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The Winter of Playboi Carti’s Return

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Three years after the release of the album,“Whole Lotta Red,”alongside a handful of dynamic features with The Weeknd, Trippie Redd, Pi’erre Bourne and more, Playboi Carti has come back in full force. The rapper recently released six solo songs and counting as of March 12. Three of them, “DIFFERENT DAY” (“UR THE MOON”), “2024” and “EVILJ0RDAN,” are true standouts, exemplifying innovation and unpredictability — the elements that define Carti’s music.

Carti released his first solo song since late 2020 on Dec. 8, merely a day after a post on his alternative Instagram account hinted at new music. The song does not have an official title, but it is speculated that the title will either be “UR THE MOON,” or, more credibly, “DIFFERENT DAY,” the first lyric of the track. Carti debuted the song on the same alternative account with a music video, in which Carti is decked out in green designer clothing at a parking lot. The song can only be found on Instagram reels, and is yet to be released on Spotify, Apple Music or other music streaming platforms. 

In that solo, Carti raps over a calm, galactic-like beat mix, with dystopian synths that flow in between. Although Carti primarily brags about his riches throughout the song, he also details his relationship with a female fan who he perceives as a “groupie.” Carti utilizes his higher pitch in the track, which fans were accustomed to hearing in his “Whole Lotta Red” album, but switches it up by pairing the vocals with a more raspy, breathy tone — a quiet but lethal combination. 

What shines substantially in the tune is Carti’s incorporation of unique adlibs, most notably “seeyuh,” which is distinct from his monosyllabic adlibs of “wha,” “yah” and more. Although “seeyuh” is not an actual word and merely a nonsensical utterance, it flawlessly punctuates Carti’s verses in an avant-garde manner and sets him apart from other rappers.

Six days later, Carti continued his streak by unveiling “2024” on Dec. 14, releasing the hit on YouTube and Instagram. The music video features Carti cozying up with luxury cars and chilling with friends at a gas station, while wearing his signature all-black outfit. Impressively, the song was reportedly recorded on Dec. 10, releasing only four days after. Like the first track, “2024” is not officially out on music streaming platforms.

The song starts off with an upbeat fanfare tempo, which could signify that 2024 is a new year of musical opportunities for Carti. To add to the anthem’s hype, Carti plays around with vigorous and punchy beats, making the song impossible not to move to. However, some of the song’s lyrics are menacing, as Carti makes light of his intimidating status and claims he can “put ‘em on the news,” referencing his ability to harm his opponents.

The real gem of the song is when Carti transitions from his usually elevated cadence to a deeper, experimentally gritty voice, sounding like a different person. This earthier timbre was introduced in his feature on Travis Scott’s “FE!N,” by which fans were simultaneously shocked and pleased. With his new-and-improved voice, Carti goes against the grain while exploring his vocal potential.

After his first solo and “2024,” Carti came out with “H00DBYAIR,” “BACKR00MS (ft. Travis Scott)” and “KETAMINE,” all making light of Carti’s deep voice and supernatural trap instrumentals.

However, the third track that takes the cake for Carti’s rollouts is “EVILJ0RDAN,” which was solely posted on Instagram on Jan. 15. The song’s title is not only composed of Carti’s real name, Jordan, but it also highlights his sinister persona. In the music video, Carti loiters around in a kitchen, wearing a satanic-like headpiece while contrastively sipping out of a Hello Kitty mug.

Carti retains the depth of his grave vocals all throughout “EVILJ0RDAN,” accentuating the purposely unsettling yet mysterious undertones of his artistry. The song raises some concerns about Carti’s fame, as he suggests that his life has gone out of control, to the point where he can’t take a breather. He justifies his lack of stability with the lyrics “I’m a emo, thuggin’ my phase.” Carti also includes two new adlibs, “I am the music” and “Swamp Izzo.” The first loudly proclaims that he doesn’t just make music, but that he is the definition of it, and the second being a shout-out to DJ Swamp Izzo. 

The repeatedly blaring thumps that make up the production in “EVILJ0RDAN,” as well as Carti’s halted rap flow, are undoubtedly its best aspects. The production is reminiscent of a continuous emergency alarm, keeping the listeners on a panicked edge while simultaneously intriguing them. In the middle of the song, Carti slows down his flow by rapping in paused, rhythmic increments, somehow timed perfectly with the abrupt beats. In this, he’s demonstrating that rap music isn’t a competition of who can rap the fastest.

With the unexpected gift of new songs, fans are now only left to wonder why Carti has not put the tracks out on music streaming platforms. Most fans agree on the theory that Carti’s decision to release music on Instagram is a clever marketing ploy. By releasing the songs on social media, he allows more traction and engagement with his songs and music videos, especially with the ability to easily repost songs on one’s Instagram story. Additionally, dropping unorthodox music on Instagram is a safer bet than releasing it on Spotify, where he runs the risk of people being disinterested in his new sound, which could impact streaming numbers.

Carti’s recent resurgence has built up the artist’s repertoire, emphasizing his unbridled creativity, his commitment to defying expectations and his way of giving back to his patiently loyal fans. The releases have racked up 131.5 million views from Instagram and Youtube combined, proving to be an exceptional warmup for his fourth album, rumored to release this year.

Ingrid Avancena is an Entertainment Staff Writer. She can be reached at avanceni@uci.edu.

Edited by Lillian Dunn, Andrea Garcia