The highly anticipated second studio album from the ad-lib professional Playboi Carti left listeners wondering why they allowed themselves to wait so patiently for a project that could never live up to the hype.
It’s been two and a half plus years since Playboi Carti dropped his generational favorite debut album, "Die Lit," and he has been teasing snippets of "Whole Lotta Red" ever since. "Die Lit" enjoyed commercial success as Carti established a devoted fan base that extended past just the listeners of Carti’s hit singles "Magnolia" & "wokeuplikethis*" (featuring Lil Uzi Vert) from Carti’s self-titled debut mixtape. "Die Lit" portrayed Carti’s continued divergence from stereotypical trap rap through a robust combination of ad-libs, autotuning and mumble rap which allowed Carti to pave his own way into becoming one of the genres most notable figureheads.
His experimentation of flows combined with the sheer spectrum of pitches Carti can hit granted him a spot in the limelight while being supported by high-profile features from Lil Uzi Vert, Skepta, Young Thug, Travis Scott, Nicki Minaj, Gunna, Bryson Tiller, Chief Keef & more (if you can believe it) all jammed into a 19-track project which was mainly produced by Pi’erre Bourne who returned to produce the majority of "Whole Lotta Red."
While fans' expectations for "Whole Lotta Red" was at an all-time high towards the beginning of the pandemic in April of 2020, Carti released a single to support the album, "@MEH," even though the track didn’t end up on "Whole Lotta Red." Carti promised in a series of tweets that the album would be arriving shortly thereafter, but Carti continued to delay the albums release so it could be “perfected” time and time again.
Leading up to the release of the project, Carti received a lot of backlash from fans on social media over the albums delay, the album merch and Carti’s relationship with Pop singer Iggy Azalea. The officially licensed album gear that dropped in accordance with "Whole Lotta Red" on Christmas day did not jive with the holiday spirit whatsoever. The series of hoodies, shirts, and accessories featured numerous satanic symbols including the upside down cross, the sigil of Baphomet, and vampire teeth. Fans and critics lashed out on social media in response to the merch drop, and many fans questioned how the evangelical rapper Kanye West could have been associated with such a heinous display against Christianity.
Kanye was considered an executive producer for the project. He assisted Carti with beat production, lyric writing and provided a guest verse on the song “Go2DaMoon.” While fans speculated about the merch, Carti’s former partner, Iggy Azalea, took to Twitter to condemn the hype for "Whole Lotta Red," claiming Carti had missed the birth of their son, kicked Iggy and their child out of his home, and refused to sign the child’s birth certificate. This drummed up a great deal of speculation against Carti online in the hours before the album was released. Many fans discredited Carti for these antics and claimed to boycott the album. Iggy continued the thread into Christmas day but eventually digressed.
Despite all of the negative publicity Playboi Carti and the album initially received upon its release, "Whole Lotta Red" ended up topping the Billboard 200 in the first week of the New Year, beating out Taylor Swift's "Evermore" which spent two weeks in the top spot.
"Whole Lotta Red" is a 24-track display of Playboi’s own alt-rap baby-voice genre, yet it’s carried by the three guest verses from elite rappers Kanye West, Kid Cudi and Future. Future lends Carti his expertise on “Teen X” a song dedicated to Future’s drink of choice, codeine. The chorus derives from this lyricism, “I’m on the X, I’m on the codeine.” The line is repeated eight times each time the chorus comes around in the song. Fans found that many of the choruses on the album consist of Carti repeating one or two lines over and over again.
Cudi lends Carti a verse on “M3tamorphasis” and his serene humming is coated all over the track. The chorus contains Carti proclaiming “When you feel like this, Can’t nobody tell you shit” repeating the lines four times per each chorus. So much for melody and lyricism. Cudi's verse helps a listener get through the song, but it’s far from the typical Cudi we know and love. Cudi tries too hard to replicate Carti’s vibe while maintaining lyrics that genuinely contain meaning, and in so doing he stains his own reputation because he attempted the impossible.
“Go2DaMoon” is the second track from the album which features the album executive producer Kanye West. Kanye and Carti mesh their talents in this track, and it outshines the rest of the project. Kanye proclaims he and Carti are back on top amidst all of the hate the two have received recently. Kanye spits, “Too famous to sneak in, Wolverine in a sheepskin, I be goin off the deep end, we here for a reason, boy we got more to do.” Carti follows up Kanye’s verse with a chorus, repeating the phrase “Go to the moon” three times.
Upon its release, "Whole Lotta Red" received enormous amounts of hate online, however that didn’t discourage Carti from promoting the project, knowing his loyal fan base would pull through for him.
The guest verses from Future, Kanye, and Kid Cudi helped bolster streams and positive reviews, however fans were left questioning Carti for not having enough features on the album as it was rumored Lil Uzi Vert, Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky, Tyler, the Creator, FKA twigs, Pharrell Williams and Post Malone were all supposed to aid Carti with verses.
Fans also noticed that the heavily teased track “Kid Cudi” which was a collab song with Cudder himself, didn’t show up on the 24-track effort. Perhaps Carti is saving it for the deluxe? Or maybe he’ll release it in another two and a half years. I digress. Overall "Whole Lotta Red" had massive potential for Carti to merge his music into the hip-hop elite culture. However, he stuck to the alt-rap, satanic, baby-voice lane he has carved for himself and still came away with a #1 album amidst the trials and tribulations of online speculation. While the accolades may be deserved, "Whole Lotta Red" still carried a number of shortcomings. I rate it a generous 4.5/10.