Playboi Carti Proved Last Night That His Concerts Aren’t Just Shows — They’re Experiences. And That Was On Full Display Last Night.
As I gazed at the hundreds of neon-haired teenagers packed outside South Side Music Hall, waiting in eager anticipation to see Playboi Carti himself, I had a revelation – I’m witnessing the inner workings of a modern-day counterculture.
And at the peak of this culture sits Playboi Carti, its well-dressed prince. The Atlanta native and A$AP Mob tour member is part of a nexus of rappers that thrives on Souncloud. Carti is one of the platform’s leading practitioners, utilizing the site to insanely effective and lucrative results.
While Carti found found his footing there with a consistent output of woozy, rap bangers, the 20-year-old garnered internet fame at breakneck speeds and his sudden mainstream success led to numerous sold-out shows all over the country, including this one in Dallas last night.
When Carti hit the stage the room popped off like a bottle rocket. He laid down the irresistibly catchy “Location,” the opening slavo off his eponymous debut mixtape LP. Right from the start, it’s clear Carti’s best asset is his ability keep the crowd moving. The horde of Carti-heads swelled, thrashed and bashed with infectious glee and the artist fed off the excitement every step of the way.
And when the crowd wasn’t losing its shit, it rapped along verbatim with a uniform voice.
But when you’re in the heat of the action, slamming into bodies drenched in sweat, it’s impossible not to feel like Carti’s up there having the time of his life and it’s damn admirable.
The speakers rattled the floor beneath, shaking eyeballs in sockets. The raucous crowd ate up every second of it and the whole affair was just as gleefully mindless.
Carti’s nasal tone and overemphasis of ad libs certainly hooked the attention of the crowd’s social media feeds. When the crowd wasn’t documenting every moment it could, it operated on sheer kinetic energy. Even when Carti flexed his melodic sensibility (akin to Young Thug), it didn’t come at the expense of the vivacity projecting around the venue.
But with any global trend, imitators will crop up one after the other. Local MC Diego Money, in fact, has frequently slammed Carti in the past for supposedly ripping his style. The South Oak Cliff-based MC is adamant that Carti, with whom he worked on the track “Pull Up,” appropriated his style before experiencing mainstream success. And that comparison is largely due in part to the production savvy of Pi’erre Bourne, who contributed to and fleshed out both artists’ sounds.
In an interview with the Dallas Observer, Diego said that “There’s not a lot of artists coming out of Dallas, so when other artists hear our sound they take our shit because they act like nobody’s going to know. Once I got the chance to come out and meet all the other people on Soundcloud, they all tell me, ‘I got my style from you; we was listening to you.’”
That’s quite an accusation to make, but can you really blame Carti? It’s tough to establish a peculiar artistic image, and it’s a necessary evil to pull at least some influence from your peers. But the comparisons are a tad farfetched.
Diego’s flow takes on a downtempo spirit coupled with a mumbling southern tone, whereas Carti finds his impetus in propulsive beats replete with trap high hats and chiming synths. This is all a tad ironic too considering Carti performed his collaboration with Lil Uzi Vert “wokeuplikethis*.” The track is a direct confrontation to imitators of his succinct stylings.
Sure, it’s full of references to sex, money and drugs, but a song only works if the track has a killer beat to boot. And Carti is the one laughing his way to the bank. If you ask me, that’s what makes Carti such a striking figure. The rapper is an observer, extracting inspiration from all corners of hip-hop, and synthesizing it into one braggadocious package. With this approach, Carti is redefining what it means to be a rap artist in 2017.
With just one project in his discography, the setlist at South Side featured an idiosyncratic edge that kept things familiar yet fresh. Though, considering Playboi Carti’s singular style, it wasn’t too difficult for the crowd to match the rhythm of the night. The performance had and unhinged vibe, but this dissonance was tempered by the soothing stasis of Carti’s instrumentals.
When it was time for his hit “Magnolia,” just three songs into the set, Carti propelled the crowd’s energy to new heights, and on the turn of a dime. The song incited athletic bursts of primal vigor, from both Carti and his audience. This was exactly what the kids had been waiting to hear, as they initiated their own series of rhythmic slams and random Milly Rocks just as Carti demanded.
Though Carti’s output has a primitive, basic composition and disregards formal structure, his real strengths lie in aesthetics like blunt smoking, lean drinking and pill popping. The production lacks nuance, but the full package channels a crystalline quality that’s impossible not to enjoy.
Carti jumped and hyped the crowd for the entire set. The crowd responded especially well when Carti took a step back and danced around with the rest of the room as the DJ spun bangers from his affiliates like ASAP Rocky’s “Flacko Jodye” and 21 Savage’s “Bank Account”.
After a while, he switched back onto the forefront, constantly lobbying the crowd to open up a mosh pit. The crowd complied. And then he wrapped the night up with Lil Uzi Vert’s “Of Course We Ghetto Flowers” and few of his older tracks like “Broke Boi.”
It’s difficult to establish variation. But if you’re actively seeking nuance in the age of the Soundcloud rapper, you’re doing it wrong.
Playboi Carti isn’t winning listeners over with lyrical gymnastics or intricate flows but rather with effortless magnetism and an acute sense of how young folks consume music. It’s genius, quite frankly. The music doesn’t need substance, just a mood. Carti had that on lock right from the start.
All photos by Breanna Loose