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38: Playboi Carti

Photo By Rolling Loud

“My Eyes Are Open, I'm High, I Can't Believe I Can Die...”

Rage; an emotion that’s multi-faceted, encompassing a range of feelings and aspects. Anger, blood, red, violence, and ultimately, out of control. But in contrast, there is another side to this coin that exists in equal measure, yet not celebrated. A deep and passion desire for anything, or anyone. Whilst we tend to focus on the destructive nature of rage, we seldom consider its opposing force which has the potential to serve as a powerful catalyst for positive change. It has proven to be a fuel for many of our heroes from the past and in the modern day. Undoubtedly, there is an effective way to channel rage to motivate – both on an individual and/or community level - working towards positive change.

The etymology of the word dates back to c. 1300, from the old French “Raige”, meaning spirit, passion, fury, madness. Rabid people usually feel the effects of high adrenaline levels in their bodies. As a result of this increase in adrenal output, the persons physical strength, endurance, and a sharpened sense of their senses, whilst feeling battling through pain in all forms. Attributes applicable to a Vampire, the mythical character embraced by one Playboi Carti.

 Vamp aesthetic

Born Jordan Terrell Carter on September 13, 1996, in Atlanta, Georgia, he was raised in a matriarchal environment. His mother and grandmother exposed him to a wide range of genres, including rock, punk, and rap music. A strange mix some would say, but this laid the foundation for the avant-garde sound that he would later embrace, reverberating until this day with his music. Carti would begin his own music journey around 2015, where he gained attention for his energetic performances and distinctive style. “Broke Boi” was the breakout release that showcased a unique charisma and flow. The track picked up traction, drawing the attention of influential figures in the industry.

The top of the hip hop industry, at the time, were clamoring for his signature, with A$AP Mob's AWGE imprint and Interscope Records winning the bidding war in 2016. The following year, he released his self-titled mixtape, "Playboi Carti." The project featured hit singles like "Magnolia" and "Wokeuplikethis*," both of which garnered widespread acclaim for their infectious beats and Carti's different cadence. “Magnolia," in particular, became a cultural phenomenon, reaching the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and earning platinum certification. The song's success catapulted Playboi Carti into the mainstream, solidifying his status as a rising star in the hip-hop world.

A few years later, he would continue to push boundaries with the release of his debut studio album, "Die Lit." The album highlighted Carti's versatility as an artist, blending trap, punk, and experimental elements seamlessly. He had come full circle. The music from his childhood had enabled him to finally find a path in an industry that replicates the current wave, or “what’s poppin,” solidifying Carti's place as a genre-defying artist. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, earning 61,000 album-equivalent units (including 5,000 copies as pure album sales) in its first week.

Cover Art for Playboi Carti's "Die Lit"

With Hip Hop morphing into more of an aesthetic, fashion forward movement, it was the perfect time for Playboi to experiment even further. He would announce his second album “Whole Lotta Red” shortly after, but no one would predict the direction he had planned for his sound that was coming….

The anticipation for Playboi Carti's second studio album, "Whole Lotta Red," reached a fever pitch in 2020. The album revealed a new side to Carti’s artistry, drawing influences from punk rock and electronic music. Despite the album’s departure from traditional hip-hop standards, “Whole Lotta Red” marked a significant step forward for the rapper. When it was released on Christmas Day, 2020, it was met with mostly negative reviews.

“Dont even try defending that sht. Playboi carti is fcking terrible. stupid mumbling trash, god fcking awful. This guy’s sht music makes f*cking 6ix9ine and lil pump sound good…”

“Whole lotta red coming out of my ears…”

When Rolling Stone declared Whole Lotta Red the best, #1 rap album of 2021, attitudes toward Playboi Carti and his latest project shifted dramatically. Carti's influence is evident in almost every major rap release of 2021 and 2022, whether hip-hop listeners like it or not. The album's standout tracks, including "Die4Guy," "New Tank," and "Stop Breathing," demonstrated Carti's commitment to pushing the boundaries of his own art. Despite the initial mixed reception, his sophomore album eventually gained recognition for its boldness and willingness to break free from the confines of traditional hip-hop.

The vampire aesthetic is unavoidable when consuming Whole Lotta Red. There are explicit vampire references in the album – "Vamp Anthem," and "King Vamp" are essentially odes to Gothic culture -  whilst the album's visual and sonic composition is red and bloody, indeed this can be sensed both physically and artistically.

Personally, I knew the album was a masterpiece on first play. An audacious evolution of both sound and emotion. A few friends of mine, with refined music tastes, didn’t share this same sentiment. Nevertheless, this provided the pathway towards mega stardom, with causal and cult fans alike eagerly awaiting what’s to come.

Cover Art for Playboi Carti's "Whole Lotta Red"

What went unnoticed was the support on the album from his music collective, or label, Opium. As a collective, Opium is known for its signature dark, gritty, and avant-garde synths, mixed with rage beats reminiscent of the punk rock era of the 70s and 80s. There is a distinct difference between this experimental sound and the current trap hip hop genre that is popular today.

The third studio album from American rapper and singer Playboi Carti is scheduled for release some time in 2024 through Interscope Records, AWGE and Opium. Narcissist, Music, and I Am Music have all been suggested as possible album titles throughout the project's development.

Throughout the course of Playboi Carti's career, he has shown that hip-hop is always evolving, and it is imperative to keep pushing the boundaries of the genre, culture, and corner of this industry in order to remain relevant to the young generation. From his early days as a breakout artist to his status now as an icon, who defies expectations and is carving out a niche for himself in music, Carti has consistently proven himself to be a trend-setter. With his ability to seamlessly blend genres, challenge norms, and embrace experimentation, he has left an indelible mark on the culture (or subculture? Time will tell) he helped create.

Written by: @Arriv3r

Edited by: @Whosaria