Playboi Carti. The name can be grouped with Trinidad Jame$ and GoldLink as a moniker that’s more fitting of a Blaxploitation pimp than a rapper. I remember the first time I heard his name. During a party, a song began to play, and there was an immediate reaction as the words, “Audi, Bimmer, Benz with the roof up” came blaring from the speakers. The words belonged to a voice that was obviously youthful, but there was a charismatic charm to his rapping; he reminded me of a less threatening, more lively Chief Keef. The song lacked the heaviness of drill, the production had a bit more bounce, but the lyricism was from the same boastful family tree. I watched as people dabbed and danced, reciting every word as if the song was a Top 40 chart-topper. Playboi Carti is the name the DJ shouted with enthusiasm as she blended into another underground gem. This was April 2014, right before Complex would declare the song next to blow; a stick of dynamite just waiting for a lit match.
“Broke Boi” played throughout that summer, a song that foretold of another Atlanta prospect just waiting to blow. Carti didn’t have an album out then, and he still doesn’t. He has no mixtape, nor an EP. The closest thing he has to a body of work is the collection of songs posted on his SoundCloud. The songs mirror the braggadocious swagger, the infectious confidence, and the simplistic fun of his underground hit. There are plenty of girls, drugs, money, clothes and stunting in his music, but not much more. Some artists are ahead of their time, some are before, but Carti is perfect for what is popular. Even with over 15 million plays on SoundCloud, a silenced followed “Broke Boi." Even after the release of a few other notable songs, specifically "Fetti," nothing bigger ever followed.
Surprisingly, two years after his breakout single, Carti—without a body of work to his name—would sign a deal with Interscope and became the newest member of A$AP Mob. The deal with A$AP dates back to October of 2015, when he admitted to being signed in an interview with HotNewHipHop. The deal with Interscope is fairly new, announced by A$AP Rocky last month during a show.
Rocky wasn’t alone when all the cyber eyes fell upon him on that scorching hot July in 2011. After the success of “Peso” and “Purple Swag,” he was the charismatic new rapper that was surrounded by a mob of friends with mischievous eyes and shining gold grills. It was the beginning stage of the resurgence of squads in rap; if Odd Future were the rambunctious wedding crashers of the music industry, A$AP Mob was more like suave, but aggressive pirates. Their lust for girls and gold rivaled any captain that has sailed the seven seas since the days of Davey Jones. A$AP Yams, Ant, Bari, Ferg, Illz, Lotto, Lou Banga, Nast, Twelvyy, TyTy, Sanden, Relli, and Ty Beats were the members of the pirate crew. Each had a gift, a goal, and a purpose within the group. I never saw them as a collective, nor a record label; A$AP always seemed more like a family―a family that came into the rap game with all their members.
Groups that tend to be structured as a family tend to be resilient to newcomers. Especially groups that laid on the floor together; they won’t let just anyone reap the benefits of the comfortable mattress in their mansions. I saw the same dynamic in A$AP Mob, their first four years were dedicated to expanding the brand and enlarging their biggest talents. They didn’t seem like Dreamville or TDE―labels following in the ambitious footsteps of Roc-A-Fella and Bad Boy. The signing of Carti shows another side to the Mob, one that shows they're working toward really building a mob of artists outside of the original squad. Carti’s relationship with Rocky was due to his manager, Ian Connor, who was Rocky’s stylist at the time. Ian’s influence and celebrity brought Carti to Rocky, an artist that younger rap fans would adore. He had the sound, the look and the co-sign to overstep the blogs and quietly build a following. Carti went on a mini tour with Lil Uzi Vert, appeared in Drake’s OVO lookbook, has recorded songs with Frank Ocean and Skepta—all this without a big breakout moment.
“What” is one of a few Carti records to be released since his A$AP backing. The song is annoyingly catchy, it’s almost completely comprised of the word “What” being shouted over a bass-heavy thumper from 808 Mafia's Chris Fresh. It sounds like one long hook, similar to Desiigner’s “Panda.” Even for Carti, the song is overly simplified, but that’s the intention. If Cash Money wanted Drake on every hook, then Carti is A$AP’s secret weapon to making that kind of turn-up music that can resonate with the class of rap fans who also enjoy Lil Yatchy, Lil Uzi Vert and Madeintyo. I hate the term mumble rap; it’s more like turn-up rap, and Cardi is enrolled right there with the others. The song has much more potential in a club/party setting, but I would likely still find it painfully obnoxious. A$AP Rocky appearing in the hilarious music video for “What” also helped to stamp and signify Carti’s entrance into the group. I prefer the music he was making with Awful Records, but I'll save my thoughts on what group was better for Carti until after his debut mixtape drops.
The fight that transpired between Ian Connor, A$AP Bari and Theophilus London back in April, after a number of women came forward stating that they were raped/sexually assaulted by Connor, is well-documented. The personal effects of these two big events aren’t public knowledge, but there have been various rumors that both A$AP Rocky and Kanye West have cut ties with Ian in light of all that transpired. Since Carti is an A$AP member who will be going on tour with Ferg, it’s safe to assume he also has severed any business relationship with his former inseparable manager. How will this affect him? We will soon know if it was Ian's influence or Carti's music that attracted all his early fans.
One of the newest A$AP Rocky songs to surface this year is “Crazy Brazy,” which features A$AP Twelvyy and Key!. If you’re familiar with the Atlanta collective Two-9, or Atlanta’s underground scene in general, then you know Fat Man Key. For a rapper who has yet to crossover, Key!’s influence on Atlanta’s rap scene has been immense. A lot of flows, cadences, and styles that are currently popular can be traced back to some of Key!’s music from years ago. Rocky aligning himself with Key! on a song that sounds like it was made in East Atlanta is very telling of what he’s influenced by now. I know the Mob’s sonic inspiration comes from the South—Houston to be exact—but “Crazy Brazy” is more a flattering imitation of Atlanta than influence. What if Rocky also brings Key! over to the Mob? Could he secretly be plotting an A$AP South? Dipset tried it, Bad Boy had some success with it; maybe Rocky and the Mob will be the ones to take their established New York brand and conquer the South from within.
A$AP Rocky is a solidified star, A$AP Ferg has made massive strides up the mountain top, and the late A$AP Yams is an immortal legend that will be here longer than dinosaur fossils. What the three have in common is that they all came into the game without a name, but will leave as renowned artists and influencers. A$AP Mob has proven that if given a chance, a star will shine. Is Playboy Carti a star? Does he have the potential to eclipse all the other trap, turn-up rappers making music in this strange age? I don't know about his tomorrow, but he has the sound of today. He’s already established in the ears of the youth, and supposedly has Interscope’s machine behind him, along with A$AP Rocky’s guidance. There’s a chance he’ll be a big deal by the end of 2017. I can almost guarantee his birthmark will be on XXL’s Freshman Class next year. Yet he’s still without a project, and his biggest song is over two years old.
Success isn’t certain for Playboi Carti, but he has a much higher chance at winning than losing. A$AP Carti, another rapper just trying to strive and prosper.
By Yoh, aka Playboy Yoh, aka @Yoh31.
Photo Credit: Instagram