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Playboi Carti Flexes on Debut Mixtape



XL1

AWGE / Interscope
AWGE / Interscope

When Playboi Carti dropped his 2015 track “Broke Boi,” the Atlanta native displayed in a short four minutes exactly where modern day rap was headed. A twinkly trap beat with lots of catchy repetition make up one of Carti’s biggest songs to date. This was a positive way in which Carti contributed to the progression of new age hip-hop and especially rap that exists almost exclusively on the internet. However, he also fell into the millennial rap release schedule—dropping only a couple loosies and collaborations here and there with no real tangible project in sight. In his defense, the past two and half years have given him a chance to freely develop his sound to the point where he feels comfortable dropping something concrete. That something is his eponymous debut mixtape, Playboi Carti. It’s a short, sweet and rather savage formal introduction to the Atlanta-born, New York-transplanted rapper who is clearly comfortably set in his own ways.

“Location” sets off Carti’s 45-minute flex-a-thon with the majority of the song revolving around the same four boastful bars: “She givin’ top in the drop/Yeah, aye/Diamonds they wet on my arms/Tats on my neck and my arms.” If you just read the lyrics on their own then obviously the song looks like it could have been written by anyone but the way Carti jives across Harry Fraud’s panoramic beat makes the song one of the project’s best—even if it mainly contains the use of the word “yeah.”

This tape—and Carti in general—aren’t targeted for those in search of bars and deeper meaning. Playboi Carti is based almost exclusively off vibes and is essentially sonically pleasing, hypebeast swag rap, which is props to the production team as much as it is to Carti. However, if Carti didn’t execute this particular style so well, the project would render itself boring but luckily he keeps the listener engaged the entire time. In other words, not every rapper, new or old school, could pull off the required cadence necessary to make these beats sound as enjoyable as Carti does. Just listen to “Magnolia,” one of the standout tracks and early previews given of the project, to understand how his direct lyrics (“In New York I Milly Rock, hide it in my sock/Running from an opp, then I shoot at opp/And I’m on the block, and I’m on the block”) and producer Pierre Bourne’s bouncy, rattling beat are a perfect match.

A$AP Rocky improves the lyrical dexterity as a featured guest and noted Carti influence. On “New Choppa,” Rocky piggy backs off Carti’s guns, groupies and ganja theme but steps the delivery up to a point that will impress a larger realm of listeners. “Let’s see who next on my homi’ list, Carti like, ‘Rocky you bodied this’/That’s my prerogative, shit on them that’s on my potty list/Accused of being bougie by a snobby bitch/Cops want to ID us, hope they as fast as my Adidas/She say I’m special that’s obvious” is just a morsel of Rocky’s verse but ends up being of the strongest on the entire project.

Lil Uzi Vert also lends his raspy mumble rap expertise to “Lookin” and “wokeuplikethis*.” one of the standout tracks preceding the project. The two trap crooners together make for some interesting moments of harmony.

What the first play through might not prove right away is that Carti, in a wildly unorthodox way, encourages being proactive. On “dothatshit!” he opportunely claims he’d “rather not talk about it just do that shit,” which is basic in a literary sense but a little more relatable and profound in its metaphorical sense. For Carti, it’s “Blowing through the check” and “Hitting on your bitch” but the encouraging repetition of hearing “do that shit” is actually pretty motivating for anyone listening. Of course not everyone will be blowing through checks or hitting on a bitches but Carti’s enthusiasm is infectious enough to make a bigger statement.

A large part of this project’s success is obviously the sounds Carti gets the opportunity to glide across. He gets blessed with instrumentation from some big-time producers like Harry Fraud, Southside, Hit-Boy and Jake One—all of whom bring their own unique ebbs and flows to the project. However, it is Pierre Bourne, who is actually the audible MVP here. The South Carolina native single-handedly lends his talents to almost 50 percent of the project’s tracks and most importantly “wokeuplikethis*.” Not only does he balance the harmonious trap sounds but cuts the beats with a creative edge that subconsciously perks up one’s ears. Flutes, electric guitars and even lion roars are used as intricate layers to build Bourne’s quickly developing signature sound.

Carti’s efforts on this debut project are definitely well-absorbed and not taken for granted. While the majority of the mixtape isn’t anything radically different from the music he’s been making for the past three years, it’s a sign of consistency in sound. In a perfect world, the rapper would have shared more of his narrative here, whether it was growing up in one of hip-hop’s biggest hotbeds or perhaps his link to the A$AP Mob, but Carti is focused more on the energy of his records rather than the deeper meaning. Nevertheless, the rapper delivers a debut opus indicative of his brand, where good vibes, an escape from reality and flexing can be found.

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Author: Scott Glaysher

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