In the current rap landscape that often values style over substance and phonetic flair over sharp lyricism, it can be easy for a project to slip into the sea of endless half-baked attempts to garner streams and popularity. With hip-hop occupying most of the mainstream music market and internet culture, each rapper is tasked with bringing the most vivacious and infectious personality to the table in order to both become—and stay—relevant.
On Atlanta rapper Playboi Carti’s long-awaited commercial debut, “Die Lit”, he expands the post-verbal, atmospheric, and incredibly irresistible space he only teased with his 2017 self-titled mixtape. On “Die Lit”, Playboi Carti does not heavily rely on the influence of his peers but rather subtly nods to his predecessors and crafts an album that is dripping in a style that is all his own.
With the assistance of producer Pi’erre Bourne, “Die Lit”, boasts a generous nineteen tracks, with an equal amount of highs and lows. The highs, however, are remarkably rewarding. This is due largely in part to Bourne’s trademark melodic and deceptively elaborate production. Where Carti (frequently) lacks in lyrical depth, Bourne’s beats sweep through each track creating an almost carnival-like atmosphere that is as dark and brooding as it is hypnotizing and grandiose.
While it could be argued that “Die Lit”, suffers for its lack of saying well, anything at all, it more than makes up for it in its ability to guide the listener into a trance where nodding along is not only unavoidable—it’s encouraged.
One of these aforementioned highs on “Die Lit”, is its lead single, “Shoota” featuring fellow mumble rap icon, Lil Uzi Vert. Clocking in at a fleeting 2 minutes and 34 seconds, “Shoota” is a delightfully confusing pop rap banger that delectably teases its full capacity with a hypnotic piano-driven melody until just under the halfway mark when the drum line finally releases into all of its jubilant glory. In its company, the track “R.I.P” stands out with an unsuspectingly raw, rattling bass line and a refreshingly intelligible flow from Carti.
Other standouts in the hefty track list include “Lean 4 Real” featuring grime rapper Skepta, the beautifully synthy “Fell In Luv” featuring R&B crooner Bryson Tiller, and “Mileage” featuring Chicago drill rap icon Chief Keef. Carti and Keef may be the most refreshing collaboration on “Die Lit”, with “Mileage” boasting a slightly comedic yet refreshing take on sex positivity and a beat that sounds like it was sampled straight from a Nintendo 64 game.
“Die Lit”, however, suffers at the hands of other unnecessary features which reek of calculated label moves in efforts to reel in other fanbases. “Love Hurts” featuring Travis Scott leaves much to be desired as the track does not live up to the fantastical and larger-than-life expectations that one could imagine at the thought of a Playboi Carti and Travis Scott collaboration. “Love Hurts” fails to pull off the overly simplistic style that many of the other tracks succeed at accomplishing with flying colors. “Poke It Out” commits a similar offense with a jarring feature from Nicki Minaj that does not feature her full lyrical capabilities and feels unbalanced next to tracks with clearer sonic and stylistic goals.
In a time where the political and social climate can feel overwhelmingly bleak and unpredictable, mindless fun in any capacity is often a welcome means of escape for a generation drowning in uncertainty. On “Die Lit”, Playboi Carti exudes this mindless fun attitude and subtly encourages listeners to not digest any of the content too seriously. “Die Lit”, strikes a unique balance with waves of lush extravagance and a simultaneous skeletal display of structure that will leave veteran rap fans wondering, “how is this even a song?”.
With the album debuting in the #3 slot on the Billboard 200 chart within a week after its release, it is clear that the shtick is working. Though it doesn’t make its statements lyrically, “Die Lit”, finds success in the space of what it doesn’t explicitly announce.
With an almost incomprehensible level of ease, Playboi Carti has quietly graced us with a project that’s stuffed to the brim with quirky party tracks that urge us to revel in the moment and reserve the strain of existence for another day.
If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.