Playboi Carti - Whole Lotta Red
Dec 28, 2020 (updated Dec 28, 2020)
this is a somewhat long and rambling review, but i've thought about WLR a lot since christmas. here are my thoughts:

you people don't deserve this album. i'm seriously baffled by the negative reaction to this from people who are ostensibly fans of carti's work. if i had to guess, i think it comes from an inability to contextualize this album in a rap mainstream that streaming music and playlisting has homogenized to a disturbing degree. i know this may be hard to believe, but before every rap hit sounded like a post malone song rappers took sizable risks on pretty large releases. in that sense, this album is like yeezus--a highly anticipated album that elevates underground regional sounds that have existed for some time to the mainstream. for kanye in 2013, that was chicago house, drill, and industrial music. playboi carti arguably digs even deeper here, utilizing production from the philly production collective Working On Dying, inventors of the "tread" subgenre that has existed since, like, 2016. now, although i was familiar with Working On Dying, i didn't know what tread was before i listened to WLR. obviously, very few of the people reviewing the album on this website know what it is either, and even the blurb writer for apple music has clearly never heard of it (PC Music??? what???). but, since i somehow missed the 2018 matt ox song (zero degrees) that sounded exactly like WLR 2 years before WLR, i took the 15 minutes to do my homework about this album's influences before coming to a snap judgment. see: ;

i've also heard complaints about carti's vocals on this, which makes no sense, as he somehow outshines the attention-grabbing production on almost every song with even-more-attention-grabbing rapping. unlike the production,i can provide context here off the top of my head. there are times where carti sounds like 2013-15 young thug on here, not only on a basic "he sounds like young thug" level but also in terms of the level of risk taken in pushing one's voice to its limits. that is the highest compliment i can give to an artist. just about every rap pioneer of the past decade plus--gucci mane, future, young thug, chief keef--can be heard in the spirit of this album. if it wasn't obvious enough, "stop breathing" interpolates one of the best gucci songs, "shirt off" (and if your main takeaway from the song was the mf doom reference and not the gucci one, go listen to wilt chamberlain pt 1 right now). you can hear the energy of future songs like "sh!t", "first class flights," and "mark mcgwire" on WLR. the mixing on the album reminds me of those early low-budget chief keef tapes like almighty so--and that's a good thing. songs that were actual bangers that had no intention of becoming hits. WLR is distinctly different from these old ass songs, but the influence is palpable. if you don't like WLR because of the vocals or mixing, you can't pretend like you would have been an early fan of young thug, or chief keef, or future, or gucci, or lil b, or even playboi carti himself. and i say that as someone who was not a fan of those guys when i first heard them (save for lil b. i was always based). granted, i was a teenager when most of them came out and listening to some shit like hopsin and didn't know anything about music, but still. i don't want that grim fate for you, dear reader. i want you to recognize great rap talents early on and be able to appreciate them for as long as possible. i don't want you to be telling me that baby keem is "next up" for 3 consecutive years because you can't tell chief keef from slim jesus or playboi carti from mario judah.

that being said, i loved WLR on my first listen, my second listen, and third, fourth, and whatever listen i'm on now. i didn't need this context to enjoy it, but you, dear reader, might. and i genuinely want you to like this album, because it's genuinely great. if i'm being honest, i can't pretend like i didn't think the second half of carti's self-titled was a glorified beat tape on first listen. it didn't sound like broke boi or fetti, and i just didn't get it. a few months later, i thought it was a classic. i think the same thing is happening here. die lit, carti's least adventurous release, brought in a bunch of fans who wanted a certain type of rap album. thank god he didn't give in.

WLR is a force. you feel it in the first half, with the pulsating bass and energized delivery. but the second half, which most people think is better (i would agree, if only because it doesn't have the kanye song), is euphoric. it's two sides of the same coin. carti put his all of his emotional energy into every part of this album, and you can feel it. the aforementioned "stop breathing" is one of the best songs of the year, and one of the best of carti's career. he starts his verse repeating "ever since my brother died // i been thinking bout homicide" in the most aggressive tone he can muster. writing it doesn't do it justice. "punk monk" is as personal as carti has ever been. i could list about 50 highlights, but that would be pointless, because you've already heard the album. to enjoy it, relish the weird moments. relish the emphasis he places on certain syllables. relish the sudden pause in "place." relish the euphoric singing on "not playing." just enjoy it.

this review, though, is not saying that the album is flawless. you can make legitimate criticisms of parts of it. the kanye song is a pointless dud, it doesn't fit on the album and kanye's traditional rapping just serves as a contrast to how exciting carti is on the rest of the album. if you don't like repetition in music, you also may not like this, and i'm willing to accept that as legitimate. personally, i find repetition powerful when used correctly and not lazily. some might find it used lazily here, but i think it hits. further, it's not like carti didn't repeat phrases on his earlier music, so to hear this criticism from carti fans is a bit odd. the features here are also all pretty lackluster. the only one who can even argue that he belongs here is future, who has enough nuts to use his version of "baby voice" but not enough nuts to go fully unhinged like he would have earlier in his career and like carti does here. kid cudi's verse is forgettable. i would have liked to hear some thug harambe voice on a tread song, but i'll take what i can get. also, vamp anthem is a bit gimmicky but not to the point where i didn't like it. it's fun. i'm not calling the inclusion of akademics a flaw because of how flawlessly he transitions into carti's singing, but yeah, i don't like him. i struggle to come up with more true flaws.

and even with its flaws, this album is a classic. you could argue that WLR is not as revolutionary or groundbreaking as it purports to be, and i agree to a certain extent. this album does not create a completely new sound, but rather naturally evolves carti's existing sound using regional influences that have existed for a while. carti really is not conceptually on another level than artists like black kray, matt ox, or uzi who also make tread rap. to some, that might not make it a classic, or even great. but that's what carti's always done, and it's what more artists should do. i would love to hear a dozen WLR-esque albums from big artists in 2021. maybe then, WLR will just be another really great album. but for now, WLR is a new way forward. reject rap caviar, embrace regional rap. embrace backlash. i'm talking to you, future.

TL;DR: my shirt off (x14)
nnxsgny's Tags
Dec 28, 2020
okay so i really like this review and i like your open-minded take on it, even if it's a lot to unpack. when i wrote my review for this i didn't even think of tread but it actually makes total sense. i actually knew what tread was before listening to this, not that i am a massive underground connoisseur or anything, i just happened to stumble upon this video on youtube about a microgenre that i've never heard about before - , definitely check this out if you're interested, a lot more insightful than the article u cited. i also didn't know that f1lthy was a part of WOD when i checked the production credits. one thing that i wanna say is that, anyhow, this project definitely borrows a lot more inspiration from punk than tread, as tread is a very microscopical sub subgenre. WOD have been involved with artists like matt ox or lil uzi for example, and those are just standard melodic rappers that didn't do anything ground-breaking with their prod.
Dec 28, 2020
carti, on the other hand, is taking an approach that is much more inventive on here, he's not creating any new subgenre but he's definitely sheding light on experimentations that were never taken before in the mainstream. it's actually hilarious that most people are shitting on this record to me, as this type of record is what would keep a subgenre like trap alive, which is definitely bound to die out in the next few years, as people are just going to get tired of it sooner or later. this record is very close to being a missunderstood masterpiece, and it's not even funny. i hate that i can't actually call it that since it's nowhere a flawless record. it's clear that it is a bit rushed and bloated, some tracks just don't hit the sweet spot and as u mentioned go2damoon is definitely my least favorite on here, without a doubt. it's still an absolute genius project that keeps pulling me back in and wanting to talk about it more and more
Dec 28, 2020
yeah so i just dropped more insight on your comments than on my own review but fuck it, just take it, your review only sparkled this train of thought anyways, brilliant job. this was bound to get lost in the sea of reviews that wlr is getting, so i'm glad i took the chance and read it. anyways, i wouldn't be surprised if this album panned out to be super influential in the future
Dec 28, 2020
Dec 28, 2020
I love you
Dec 28, 2020
@Rater yeah the POW article is kind of old but it gets to the root of it and i support POW in general. i get what you're saying with the punk aspect and yes, carti is doing things on these beats that no one has ever done before. i didn't mean to downplay how innovative this album is, but when i see people reacting to WLR in pure confusion i think it helps to kind of say "this isn't THAT weird, and here's why." but i think the punk influence is kind of tied into the tread influence, in that it's one and the same. tread is influenced by punk, and half of WLR is tread beats taken to their extreme. i don't blame you for calling it bloated but i keep finding little details in even the weaker songs that justify their existence.
Dec 28, 2020
@Rater and whether trap needed this album depends on how broadly you view trap music. i mostly listen to street rap especially out of detroit, and it both has distinct regional stylistic elements while also frequently using typical trap 808s and hi-hats. regional rap will always move forward, but i agree that the rap mainstream needs a palette cleanser as far as what i hear on rap radio and what the "kids" listen to. i mean for fuck's sake i hear trap beats in at&t commercials. that standard sound has become so ubiquitous that it's inevitable that a bigger artist would try to shake things up.
Dec 28, 2020
@MySoftBulletin i love you too, bro
Dec 28, 2020
Best review of the year.
Dec 29, 2020
This reading is just... incredible, what a work 👏
You continue to be a hip hop expert
Dec 29, 2020
I got so hard reading this
Dec 29, 2020
I'm going to have to disagree with almost everything, but I still love this review because of the amount of effort that you put in and the way you explained everything! :)
Dec 29, 2020
@nnxsgny i agree bro. anyways, thank you for this, this has to be the best take i've seen.
Dec 29, 2020
fantastic review!
Dec 29, 2020
Jan 24, 2021
u goat
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