‘Whole Lotta Waiting’ for a Playboi Carti album

Playboi Carti’s release of “Whole Lotta Red” was polarizing, with some critics giving it high praise while others criticized it. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Atlanta native Playboi Carti’s long-anticipated sophomore album “Whole Lotta Red” dropped on Dec. 25, 2020. The album was his first full release following his 2018 album “Die Lit.” 

“Whole Lotta Red’’s reception was polarizing. Some outlets gave the album a high score, praising its experimental production. Others said the album was grating and uninspiring.

Sophomore Guillermo Flores discussed how the album differed from his previous projects.

“He’s changing his approach with his sound and taking more inspiration from emo influences,” he said. “It will not appeal to the general public but more toward fans of that aesthetic.”

“Whole Lotta Red” marks a shift for Playboi Carti sonically and aesthetically. He embraces his vampire-themed aesthetic on tracks like “Vamp Anthem,” which would not sound out of place in a horror film. The album’s cover wears its punk influence on its sleeve, inspired by L.A. punk magazine Slash.

For listeners like Carson Stanley, the album was a breath of fresh air.

“I like the way he experimented with his vocal[s] and the attention to detail,” he said. “I think a lot of rap music over the next few years [is] going to mimic this album’s sound.”

Others, like sophomore Lucy Luckovich, were not as impressed.

“I was looking forward to the album, and while I did like a few songs off the album, most of them felt rushed and displayed a lack of intention or craftsmanship,” she said.

The album’s hype came off the heels of two years of teasers and a tumultuous production cycle.

Playboi Carti began previewing snippets of songs that would be on the first version of the album while on tour for his debut album. In 2019, he featured on Tyler, the Creator’s “EARFQUAKE,” spawning memes about his high-pitched “baby voice.”

The baby voice would come to its peak in his appearance on the leaked Young Nudy’s song “Pissy Pamper/Kid Cudi.” “Pissy Pamper,” with its high-pitched vocals and frantic enunciation, is probably the most well-known leak of Carti’s.

A version uploaded by a fan to Spotify featuring only Carti’s verse made the number-one spot on Spotify’s United States Viral 50 Chart.

For much of 2019, leaks defined Carti’s music as opposed to any solo music. Leaks like “Cancun” would be the only new music fans would receive aside from a few features. 

The leaks were widespread and numerous, with YouTube playlists containing over 100 leaked songs with millions of views. He teased that the album would drop within 60 days on July 28, 2019, but that was an empty promise.

Carti released his first solo track since 2018 with “@ MEH” on April 16, 2020. Despite the anticipation of the album’s drop, Carti went silent on social media until Nov. 23 where he announced on Instagram that he “turned in” the long-awaited album.

The hype cycle for Playboi Carti’s album is a fascinating one. Fans on his subreddit posted memes every Friday to cope with the unreleased album. One of the most unexpected developments was when Atlanta rapper Mario Judah released his version of “Whole Lotta Red” due to Carti not dropping.

Playboi Carti’s “Whole Lotta Red,” especially its hype cycle, is one of the most controversial topics in rap in recent years, and it will be fascinating to see where his career goes in the future.