Playboi Carti – Playboi Carti, 2017

Playboi Carti released his self-titled mixtape in 2017. After that singles came in dribs and drabs, following much anticipation from fans who followed his trajectory from SoundCloud rapper (purely releasing tracks on the internet) to guesting with some of rap’s biggest artists.

His tracks are minimal, and not more so when it comes to lyrics. Labelled a “mumble rapper” (so-called for obvious reasons of unintelligibility), he’s not so focussed on rhyme and flow as, say, Kendrick Lamar (who released his Pulitzer Prize-winning DAMN. on the same day back). When he does rap it sounds almost too laidback, like he really is freestyling over the track with little thought for what comes out. Instead, making use of much repetition, together with extraneous off-beat sounds, lyrics act as rhythmic punctuation to propel his songs along. So, when A$AP Rocky turns up to rap in “New Choppa”, he threatens to steal the show.

But less is more. He isn’t in a hurry to needlessly fill space, and lets the instrumentals breathe. Take “Yah Mean”, with its ambient backing made up of just two chords that don’t try any harder than absolutely necessary. Or “Location”, which opens the album, but sounds more like a winding-down number. It has this spacey, ethereal loop that goes round and round, sliding audaciously between keys without a word of warning.

It’s a minimal approach, but Carti manages to create pretty lush soundscapes, which is what matters. It’s the vibe that rules. Even in more energetic numbers, it’s mere spots of lyric and beat that make up the overall texture, as in “Magnolia”. It’s the highlight of the album, and probably most complex compositionally, but sounds like it was thrown off in a one go.

Running throughout the album are these fragments of sound and splinters of beat that alone would barely constitute a backing track. But with Carti’s nonchalant interjections, it somehow comes together in this woozy, care-free mixtape.

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