Whole Lotta Red: Did Carti live up to the hype?

Charlie Mihelic, asst. sports editor

Twenty-seven months.

Twenty-seven months after its initial announcement, Playboi Carti’s highly anticipated album Whole Lotta Red finally released on Christmas Day 2020. The album was announced in August 2018, just three months after the release of his debut studio album, Die Lit. And contrary to popular belief, I think the wait was worth its long-anticipated arrival.

This kind of extreme wait is nothing new to the hip-hop world. In the past, Whole Lotta Red Executive Producer Kanye West has announced and delayed his own albums in a similar fashion. Both Carti’s and West’s albums became highly anticipated due to their delay, whether or not it was intended as a marketing strategy. Yet, Carti’s delay was due to frequent song leaks and possibly also due to West, who tends to take his time to perfect his work.

Adding to the drama, Carti has been going through a very public and messy relationship of lying and cheating with hip-hop artist Iggy Azalea. With that being said, the first song of the album, “Rockstar Made”, is definitely meant to send a message to his haters. While the song’s lyrics do not specifically target Azalea, the song’s name itself is enough to address the drama, emphasizing his love for the “rockstar” lifestyle, no matter how selfish, dangerous or ignorant it may be. Moreover, the experimental beat in this track sets the precedent for the experimental sound that is seen throughout the rest of Whole Lotta Red.

However, “experimental” is an underwhelming way to describe the album. This album is a punk, hip-hop hybrid with loud, hard beats. Alongside West, Matt Williams also produced the album. As the Givenchy Creative Director, Williams heads the designs and ideas behind Givenchy’s luxury streetwear clothing. Kanye and Williams delivered, to say the least. The production is by far the best of all hip-hop/rap albums released in 2020 and it truly blew me away. Unfortunately, it is still nowhere near the best overall album from last year because of its lyrics.

The lyrics on this album were underwhelming and a let-down for the beats they go over. While the screaming and repetitiveness help portray the album’s punk energy, they hold no meaning or value whatsoever.

As for the songs themselves, the more aggressive punk sound for “Rockstar Made” can similarly be seen on “Stop Breathing”, “Jump Out The House”, “M3tamorphosis”, “No Sl33p”, “On That Time” and “Die4Guy”. “Jump Out The House” would make a great song to go crazy over at a concert, but is hard to enjoy otherwise because of its lack of lyricism.

Also, the Kid Cudi feature on “M3tamorphisis” is forced. It was more of Carti paying homage to the legend that Cudi is rather than Cudi’s verse truly belonging in the song.

On the other hand, we see some incredibly futuristic punk beats on songs such as “Beno!”, “Slay3r”, “New Neon”, “Control”, “Place”, “Sky”, “Over”, “ILoveUIHateU” and “Not PLaying”. These beats take the mind to another dimension, and the lyricism by Carti is overall significantly better on these tracks than the aggressive and louder ones. West’s magic touch and Williams’s creativity is best reflected through these unique, well-done tracks.

Yet my personal favorite beat of the whole album is on “Vamp Anthem”. The lyrics on this are mediocre but the beat is a true classic; the sample for this song is “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565” by Johann Sebastian Bach, believed to be written in the early 1700s. I simply find it amazing that the producers turned such an old and classical piece into a catchy, modern beat. Additionally, the vampire and goth feel of this beat helps solidify the punk aspect of the album.

All in all, Whole Lotta Red has some of the most unique beats the hip-hop industry has ever seen. But unfortunately, Carti’s lack of meaningful lyricism holds the 24-track album back from its massive potential. So while its production made it worth the wait, it was in no way as enjoyable or memorable as his self-titled album Playboi Carti and Die Lit.