The Controversial Rise of Playboi Carti

Aurav Kapadia

October 13, 2023

Mumble Rap. Bold streetwear outfits. Iconic album hits. All of these elements are associated with Atlanta rapper Jordan Terrell Carter, or better known as “Playboi Carti”. Blossoming from a young, aspiring 16-year old with hoop dreams, almost everyone who has listened to rap music knows his name. His persona and lyrical evolution is one that leaves many fans and critics intrigued to this day.

Everything took off for Carti when he burst onto the rap scene with his breakthrough single, “Magnolia”, off of his first studio album Self-Titled. The track was a massive hit, garnering a staggering 700 million streams on Spotify, and almost 200 million views on Youtube. This was largely thanks to the introduction of Carti’s notorious mumble-rap style, characterized by catchy ad-libs and repetitive flows. “phew” and “what?” were some of the prime examples of ad-libs used in this song, mostly after essentially every line. While this style resonated with many young fans, it drew criticism from hip-hop purists who argued Carti’s lyrics lacked substance. But nevertheless, his unique lyrical style established his presence in the rap game. “Magnolia” alone had launched Carti’s social media fame into the sky, featuring performances on The Jimmy Fallon Show, and appearing on the Double XL Freshman Class, an annual group of only the best rappers of that year.

Then came 2018, which little would Carti know would be the biggest year yet for his rap career. His second studio album Die Lit was released. Many fans consider it to arguably be his greatest album ever released. Not only was the infectious production, memorable ad-libs, and undeniable energy evenly depicted throughout the tracklist, but unlike Self-Titled, the album immediately resonated with fans and critics alike. It was a sonic journey truly transcending the traditional boundaries of hip-hop, even more so than Self-Titled. Incorporated elements of punk, trap, and his experimental sound pushed Carti’s musical reputation to soaring heights. Filled with iconic anthems such as “Shoota” featuring Lil Uzi Vert and “R.I.P.”, the album is still thriving  on Spotify and social media to this day, Carti’s rap career was at an all-time high, and it seemed like nothing could stop him.

After two consecutive years of musical success, the dark and puzzling side of Jordan Terrell Carter for what many fans perceive of him now had begun its journey. Carti’s penchant for announcing release dates and then postponing them had become a recurring issue. Fans eagerly awaited new music, only to be disappointed as multiple supposed released dates came and went without any sign of the promised songs or albums. Evidence of these unfulfilled promises can be found in Carti’s own tweets and even his own physical words in front of his fans at a concert. An apparent example of this was during a 2019 Milwaukee Concert for his newly released Die Lit Album Tour, where he told his fans that he would “drop music in the next 60 days.” And 60 days later, hardcore fans remained with no music whatsoever. As well as one of his instagram posts from 2019, in which he posted a caption titled: “<48 hours! locked in.” Obviously, Carti fans were excited as ever, interpreting that new music would be dropping in less that 48 hours or something of the sort. Turns out after 48 hours, his music discography would remain exactly the same. No new music was released. Ironically, it would be more than a year later since that post was created when Carti would finally release his album Whole Lotta Red on December 25, 2020. This left fans to only ponder upon when he would release new music, as well as to deal with his lies for over two years since Die Lit was released.

Beyond his music, Carti’s personal life also stirred controversy. One notable incident involved his then-girlfriend, Iggy Azalea, who was left alone in the hospital to deliver their son while Carti famously “chose to play PlayStation with his friend Lil Uzi Vert instead”-coming directly from Iggy Azalea herself. When Onyx Carter became a part of this world on April 28, 2020, his father was nowhere to be found. This event sparked outrage and criticism, further affecting his reputation and image in the public eye.

Perhaps the most significant transformation that has divided Jordan Carter’s fanbase is his overall music style evolution. While Die Lit showcased a catchy, energetic, and almost playful lyrical approach, featuring a young, hungry artist proving to the world why he should have a respectable position in the rap game, his 2020 release Whole Lotta Red marked a drastic shift. The album embraced a darker, more aggressive sound, with Carti experimenting with harsher, even satanic vocal tones. This sudden shift left many fans divided, with some praising his willingness to push boundaries, while others longed for the catchy, lighter Die Lit and Self-TItled sound that had put him on the map.

Regardless, there’s no denying that Carti’s ability to surprise and challenge the expectations of his audience remains one of the most intriguing aspects to his controversial rise to fame. In a genre that constantly evolves, Playboi Carti continues to serve his role as a polarizing figure in the ever-changing landscape of hip-hop.