Playboi Carti releases long-awaited debut

By WILL KIRSCH | April 20, 2017


glenjamn3/CC-BY3.0 Philadelphia rapper Lil’ Uzi Vert is featured twice on Playboi Carti

Ever since he came out with Awful Records and A$AP Mob, Playboi Carti has been the greatest rapper to never release an album, apart from Jay Electronica of course.

His 2015 single “Broke Boi” was a definitive track in the canon of what I will optimistically call the Dadaist, anti-lyrical rap trend. It flourished, but it was just a single. The tape we all thought might follow it up never materialized. Instead, Carti just did features, released some loose singles and dressed well for Instagram.

Last year, we were blessed with some Carti features on A$AP’s latest collective venture, Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends and talk of a possible Carti album was reignited for probably the 20th time. As the months passed, the excitement faded, and Carti was once again consigned to the Atlantan wilderness from which he so rarely emerged. Little did we know, a mild yet deeply drug-addled storm was brewing, a storm which broke on Thursday, April 13: The album finally arrived.

This self-titled debut was probably the most passively waited-for album of the last several years. Now that it is finally here, I am happy to report that it is everything we could have hoped for. Let me put it this way: If Xanax made a sound, this would be it. Playboi Carti is all about the same simple, lazy raps and hard-hitting but bizarre beats that made Carti’s singles great.

Playboi Carti is pretty much par for the course as far as this brand of art-trap rap is concerned. The lyrics — which are frankly irrelevant, because what makes this music great is the rhythmic syntax and the beats — are entirely concerned with women, codeine, money and fashion, but mostly money.

The songs are generally 60 percent ad-libs with the other 40 percent being the hook. This means that they are easily sung along to, which means that they have good potential to be something you can scream incoherently when you are blackout drunk. These are all very good things.

The beats are likely the album’s biggest strength. Carti teams up with the big names like Harry Fraud on “Location” and Southside on “Half & Half” (which is probably my second favorite song on the album) and “Kelly K,” but the best production is courtesy of Atlanta producer Pierre Bourne. Bourne is responsible for all the best songs on the album, the most notable being its second track “Magnolia.”

I will say without an ounce of hyperbole or sarcasm that if Tupac came back from Cuba and Biggie came back to life and the two collaborated, whatever they made would not be as hot as “Magnolia.”

This is absolutely the song of the year. It has literally everything you want in a Carti song: lots of ridiculous ad-libs, a nonsensical hook and a retina-shaking beat. I have listened to this song at least a hundred times in the last four days, and I honestly do not think I will ever get tired of it. ‘Milly rocking’ is coming back thanks to Playboi Carti, and for that we should all be thankful.

The beat on “Lame N****z,” another Pierre Bourne track, sounds like a chopped and screwed version of “Closer” by the v-neck clad toolboxes that are The Chainsmokers. This is as great as it sounds. Bourne’s production style meshes perfectly with Carti’s rap, striking the perfect balance between artistic experimentation and certifiable banger credentials.

This album shows that this young producer definitely has some promise, and hopefully he will be working with more mumble-rap icons in the near future. Get it, Future.

Surprisingly, Carti’s debut is pretty much free of features, which is odd for someone who only has about four songs in which he is the lead musician. Carti did recruit the occasionally questionable talents of everyone’s favorite diminutive purple haired rock star Lil Uzi Vert. The best rapper out of Philadelphia since Beanie Sigel (that’s the joke) appears on both of singles that preceded the album’s release: “Wokeuplikethis*” and “Lookin.”

Thankfully, in these two songs, Lil Uzi makes up for the god-awful travesty that was his verse on “Bad and Boujee.” Carti and Lil Uzi actually make a good pair. Stylistically, they are fairly similar and complement one another well on the track.

The album’s other two features come from human-mink-coat A$AP Rocky on “New Choppa” and Leven Kali, who I have never heard of and therefore do not have a joke for on “Flex.” Both are good and Rocky actually rapping coherent sentences is a nice contrast, but this album is not really about features. Like I said, the quality of the rhymes is essentially irrelevant. What really matters is the way they sound. Carti could fill every song with delusional non-sequiturs, and it would not matter so long as his delivery floated on the beat.

Carti’s style speaks to his eclectic musical associations. Somehow, the man worked with both Awful Records and A$AP Mob, even though the two are about as similar concrete and dirt. What you end up with are New York style call-and-response choruses over choppy, deep bass Southern-style beats.

This type of crossover is kind of like “Big Pimpin’” but with more of an emphasis on beats than actual rap. Also with no boat and fur coats but probably similar volumes of lean.

Carti’s music is not exactly intellectual, but who cares? I could sit here and argue for him as a neo-Dada musician who is dismantling what we perceive to be music, but I would rather just say this: It’s fun music.

Every time Kendrick releases an album, every clown with an internet connection and an opinion writes a dissertation on the allegory and symbolism and so on and so on. Yes, music with depth and meaning is certainly great, and music analysis is interesting.

However, it gets tedious when every line gets analyzed to a near-Freudian extent. That is where Playboi Carti comes in. There is literally nothing to analyze. Just enjoy the willful ignorance. The real world sucks and World War Three is going to kill us all soon anyway, but once the nukes start flying, I plan on blasting “Magnolia” and ‘milly rocking’ my way into the afterlife.

You can join me in my nihilistic dance party by listening to this album. I mean, if you have gotten this far into the article, you may as well just take my advice, right? I am not here to encourage you to drink or do drugs, but I will say that if you just so happen to be in such a state of mind at some point in the coming week, you might consider putting on “Magnolia” and savoring sweet, sweet fantasy.

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