It’s safe to say that Playboi Carti’s newest album "Whole Lotta Red" is the most long-anticipated trap album of recent memory.
The only problem was once it dropped on Christmas day, it wasn’t much of a trap album at all, catching much of Carti’s extremely dedicated fanbase off-guard. But as aberrant as "Whole Lotta Red" may have been from Carti’s product up to this point, there’s a whole lotta good to appreciate as Carti takes on new sounds.
It’s important to keep in mind that this album never solicited itself as a trap, rap or hip-hop album, only ever as a Carti album. "Whole Lotta Red" lives up to this expectation spectacularly well as Carti maintains all of the unique elements which provide him his authentic sound while also taking on new influences and themes from other genres to build out his own artistic niche.
Carti establishes in the opening track Rockstar Mode that he’s delving more into hardcore punk rock, an aesthetic his music has flirted with in the past with tracks like "R.I.P." and "Love Hurts" on "Die Lit."
The conflation of trap and punk themes in music is an idea that other prominent artists like Denzel Curry and Little Uzi Vert have dabbled with in the past, while other acts like City Morgue and Nascar Aloe have sculpted out their own trap sound by heavily incorporating punk and death metal. Carti takes it a step farther in "Whole Lotta Red" by balancing his influences from divergent genres while retaining the unique features of his own music.
This is showcased best on the tracks "New Tank," "No Sl33p," "Punk Monk" and "King Vamp," where Carti seems to embrace his new influences most acutely by using them to heighten the qualities of his organic sound. These tracks do the best job of fluidly weaving together the dark, horror-esque themes reminiscent of punk and metal along with Carti’s signature musical features like his adlibs, baby voice and simplistic lyrics blasting over a flashy beat.
"Whole Lotta Red" is a constructive piece of music however, with it being clear that Carti is still figuring out how to master this new variation of his music. Songs like "Meh" and "Die4Guy" capture the essence of the punk that Carti is trying to embody, but miss the mark as they either come off as incomplete products or just derivative of the genre Carti is being influenced by.
These issues don’t severely hinder "Whole Lotta Red’s" quality however, because given that this is an experimental album for Carti, the listener can tell that he’s taken far more steps in progressing his sound to create a new blended sub-genre than he is regressing his sound to pander to ideas that audiences are already accustomed to.
Carti did the right thing in trying to branch out in his music in the monumental ways that he did in "Whole Lotta Red" because he already demonstrated a mastery of his original product on "Die Lit." If he were to rest on his laurels for all of "Whole Lotta Red" by staying in mostly the same lane he’s been in since "Magnolia" blew up in 2017, Carti’s artistry would barely progress.
However, the sound and style that got Carti to this point is not lost on him at all in this album, as along with the tracks where his new progressive sound is more prominent, he is also sure to feature songs that have heavier overtones of his previous work while still implementing lighter elements from his newer inspirations.
The three song stretch on the back half of the album which includes "Place," "Sky" and "Over" and the final track "F33l Lik3 Dyin" all serve as examples where Carti solidifies that he does reign supreme in the unique sound which his fans have come to love and that is exactly why he doesn’t need to pursue it any further.
Carti also recruits some of the biggest names in the rap world for "Whole Lotta Red" to further establish that what he’s going for is a unique and authentic fusion of multiple genres. The album’s second track "Go2DaMoon" features Kanye West which actually works to the song’s detriment as Ye isn’t at his best here on a single that already has the softest production by far on an album that otherwise thrives off of this factor.
Future’s appearance on "TeenX" provides weak vocals that are drowned out by the beat on a track that Carti also fails to come through on with his baby voiced hook of, “we on X, we on codeine,” getting annoyingly repetitive.
Kid Cudi ends up being the perfect match for Carti on "M3tamorphosis," however. Carti stretches his vocal range to give him this new punk sound in the best way possible and Cudi’s background humming and verse to round out the track beautifully mesh to give it this harmonious dichotomy.
On "Whole Lotta Red," it was Carti’s willingness to take the recipe he knew already worked for him and then stretch it by embedding it in elements of different genres which really make this album a respectable artistic endeavor.
The sound that Carti is cultivating now may not be as organic for him, but it certainly works well enough to establish his art as a unique genre-bending medium.