The internet made Playboi Carti. But, unlike most contemporary rappers, he isn’t interested in revealing his every move on social media. The 25-year-old Atlanta native prefers an enigmatic approach, mixing various, sometimes disparate influences — 1970s Punk Rock, Prince, vampire movies, Lil Wayne, Givenchy — to cultivate an evolving persona that is as much about feel and atmosphere as it is about the actual beats and vocalizations that emerge from his increasingly fascinating musical output.
“I’ve been like this my whole life,” Carti said in an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year. “When I do speak, it’s for a reason. But with the world, the only thing I want to show them is the creative process and the music. I think people want to see the normal side of Playboi Carti, but you can’t normalize me.”
Following an array of teenage-recorded, Soundcloud-released mixtapes and a burgeoning affiliation with ASAP Mob, Carti drew wider attention with the 2017 single “Magnolia,” which revealed its creator’s clipped rapping style, often nonsensical lyricism and sugar-high energy.
Carti released his first “official” studio album, Die Lit, a year later via AWGE and Interscope Records. The album rose as high as No. 3 on the Billboard charts, cementing Carti as an emergent and uncommonly elusive figure on the mainstream landscape.
Besides features on other artists’ material, all was quiet for the next two years (an eternity by contemporary Hip Hop standards) as Carti crafted his most recent record, Whole Lotta Red, which dropped in December 2020. It debuted at No. 1 on Billboard, yet another signal of Carti’s rising cultural cachet.
The achievement is all the more impressive given the new material’s often challenging nature — Carti’s delivery has diversified, moving from his more playful “baby voice” beginnings to a territory that can only be described as gothic. He’s backed by beats both experimental and melodic, yielding music at once familiar and uneasy.
Where the man born Jordan Terrell Carter goes next is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure — he’s likely to push the boundaries of expectation.
“That’s my job as of right now,” Carti said in the Rolling Stone interview. “This sound is something that’s going to be regular and relevant in the future. That’s just part of creating something new. If this is something that people accept right away, how different is it?”
Playboi Carti plays BB&T Arena (500 Nunn Drive, Highland Heights) on Dec. 1. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. All attendees are required to wear a mask. Get more details and tickets at thebbtarena.com.
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