Jimi Hendrix is a rockstar often cited by rappers mining the deep well of trap music. Future, who makes an appearance midway through Whole Lotta Red, likens himself to the legend so much he dedicated an entire album to the persona- Hndrxx. Rap’s obsession with deceased rockers like Hendrix and Cobain is mostly surface level, highlighting icon status over actual talent. An ill-advised Lil Wayne picked up a guitar in 2010 for Rebirth and everyone shrugged in confusion. Whole Lotta Red, Playboi Carti’s second studio album, is neither a revival or rebirth of anything remotely punk rock. His squeaky delivery doesn’t so much subvert trap expectations, but dismantle everything that makes it appealing.
In this world, Carti considers himself last of a dying breed, “Rockstar Made” and hell, sometimes even a god. Arrogance is a hallmark of rap, but his angle rings incomplete and trite. The bold artistic choice of rapping in the high-pitched register makes the commentary sound like a laborious, run-on complaint. Unlike his seasoned peers, Carti’s vision lacks experimentation outside of his whiney delivery. Similar to Post Malone, Carti is surrounded by riches and opposition, and lost all personality as a result. It’s endlessly vapid and misogynist yet the record’s biggest crime is how flat out boring it is. Three quarters of these songs don’t even sound finished. “JumpOutTheHouse” feels like a leftover file that was included by accident.
Whole Lotta Red is barely kept afloat by the production but the sheer excess of songs makes it hard to keep track of which dope idea came from where. Surely, “Vamp Anthem” and “King Vamp” could’ve been consolidated into one superior cut, right? “Meh” and “New N3on” are some bright moments, but overall this album is all gristle, no meat. Whole Lotta Red is Tarantino without Menke, good intention lost without guidance. This particular take of the blasé, repetitive trap doesn’t add anything new to the genre besides some nice instrumentals and a couple catchy hooks.
The consistently paranoid and distant tone isolates more than it entices, resulting in a cold listening experience. The guest appearances are a highlight. Kanye drops one of the album’s best verses on “Go2DaMoon” and Cudi’s grizzled hum is a nice contrast to Carti’s abrasive timbre on “M3tamorphosis”. Future’s performance on “Teen X”, like much of the record, sounds phoned in and un-mixed. Somewhere lost in this album is a line that expresses a lack of understanding of the central thesis, “I’m a rockstar cuz I can’t relax.” Just one of many complaints from a wealthy, disconnected individual.