280 Days Later | Quinn Satterlund
When “Whole Lotta Red” was first released on Christmas Day, 2020, the reception among fans was polarizing. Simply put, the album was completely different from anything Playboi Carti had ever released. In terms of production alone, the album was about as far away from the carefree Pierre Bourne-produced beats of “Die Lit” as possible.
At first, I, like many others, was disappointed: this is what I had waited two and a half years for? An eclectic jumble of dark, gritty trap beats and Porter Robinson-esque poppy synth songs, almost all under 2 minutes? But as time went on, I found myself coming back again and again. Every time I listened to the infectious hook on “Rockstar Made” or the crisp singing on “Control”, I felt the album growing on me. Each listen felt like an entirely new experience, which was something I hadn’t really seen in an album since, well, ever.
However, I do understand the frustration of many fans’, especially with "Whole Lotta Red" suffering multiple delays and hundreds of confusing tweets by Carti. No matter what he released, “Whole Lotta Red” could never live up to the hype and expectations of 9 million+ fans, who were sick of waiting 2 years. There really is no one to blame for this except Carti — it was his album and social media posts that got us excited in the first place.
Nevertheless, Whole Lotta Red has certainly aged well, and its influence on the underground scene is undeniable. Portland rapper Yeat recently received widespread popularity after his song “Gët Busy” went viral on TikTok. The song was an example of the style of “rage” beats that Carti used on "Whole Lotta Red", which was subsequently popularized on apps like SoundCloud and TikTok. More than half of the songs on "Whole Lotta Red" are rage beats, characterized by dark saws, hard-hitting 808s, and crisp claps, with “On That Time” and “Stop Breathing” (both produced by Philadelphia-based producer F1lthy) as standout rage songs on the album.
Kanye West’s guidance is evident throughout the album as well, as he was the executive producer and is featured on one of my favorite cuts from the album, “Go2DaMoon”. The outro to "Whole Lotta Red", “F33l Lik3 Dyin”, samples Kanye affiliate Bon Iver for a soulful, introspective track, one of a few that dig past the surface. Songs like “ILOveUIHateU” talk about his dependency on drugs (“I mix all of my problems and Prometh’ until I’m rolling on my deathbed”), and “No Sl33p” describes his PTSD from growing up in Atlanta, a city with one of the highest murder rates in the world.
There’s no denying Carti’s maturing as an artist (though his parenting could use some work), especially with the risks he takes on the album. Carti was almost known synonymously with the catchy, Street Fighter-type beats of past projects, and his change in beat selection has shown his growth (although Pierre Bourne did produce “Place” and “Over”). But Whole Lotta Red isn’t really meant to be something you sit down and do your homework to — it's supposed to be played loud on your biggest speakers, to be moshed to — so it doesn’t have to be so introspective. It's just supposed to be fun, and it doesn’t try to be something it isn’t. This is what makes “Whole Lotta Red” such a great album, and if you haven’t already, check it out. You’ll enjoy it.