by Art Dealer, who was credited on seven songs on WLR.

This is an album where the production shines, and a song that backs up that statement is “ILoveUIHateU”, and Pi’erre Bourne outdid himself once more, and Playboi Carti has perfected his baby voice flow. It’s arguably one of the best instrumentals on the project altogether. The Bon Iver “iMi” sample was constructed exceptionally on “F33l Lik3 Dyin”, and it did the job in terms of an outro track.

From a fan’s standpoint this is the album I expected from Playboi Carti (except a few leaked tracks), and anyone who has paid attention to him this year would agree. From the hair, to the vampire-esque clothing, to the way he typed on social media, to the previous single & features of 2020, it’s not hard to believe he would take this approach. There were a lot of leaked tracks that were missing from this album, however Carti already has announced a deluxe version is on the way. Hopefully it’ll be similar to how Lil Uzi Vert released his album & deluxe version for Eternal Atake, with the latter featuring leaked tracks that have been highly anticipated.

Playboi Carti is the rap game daredevil, and it’s been that way since the beginning. From challenging Kendrick Lamar by releasing his debut mixtape the same day DAMN. dropped, to his trendy baby voice, and now dropping this “alternative” and “psyched out” album with the whole world watching. There are almost comical lows on this album, but there are polarizing highs as well. This is an album that may not be perceived well by the traditional hip-hop fan, and rightfully so. There is no real lyrical content, and at times it might not even be considered rap music. However, this is a sonically futuristic album, and Carti might have foreshadowed the future of a whole new genre. Yes, for the past two years most of the hip-hop community was able to live without Carti dropping, but when he finally released, the whole music community tuned it. That’s just an example on how intriguing he is as an artist. Whole Lotta Red is out now on all streaming platforms.

Score: 6.6/10