Playboi Carti Goes Full ‘Vamp’ Mode on ‘Whole Lotta Red’


Carti performs at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival, 2019. Courtesy of AP Images

Noah Range, A&E Editor

Two years, seven months and 14 days elapsed between the release of Playboi Carti’s “Die Lit” and “Whole Lotta Red.” For many Playboi Carti fans, it was a testing wait filled with rumors and speculation.

Thankfully, the wait was worth it. “Whole Lotta Red,” produced by Kanye West, is more exciting and innovative than “Die Lit,” pushing its predecessor’s groundbreaking vision even further.

When “Die Lit” was first released, it was notable for its stripped-back yet psychedelic production and using simplicity and repetition to its advantage. “Whole Lotta Red” takes these ideas to a new level while incorporating new influences, primarily punk rock.

The production generally falls into two categories: punk and psychedelic. Some songs are very punchy and aggressive with booming 808s and driving rhythms while others are more relaxed and trippy with angelic synths and satisfying drum patterns.

“Vamp Anthem” opens with a sinister organ lead that explodes into a menacing show of toughness, coupled with rumbling bass and vivid hi-hats.

“On That Time” is even more hardcore than “Vamp Anthem,” as Carti viciously brags about toting guns and using them without mercy over a heavv bass line and pushy drums.

On the flip side, “New N3on” features a glitzy synth lead with a repetitive yet addictive rhyme scheme from Carti; listening to the song feels like flying through another galaxy.

Likewise, “ILoveUIHateU” has only two melodic instrumental layers: a calmer, washed out harmony and a long, soaring synth lead. However, it’s more than enough to send your ears to another dimension.

Regardless of the category a track may fall under, the production is more bare-bones than what is featured on your average trap record. Almost every beat features a simple, catchy melody with unsophisticated drum patterns.

In no way is this aspect of the album negative; rather, it’s part of what makes it so fun and captivating.

“Over” has only a short, repeating melody, a straightforward bass line and a simple drum pattern, yet that’s all the instrumental needs to be enchanting. This principle applies to almost every other track on the album.

Carti’s rapping doesn’t have the most complex rhyme schemes or cunning wordplay, but it doesn’t need to. His rhymes are usually simple and repetitive, but that’s what makes them so catchy.

On “Teen X” with Future, Carti repeats “I’m on the X, I’m on the Codeine” multiple times in the chorus, but his vocal inflections and delivery makes that line so strangely sticky; it’s likely that the line will be stuck in your head by the end of the song.

Occasionally, his lyrics go deeper than simply making the song catchier. On “Die4Guy,” Carti raps about the tragedy of losing a brother or close friend and the willingness to die for another person.

The albums closer “F33l Lik3 Dyin” exposes Carti’s feelings on death, his mental health and his aspirations all on top of a soul-tinged instrumental, creating a strong emotional effect.

“Whole Lotta Red” is a lengthy album, with 24 songs and over an hour of runtime, but not all tracks make the record more enjoyable; the album could certainly use some fat trimming.

“Meh” has a lop-sided instrumental and a stale performance from Carti, “JumpOutTheHouse” has hardly more than five bars repeating over and over and “Punk Monk” sees Carti experimenting with unflattering vocal inflections.

While a few songs are lackluster, most of the songs are a blast to listen to; stellar tracks far outnumber the forgettable ones.

It may be a long time until Playboi Carti releases another album, but “Whole Lotta Red” has given fans more than enough to enjoy, and it stands out as one of the most unique, energetic and exhilarating hip-hop releases of 2020.