As the lone member of the New York hip-hop collective without the A$AP prefix, Playboi Carti adds some breadth to the group’s east coast grit. Hailing from the mecca of modern rap music, Atlanta, Georgia, Playboi functions as A$AP Mob’s turn-up specialist. Due to his omnipresent ad-libbing and predictable flex bars, Carti leaves little to the imagination when he’s on the mic. His self-titled debut has been buzzing on social media for reasons that remain unclear to me. The production here is trendy and catalog-boosting for the most part. People love music that can make them get up and dance, and I believe this project benefits from that notion. However, the more you dance, the less you listen. With the absence of lyrical depth or variety presented here, it sounds like Playboi was hoping no one would pay too close of attention to what he’s actually saying on these songs.
That begins to make sense once you peep the guest appearances. Lil Uzi Vert is featured on consecutive tracks, and if you know anything about the self-proclaimed rock star, you know that lyricism isn’t his cup of tea. His style of music is picked apart by traditional rap fans for being redundant and nonsensical. Personally, I enjoy a bulk of Uzi tracks because what he lacks in impressive bars he makes up for with charisma and unique personality. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Playboi Carti. One of the Uzi collaborations “wokeuplikethis” sees the two blooming rappers in a playful conundrum. They love who they are in society and want to see fans follow in their foot steps. However, the more popular they become, the amount of copycats grows exponentially. But ultimately they come to terms with their status and relish in the fact that imitation is the highest form of flattery.
This track’s concept seems fitting in theory, but when you give this project a listen, you quickly begin to realize how ironic “wokeuplikethis” truly is. Frequently across this self-titled effort, Playboi Carti is doing his best Lil Uzi impersonation, right down to the ad-libs and signature Uzi flows. This shortage in artistic awareness runs rampant through these 15 tracks. Carti has all the makings to be a trendsetting new wave emcee but chooses to follow rather than lead. The played-out lyrical themes of drugs, scandalous women, and flashy possessions dilute the inventiveness of this tape’s production team. Nothing is being said here that hasn’t already been said by his contemporaries in a more memorable or compelling way. The features do their best to add some spunk to this sugar-free batch. But with there only being four guest slots, two of them being Lil Uzi Vert (AKA a better version of Carti), this project becomes highly superfluous after just one listen.
I must praise this production team, though. Primary producer Pi’erre Bourne anchors a third of the mixtape with standouts “Magnolia” and “Lame Niggaz”. His squeaky tag is sure to turn heads later this year as more artists get hip to his talents behind the boards. Frequent Future producer Southside lends his helping hand on two tracks along with other big names such as Hit-Boy, Jake One, and Harry Fraud. The soundscapes here are wavy, energetic, and intoxicating. They try their darndest to keep Playboi Carti afloat for as long as possible before his incessant and meaningless boasting sink this project to the depths of rap mediocrity. These beats are bouncy and fun, and at times Carti’s flows match the vibe of the track. At the end of the day, though, Playboi Carti is chock-full of blatant mimicry and repetitive lyrics, making this self-titled debut nothing out of the ordinary.