Playboi Carti’s ‘Die Lit’ Is Punk As Fuck

Posted: by The Editor

Die Lit. Just say it out loud. Die Lit. It’s a great phrase. Both in its flowy, two-syllable construction, and for how it plays beside the record’s acrobatic album art. And if you utter it in rapid repetition, it begins to sound like “dilate,” which is what its associated music does to its listeners eyes.

Playboi Carti’s surprised-released sophomore album will take you someplace. But whether you’ll want to leave immediately in a paranoid frenzy, or bask in the psychedelic sensory overload, has, in the week-and-a-half since it dropped, proven as subjectively appealing as the drugs he’s on. Similar to his Soundcloud-born contemporaries like Lil Pump and Lil Uzi Vert (who turns in what’s arguably his best verse ever on here), Carti specializes in short, loud tracks and a purposefully incoherent delivery; his voice either candied with auto-tune or stylistically neglected within the mix.

The difference is that Carti’s so unconcerned with conventional “rapping,” that rather than using the beat to boost his own presence, as is the longstanding custom within hip-hop, his voice is often there to support producer Pi’erre Bourne’s bizarre instrumentals. It’s an incredibly innovative flipping of the roles between producer and rapper that can only be compared to the cacophonous character punk vocals adopted during the emergence of hardcore. “You can’t even understand what they’re saying,” went the befuddled rock traditionalists, which is now being echoed in the flack aimed at Carti’s chirps and gibberish mutterings in songs like “Pull Up” and “FlatBed Freestyle.”

Future and Young Thug forged a path for “mumble-rap” in the mainstream years ago, so Carti is by no means the first rapper to receive digital tomatoes for his slurred words and less-than-inspiring flex lyricism. Nor is he the first MC to load his tracks with tongue trills, high-pitched warbles and other nonsensical ad-libs. Migos pretty much nabbed the cred for those with the success of Culture, even if their deservedness is debatable. But Die Lit is the first “trap” record in a while, other than 2 Chainz’s 2017 masterpiece Pretty Girls Like Trap Music, to truly take the idiom to its next stage. It feels like an equivalent stride to the one Future took with DS2 back in 2015, and similarly, Die Lit sounds like an object of time travel. It’s ostensibly the next logical step for trap music in 2018, and it’s punk as fuck in both concept and craft.

Take a track like the outstanding “Shoota (Feat. Lil Uzi Vert).” It’s a two-and-a-half minute pop-trap song that rallies against everything pop-trap currently is. Uzi handles the first half, delivering one of his clearest and most measured verses over a choppy, Drake-esque string loop for a good minute and change before the beat even drops. That’s roughly half the length of the song without a bassline, and it when it waterfalls down all at once, Carti’s right there to leap in with his sweetest hook yet. It’s a goddamn nailbiter of a track and that delayed drop still teases after 20-plus listens.

Then there are songs like “Lean 4 Real” and “Long Time – Intro” that feature these beaming, neon synths that glow like some sort of magical orb hovering behind Carti’s head. They’re blasting out all over the mix, at times drowning Carti’s voice as if he’s standing next to a launch pad for a space shuttle that runs on moonlight. The excessive ad-lib layerings of hisses and raspberry blows sound like his body convulsing from the overpowering radiation. It’s trippy stuff, and since these beats are so hypnotically repetitive, there are moments where you really do question what it is you’re hearing. 

Carti, and Bourne for that matter, are not only some of the aforementioned trap king’s greatest disciples, but inspiring alternatives to the predictable direction the genre has taken in the Migos era. As the Soundcloud stars of 2016 are one-by-one earning their 15 minutes, Carti and his co-creator are quite possibly the weirdest, and therefore the ones with the creative capital to drive the movement forward. Die Lit sounds like it’s already there. 

Eli Enis | @eli_enis

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