* – After extended listens, I realize I have made an error. My Die Lit review below contains overt flaws. The opinions expressed here are hypocritical in comparison to previous reviews. Other artists in the trap genre received fairer scores based on intent. Although this album does not include a hit record, it is undeniably catchy. Production which at first underwhelmed me gains infectiousness with each new listen. Die Lit has little to no pop appeal. Yet now that impresses me. Playboi Carti’s sound loses steam across 19 tracks, but overall it functions effortlessly. The vibes heard here stuck with me slightly more than I thought they would originally. Tracks such as “Mileage,” “Fell in Luv” and “Lean 4 Real” are indeed some of the better trap efforts in recent years. In conclusion, I let my emotions get the best of me. Carti’s lyrics are not this album’s focus.
We have to stop calling these dudes rappers. A$AP Mob’s Playboi Carti is no rapper. Rather he is a man that wears expensive clothes and jewelry who happens to record himself. Whether he is an artist or not remains unclear. Technically, he is. However, listening to his songs, he takes very few steps towards any kind of conscious musical direction. If you’re ever struggling to name a mumble rapper, Playboi Carti should be near the top of that list. But again, he isn’t a rapper. He hasn’t earned that title. From now on, I will address him as a flexer. I mean, flexing is all Carti does. Is it not? Despite a catchy line here and there, I question if he puts an ounce of thought into his lyrics. While Carti’s contemporaries are guilty of similar crimes, few give less shits about their raps than Playboi.
A new wave of “artists” is among us. These flexers laugh in the face of hip-hop tradition, choosing atmosphere over lyrics. For the most part, I’ve come to terms with this movement. At times, I’ve even come to enjoy it. Yet there are overt flaws I simply cannot ignore. I fully understand their rejection of so-called conscious rap. Dense lyrical topics aren’t for everyone. I do not look to Playboi Carti for life advice or succinct knowledge. However, there must be a trade-off. If you’re going to give me trash, redundant lyrics (and, man, are these lyrics trash), then I need two things from you. First, I need infectious hooks. Even though Carti is a gutter lyricist, he is more than capable of creating a catchy vibe. That is his strong suit. It may not seem like it, but having a distinct sound factors into songwriting. Melody, delivery, bars.
They all equate to how an artist manipulates their voice. Sometimes songwriting isn’t writing at all. Sometimes it’s humming, ad-libbing, and crooning. Carti has an identity on the track. Most flexers can’t say that. One could categorize his ad-libs as top-tier. Nevertheless, they cannot carry a song. That brings me to my next point. Second, I need dynamic, distinguishable instrumentals. Playboi’s self-titled mixtape succeeded at the hands of Pi’erre Bourne — Carti’s primary producer. Their smash hit “Magnolia” generated a massive wave. However, this time around, Pi’erre appears stuck in place. His incessant fluttering hi-hats blend 90% of Die Lit‘s tracks into each other. Honestly, this album is a pain to sit through at first. Yet I will say it becomes more listenable with extended plays. Once you brush past the cringeworthy “rapping,” Carti’s rhythmic groove takes center stage.
Although it is not enough to ultimately save this album from fleeting trends, Carti’s vibe kept me entertained. That’s mostly due to me tuning him out completely, though. Guests held my interest far more than Playboi himself. He’s just not interesting. Skepta and Nicki Minaj, on the other hand, are. They performed magnificently. Nicki started off slow but finished strong. I must admit, I am looking forward to her upcoming album. Nicki is back in her bag. Back to Carti: While he fits today’s mold of style-over-substance, his lack of sonic awareness hinders the quality of his art. He models on top of recording himself brag. He’s a youth fashion icon without a doubt. However, he is not Donald Glover. Dude has plenty of time to write some better lyrics than:
“Yeah I’ma go fuck that bitch / I’ma go thrash that bitch / Shawty gon’ suck this dick / Shawty gon’ suck this dick.”
C’mon, bro. Your bars are pathetic. Not caring about lyrics is one thing. Writing bullshit like this, repeating it across 19 tracks, and calling it art is something entirely different. Occasionally, Die Lit is a fun, care-free vibe fest. More frequently, though, it is a time-stamped, nightmarish collection of trap norms. Flexers such as Playboi Carti, although trendy and fresh in doses, give rap music a bad name. Personally, I’m getting sick of bland, repetitive album after bland, repetitive album. I’ve found things to like about this project. Yet when push comes to shove, Carti doesn’t care about his art. So, if he is unwilling to put forth serviceable effort into his music, why even make it? On “R.I.P.” he raps “Bought that crib for my mama off that mumblin’ shit.” He knows how to spit substance. Carti simply chooses not to. Hence the low* score.