Playboi Carti released one of the most anticipated albums in recent memory, Whole Lotta Red, on Christmas Day to bookend the horrendous year that was 2020. The only general internet consensus that has been attributed to the project’s quality is that it's definitively Carti’s most divisive project to date. Some people felt that Red fell far below the hype, while others found it to be a descendant of Yeezus in the way that it’s attempting to move the genre forward and eliminate contemporary boundaries. Our music staff came together to discuss their opinions on the album, and we also received some WLR feedback from a few of our loyal Instagram followers.
Questions posed by Howie Butler and Ralph James
1. Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way. Can you pinpoint one gripe you have with the album?
Carter Ferryman: I don’t care if you're one of the world’s most beloved trap artists. I also don’t care if it’s been two years, four years or a decade since your last drop—24 songs is far, far too many.
Ralph James: I’m aware that Carti stans—including myself—don’t listen to him to fill the void of lyrical wizardry, or even anticipate a discouraging attempt at it. With that being said, there has to be a baseline for lyricism and effort, otherwise everything is just pointless, incoherent mumble-shrieking. Playboi is at his best when he’s attempting to deliver some sort of memorable 16-bar or chorus, and not enough of the project featured that Peak Playboi to me. Lastly, I don’t need rappers to spell out words for me. I propose a petition to eliminate that from existing in hip-hop.
Marty Gross: Carti’s constant repetition in place of choruses bugs me. Sometimes it works on songs like “No Sl33p,” but sometimes I don’t need to hear the same phrase 25 times in a row.
Howie Butler: Whole Lotta Red will live in the infamy of hip-hop, especially in this COVID-ridden year lacking releases from many key artists who were rumored to drop. Carti even got Kanye West to come out and not only feature, but executively produce his album. This is immensely important, so I pose the question…. WHY THE FUCK DOES DJ AKADEMIKS GET 40 SECONDS OF THE PROJECT? He will forever live within the legend of Whole Lotta Red; pretty whack, if you ask me.
Hunter McNeeley: I wish the songs were laid out in a way that flowed a little bit better so that the project felt more cohesive. Additionally, 24 songs was a bit much.
2. If you were to resurrect one of the Whole Lotta Red leaks to add to the tracklist, which one would it be and where would you fit it?
Evan Linden: Carti withholding “Molly” and “Cancun” from us should be considered domestic terrorism. I’m glad that Carti has started to move away from abusing the baby voice, but those two leaks are infant-Carti in his prime.
Carter Ferrryman: “Kid Cudi” (w/o Cudi and w/ Young Nudy). I’d place it right after “Stop Breathing” — track four just feels like an ideal spot.
Ralph James: Give me the CDQ version of “Dropped Out,” “Bouldercrest,” and “Switch Lanes,” or I'll incite a riot.
Howie Butler: The How could really use an official release of “Goku” as well as “R.I.P Yams.” I do think that it's a little weird that Carti transformed into full vampire mode for the album and then left “Buffy The Body” off the tracklist. I would put “Buffy” in after “King Vamp,” and right before “Place.”
3. Where does WLR fall in Playboi’s discography rankings?
Ralph James: From first to worst— Self-Titled, Die Lit, The Leaks Collection, WLR. There isn’t a single ‘punk’ track on Red that exists in the same stratosphere as “R.I.P.,” or even “New Choppa,” to an extent. This album doesn’t deteriorate the canon of Playboi Carti. If anything, it strengthens his other projects.
Hunter McNeeley: To be completely honest, I don’t think you can compare them. They’re all so different.
Carter Ferryman: For me, it’s too early to answer this question. Right now, I enjoy Die Lit quite a bit more, but I haven’t given his self-titled a full listen for a while. It won’t rank #1 for me, though.
Evan Linden: I would say that WLR is my “least favorite” Carti project (at the moment), but I’m not sure if I would say that it’s necessarily his “worst” project. Nonetheless, I give him serious props for pushing the envelope and experimenting with his art rather than copping out and giving us recycled BS.
Howie Butler: I don’t think it’s even fair to compare them at this point. It’s honestly too early, especially with everyone and their grandma on the internet dragging it through the mud. I have a hunch that, for me, Self-Titled was our introduction to Jordan Carter, Die Lit will live as Carti’s classic for the masses, and Whole Lotta Red will be Playboi’s punk descent into further experimenting with his sound. All excellent, yet all different.
4. Which song are you most excited to see in concert post-pandemic?
Ralph James: “M3TAMORPHOSIS,” which has the laziest video of all-time, but features high-quality screamoboi.
Marty Gross: I feel like “Vamp Anthem” is my number one pick here. The idea of using the chords of a vampire-esque organ and somehow transforming it into trap instrumental is something to be worshipped and played at full volume. Vampire moshpits are going to be wild.
Hunter McNeeley: “Punk Monk;” the verse is so hard.
Evan Linden: “Beno!” or “Rockstar Made.”
Howie Butler: “New Tank.” LAMBORGHINI PARKED OUTSIDE, IT’S PURPLE LIKE LEAN! Shoutout to f1lthy.
5. What’s your tweet-length review of the album?
Evan Linden: If Carti only kept the best 10-12 tracks, WLR would be an instant classic and arguably his best work. But even on 24 shots, Carti shoots over 50%.
Hunter McNeeley: WLR is exactly what I expected: incredible and boundary-pushing. The hate on it is because it’s ahead of its time.
Ralph James: WLR is an experiment. Sometimes experiments don’t work, and that’s okay. The hypothesis was brilliant and revolutionarily enticing. The experiment didn’t live up to the proposal for me, but that doesn’t mean imma stop rocking with the scientist.
Carter Ferryman: WLR knows its identity — yet it feels like, sometimes, it doesn’t know where it’s going. The production does a brilliant job of keeping it on track, however.
Marty Gross: Carti had to do the impossible by recreating an album multiple times because of leaks. With that being said, WLR is being thrown into a futuristic hell portal that sends you into a place of constant chaos, eccentric sirens, filthy demons, and the epitome of the “Rockstar Lifestyle.” The only problem is being stuck there too long.
Howie Butler: Whole Lotta Red is exactly what you should expect if you have been keeping up with Carti the last two months. Playboi Carti is back to pushing the boundaries of trap music and he’s doing it in style. It’s polarizing and I can’t promise you’re going to like it, but hey, #vamplife. Man, my shit was weak as hell, just go read Marty’s again.
6. What was your favorite track and which one was your least?
Carter Ferryman: Favorite track is EASILY “F33l Lik3 Dyin.” Carti’s voice comes off comfortable here — he’s not forcing his delivery. The Bon Iver sample is BRILLIANT. It’s a five-tool trap record. No record stood out as “the worst” to me, but a noticeable portion of the album is mediocre at best.
Ralph James: "New N3on" by a million. The three-track run of, “Place,” “Sky,” and “Over,” is the album’s version of James Harden going for 15 points in 2 minutes highlight compilation. On the contrary, I will never willingly listen to “On That Time,” again.
Hunter McNeeley: I love “Over,” “Sky,” “F33l Lik3 Dyin,” and “Punk Monk,” and personally don’t have a least favorite.
Evan Linden: “F33l Lik3 Dyin,” “Go2DaMoon,” “Sky,” “M3tamorphosis,” and “Beno!” are my favorites; I can’t decide which is my number one. Like Barter said, no track stood out as the worst of the bunch, but if I’m being honest—there’s a handful of migraine-inducers scattered throughout WLR. In Carti’s defense, I think it’s nearly impossible to drop 24 songs on an experimental album and have every single one hit.
Howie Butler: I think I’m comfortable enough to say in order at this point, so…
“Control” (fuck the Akademiks intro)
7. So, Travis didn’t make the cut. If you were to place La Flame on one of the songs as a featured artist, which one would it be?
Howie Butler: “Sky.” If there’s a remix dropped on the rumored deluxe cut that has La Flame on it, Travvy Patties on me!
Carter Ferryman: Probably nowhere. Travis’s features have been abysmal as of the last 18-or-so months. I’m fine with him being left off the album.
Evan Linden: I know Travis is responsible for a litany of lackluster features in recent memory, but you’re lying through your teeth if you don’t think he would’ve ate on “Go2DaMoon.” The beat would be unorthodox enough to bring him back outside of his comfort zone, and he has a flawless track record on collaborations with Kanye and Carti. “M3tamoprhosis” and “Slay3r” are both solid candidates, as well.
Ralph James: If I had to choose one, I guess I would just throw him on the Kanye track and pray that they'd capture the same energy as “Piss On Your Grave,” but wouldn’t bet on them to do so.
Marty Gross: I would love to see him on “Sky.” Even though Travis’ features aren’t the greatest, I feel like it’d be extremely gnarly.
8. Can you speak on Ye's contributions to the project? Were you a fan? How much do you actually think he did, considering the oddly differing viewpoints Carti and Kanye share on religion and mortality?
Carter Ferryman: I’m impressed with the executive production. Not sure if the credits have been released yet, but all indications of sound and style on many records allude to a big hand by Kanye. Sure, Kanye and Carti have differing religious views, but they have agreeing beliefs as well — the most vital being good music. That belief won on WLR.
Hunter McNeeley: I loved Ye’s contributions; his presence was so evident and gave me Yeezus vibes, which is one of my favorite projects ever. I think the religion and mortality aspect actually pushed the project further along since it challenged both of them.
Evan Linden: Like Hunter mentioned, Kanye’s presence on WLR provided that experimental edge that pushed it to the same pantheon as Yeezus and other bold albums that pushed the sound forward, but were berated by casual listeners upon release. Seeing as Yeezus could be considered Kanye’s least-Christian album (some could call many aspects of it blasphemous), I think it fits artistically that there is such a discrepancy between their views on religion, mortality, and the like. I respect Kanye’s religious views, but I’m glad that he’s not letting that get in the way of art.
Howie Butler: Kanye was evident in the individuality of the record, but I’m glad that the album sounded the way it did overall. I loved that direct production was clearly shaped by names such as Richie Souf, Pi’erre Bourne, F1lthy, and others. Regardless of production, Kanye’s verse on “Go2DaMoon” was excellent, and in my opinion, one of his best in the last few years.