Nicki Minaj was the musical guest on the Tina Fey-hosted season finale of Saturday Night Live last night, kicking off the production of Fey and Minaj’s new movie. Minaj announced Get Ya Life Ugly last week, and the SNL promo gave us a better idea of what to expect from the film. “Should … More »
When you’re an old man, sometimes it takes time to learn how to hear music — music that teenagers can understand immediately and instinctively. Case in point: Playboi Carti. Last year, the young Atlanta rapper released his hugely popular self-titled album, and I had no idea what to even think of it. It sounded like … More »
Playboi Carti has done it again, and in much the same way as he did it previously. You could be forgiven for losing faith. Last year’s eponymous debut felt insurgent, the culmination of a frothing SoundCloud movement that had grown from insular community to mainstream breeding ground in a matter of months. Playboi Carti was the debut of not only the rapper himself, but the entire scene; the ensuing wave of imitators and innovators alike would calibrate both aspirations and tactics by the parallel paths of Carti and Lil Uzi Vert (Lil Yachty had emerged slightly earlier, but ended up on a bizarre and far more difficult-to-follow trajectory). Accordingly, it was fair to think of Carti’s debut as something like the rap equivalent of Russell Westbrook averaging a triple-double; impossible to ignore in the moment, but markedly less impactful as the audience acclimated to the new normal.
Yet here we are. In many ways, Die Lit is simply an amplified version of Playboi Carti’s defining traits; the production, once again handled in large part by Pi’erre Bourne, has gone from two steps ahead to four; guest features are bigger names and more numerous; and by attrition alone Carti’s brand of melodic, slurred phonemics is less likely to draw a raised eyebrow from rap purists. In other words, it’s exactly the album that one might expect to follow in the wake of Carti’s now-proven commercial viability.
It’s a testament to the sound, then, that there remains room for Die Lit to surprise. Like its predecessor, it’s an album of party records; these are songs that will be played ad infinitum at functions until the hooks, the breaks, and, of course, the bass are burned into the brain of every attendee. Music (to say nothing of a career) like Carti’s is not expected to have much of a shelf life, and yet “Magnolia” and “Broke Boi” have only grown more powerful with familiarity; among the many appeals of his post-verbal style is the ability of songs to be reshaped endlessly into new memetic forms, foregoing literal interpretation for the much more fertile soil of absurdity.
Along with the other touchstones of rap’s meme era — “Bad and Boujee,” “Mask Off,” the “Hotline Bling” video — this is the perfect encapsulation of the sea change in rap’s audience, as the genre has usurped every other element of popular culture. Much to the (justifiable) dismay of those concerned with rap’s erasure as a serious artform, the emergent theme is un-serious music for un-serious times. More precisely, rap of any stripe is subject to being wrested from its original context and bent into a form of expression not for the artist, but for the consumer. Those who make a winking lean into memeability are positioned all the better to benefit from its enormous potential returns.
All of this is not necessarily at the forefront of Carti’s creative process, but it’s certainly on the mind of his employers at Interscope. For labels, the streaming era is a blessing and a curse; commercial success no longer requires consumers to exchange their hard-earned cash for a physical product, but for all but the largest artists a lightning-in-a-bottle smash single will yield far greater financial returns than the gradual cultivation of a dedicated fanbase. The more traditional approach, just as present on Die Lit, is to load an album up with cross-promotional features, bridging the gap between two fanbases for the benefit of both artists. We already knew about the alchemical mixture of Carti and Uzi, but both Bryson Tiller and Nicki Minaj do an admirable job of adapting their styles to the world of Die Lit, despite their purely strategic inclusion. While a little less successful, Skepta’s appearance on “Lean 4 Real” was a welcome experiment nonetheless, marking what feels like the fifth straight year in which grime’s American takeover has been imminent.
The ultimate triumph of Die Lit is that despite the baggage of the preceding paragraphs, it remains first and foremost a very fun album. The bullshit — intricately-planned spontaneity, albums built to favor streaming loopholes over listenability, whatever role “influencers” surely play in all this — is here to stay, and the highest praise available for an album produced by that system is to exist and delight in spite of it. Maybe Die Lit is a tad over-long or weighed down by commercial obligations, but good luck trying to fret about that while “R.I.P.” is on.
Last year, the Atlanta rapper Playboi Carti released his self-titled debut album (or, depending on who you ask, mixtape). It was a stark, bare-bones affair — 45 minutes, very few guests — with Carti riding a rap style that was more based on ad-libs than traditional flows. The album, and especially the single “Magnolia,” turned … More »
Yo Pi’erre, you wanna come out here??
…And just like that: BOOM. Playboi Carti has released his debut album. Following up last year’s excellent self-titled mixtape (our 9th favorite release of 2017), Die Lit features 19 tracks, with guest spots from the likes of Young Thug, Chief Keef, Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott, Young Nudy, Lil Uzi Vert, and more.
Stream Die Lit below.
Every time a rapper ascends from humbler places to stardom — from the production credits on Roc-A-Fella albums, from the word-drunk Los Angeles underground, from the Degrassi cast — it feels like an unlikely underdog triumph. But even among stories like those, Rae Sremmurd’s ascent has been dizzy and unpredictable. Just a few years ago, … More »
Hey everyone. Somebody from Tiny Mix Tapes wants me to post about the fact that Pi’erre Bourne tweeted that somebody from the label told him to tweet that Playboi Carti’s debut album is done.
Somebody from the label wants me to tweet Carti’s albums done
— @pierrebourne March 30, 2018
Bourne, of course, produced a big old chunk of beats off of Carti’s self-titled mixtape from last year (a favorite around these parts), and is apparently producing another big old chunk of this album, so my guess is that he knows what he’s talking about. But what do I know?
For what it’s worth, here’s a list of things that I definitely do not know:
• The release date for Playboi Carti’s album
• The title for Playboi Carti’s album
• The album artwork for Playboi Carti’s album
• How Carti finished 7% of an album that’s taken him this long to make in less time than it usually takes for that fizzy water I ordered to arrive in the mail
Not to brag, though, but there are a whole bunch of things that I do know, like the fact that Playboi Carti has a new album finished that he’s been working on since at least December according to the informative video below and that should be released… some time! Oh, but you knew that too, huh? Probably because you read my first paragraph. Ok, cool. Bye!
One of last year’s biggest hits, Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3,” started out its life as a SoundCloud loosie, impulsively uploaded after Uzi lost his phone while crowd-surfing. With that in mind, we have to treat just about every random Uzi track uploaded to SoundCloud seriously. Uzi, from Philadelphia, is one of the … More »
The fidget spinner may very well be the emblem of 2017: an omnipresent commercial object meant to relieve stress. It didn’t take long for the toy to become a cultural phenomenon, and like any meme in today’s age, the fidget spinner’s mass popularity was fueled by some wicked mix of ubiquity, social influence, and the … More »
DRAM, née D.R.A.M., has followed up his recent Rick Rubin-produced song “Check Ya Fabrics” with another new single. “Crumbs” is a floaty, kind of formless track that features Playboi Carti, and it comes with a little visualizer featuring DRAM and Carti as Peanuts characters. Listen below. More »