“Whole Lotta Red” Album Review

“Whole Lotta Red” Album Review

“Polarizing” may be the most fitting description of Playboi Carti’s new album, Whole Lotta Red (WLR). The album, Carti’s third official release, marks the conclusion of a long and highly anticipated wait. Coming off the heels of his critically acclaimed second album, Die Lit (2018), Whole Lotta Red marks the next stage of Playboi Carti’s evolution as a musical artist. Laced with experimental beats and punk-esque lyrics, the Playboi Carti of WLR is something completely new, whether that be for better or worse.  

The record opens with “Rockstar Made,” which encapsulates the rockstar persona Carti has been developing over the last two years. With a gliding synth lead layered on top of blasting 808s, this song’s production certainly outshines the somewhat lackluster lyrics. Carti unleashes his “punk” side several times throughout the song, wailing “Rockstar made” and “Never too much.” 

The next song, “Go2DaMoon,” which features rap and fashion visionary Kanye West, one of only three featured artists, has a very experimental feel to it, particularly because of its slightly off-tempo string melody that is the background for a solid verse from Kanye. The string sample is picked from the 1973 Bollywood film “Bobby.” The exotic aura of the track defines the widely unconventional project.

The fourth song on the album, “Beno!,” goes back to Carti’s roots; a simple synth arpeggio with a synth bass to back it up. Carti shouts out his newborn son Onyx, who he shares with ex-girlfriend and fellow rapper Iggy Azalea, stating, “Spent a hundred K on my son.”

The sixth track on the album, “M3tamorphosis,” featuring Kid Cudi, was a surprise to many. Prior to listening, and after seeing Cudi’s feature tag, many fans assumed “M3tamorphosis” was the new title for Carti’s 2019 chart-topping, albeit unofficially leaked, song “Kid Cudi.” Instead, listeners received possibly the fiercest song on the album, laden with a distorted synth lead and booming 808’s. Carti’s verse on “M3tamorphosis” is possibly the most obvious example of his experimentation with voice inflections. He can be heard almost screeching his lyrics, feeding into the punk-esque atmosphere of the album. The track also pays homage to both artists’ identities. Twenty seconds in, listeners are exalted with the divine sound of Cudi’s trademark hum while Carti’s infamous ad-libs can also be heard.  

The twelfth track on the album, “Vamp Anthem,” perfectly encapsulates the vampire-rockstar tone of WLR. The track samples Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” a common vampire theme. Producers Kasper Harris and KP Beats flipped the classical tune into a modern synth beat, complete with a banging bass and Carti’s melodic bars.

The thirteenth, “New N3on,” and eighteenth, “Place,” tracks were familiar tunes to fans of Playboi Carti. Both are placeholders on the remarkably long list of leaked Carti songs.

The twenty-fourth and final track on the album, “F33l Lik3 Dyin,” features a soulful Bon Iver sample— a sound formerly foreign to Carti’s music. On the track, he divulges the status of his mental health and love life, topics that aren’t usually found on Playboi Carti records. Nevertheless, his vulnerability and honesty on this track shine through, making it a highlight of the album. 

Overall, the best word to describe Whole Lotta Red is avant-garde. While some tracks are indisputable bangers, others fall a bit flat, although that can change with a few re-listens. Despite this, it is pretty clear that the highs outshine the relatively few lows. In a rap game that is constantly reinventing itself and adapting to new trends, Carti remains at the forefront. 

Overall Rating: 8/10