The other night, I saw Bigfoot in his natural habitat. Only thing is, Bigfoot ended up being a lot more energetic than I had anticipated. Above that, did y’all know Bigfoot loves Supreme, rocks slickly twisted dreads and dons a trendy (yes, even THIS trends) birthmark? Okay, maybe it wasn’t Bigfoot, but it was someone who at one point in time was more of a myth than an actual person in the industry. That artist is of course A$AP Mob affiliate, Playboi Carti. For a couple of years, since around 2015 to be exact, Carti has been one of the biggest mysteries in Hip-Hop, if not music as a whole. The 20-year-old Atlanta native amassed a ridiculous following through pristine networking (See: Awful Records), a crazy fashion sense and a minimalist approach to rapping that would eventually foreshadow the rise of what we now label, Mumble Rap. Oh yeah, and he did all of this with precisely zero albums released and only a handful of guest appearances and solo records. Still, despite a cadence that help start WW3: Hip-Hop Edition and an nontraditional sense of moving around, Carti has become a savant for both Hypebeast kids just looking for the next big thing to leech onto as well as wildly creative individuals, who view Carti’s persona as the perfect middle finger to an industry full of fake shit and fabrications. Perhaps his best attribute as an
artist person, Carti has the ability to bring people from all walks of life together under one roof to Milly Rock their little hearts out; and that’s exactly what he did, July 19th at the Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas, Nevada. The boy’s first show in Sin City.
My connection to Playboi Carti might be a bit different than yours, or even your little brother’s. When I first heard of the guy, I instantly loved his moniker, matched with his curious persona, but hated the music. I came across Carti a bit later – post Awful phase – when the infamous video of him
ranting prophesying his inevitable rise to the top of Clout Rap circulated on the internet. While many older heads and journalists were quick to write him off as nothing but an egotistical product of the times that wouldn’t more than a phase, I loved his spirit. Any passionate individual who’s ever had to explain your goals and dreams to a room full of obvious doubters can easily relate. And above everything he seemed raw, like he just didn’t give a fuck. This led me to essentially put the “Broke Boi” rapper on my creative back-burner, basically meaning that I wouldn’t publicly denounce my affinity for him until I knew all the facts—and boy am I glad that I did so.
Seeing Playboi Carti in Las Vegas marked my third time seeing him, and each time he grew more and more both musically and in stature. I first came across a live Carti set when he was nothing more than a special guest during an A$AP Mob performance in Los Angeles. His one and only vocal showing throughout the set was his appearance on Mob’s, “Telephone Calls.” It’s safe to say that despite an already stout following, Carti couldn’t go in too much, he wasn’t ready. The next time I caught the unicorn in its natural habitat was when he was a surprise replacement for Lil’ Uzi Vert – still not over that – at this year’s Soundset Festival in Minnesota.
Now, he was ready.
In my first ever taste of a full-blown Playboi Carti solo-set – which, I’ll be honest; I didn’t know what to expect from – the guy absolutely killed it. The precision in the timing of his cadences and lyrics gave me a newfound appreciation for Carti and made me wonder if his whole, “mumble rapper” persona was nothing more than a gimmick. I won’t delve too deeply into his performance there, as I did that here; but just know this: there’s no way that anybody on Carti’s team could look me in the face and tell me that wasn’t a top three live showing of his career, the man looked poised for thr type of super-stardom that even he couldn’t have possibly fathomed.
So with that, all of these things were swimming around in my head Wednesday night when I walked into the cozy, yet spacious Brooklyn Bowl venue. At first glance, I couldn’t believe the line that he commanded, which started at the venue and ran all throughout the already-crowded Linq Promenade. Fans decked out in their favorite streetwear brands flooded the surrounding area as people waited in anticipation for what they hoped would be a barn-burner. To put things into perspective, the Brooklyn Bowl – which is the premier performance venue in Las Vegas for artists bubbling on mainstream dominance – set a ticketed capacity of 2,000 patrons for this show. The final crowd clocked in at 2,350. That’s a sell-out and then some. Only 10 artists have sold-out BB this year, some of which include: Trey Songz, Kehlani, the newly announced Khalid show on 7/22 and New Hope, Pennsylvania rock band, Ween—who did it three straight nights. That’s a pretty good list of company to have for a press-shy 20-year-old with only his debut album to stand on. It also helps you realize the enormous mainstream potential he has, in and outside of music.
To open up the show, Carti had fellow ATL natives Gunna and Young Nudy kick things off. Both of which were a bit underwhelming. Gunna showcased his ability to connect with the crowd at times, but left more to be imagined—while Young Nudy has an obvious knack for hits, but was inferior to his own hype-man in terms of stage presence. (Side note: whoever Nudy’s hype-man was needs to pursue a career in music if he has any sort of flow at all. Maybe he does already, I don’t know.) Carti also had everybody’s favorite
tag-line producer, Pierre Bourne who’s beats rang through the Brooklyn Bowl walls as if we were playing a Bose stereo in a cardboard box. The thing I was most impressed with from Bourne – and is not to be understated – was the fact that he kept the restless crowd’s attention for the whole time while playing “Magnolia” a whopping zero times.
Think about that.
A young producer who’s big break in the game is making a banging beat for a budding superstar’s first major single, goes on tour with said superstar and doesn’t play that song. Not even once, doesn’t even hint at it. He saves it for the star. That’s love and is not to be glossed over. Shout-out to you Pierre, I’m glad you came out here.
Although the opening trio had high energy and decent crowd participation, everybody was getting weary of waiting for Carti. It seemed just as people were starting to complain and get mad, the lights suddenly went dim. The DJ gave the usual Bruce Buffer inspired speech that all DJs give the headliners before they pop out. It was now time for what everybody had been waiting for.
And he did not disappoint.
While I wasn’t too keen on the fact that he wasn’t rapping his lyrics line-for-line as he did at Soundset, the fact that he let the crowd do it for him really made for something special. The A$AP Mob affiliate went through all of the “classics” as he called them, touching every single fan in the building, new or old. He did newer tracks like, “Let it Go”, “Other Shit” and “Half & Half” while pleasing the day ones with “Broke Boi”, “Geekin’ On a Bitch” and my personal favorite, “Fetti” which is a surprisingly introspective and self-aware track that damn near plays as a narrative to his career.
Throughout the show, Carti was very engaged with the fans. He was hardly ever on stage, instead moving around from barrier to barrier – including one hilarious stretch where he was being carried on top of a security guard’s shoulders — performing among fans who were in complete awe of young Carti. The only trouble of the night seemed to be when one rowdy onlooker couldn’t seem to keep his drink intact and kept throwing ice at the performer, causing him to make threats of stopping the show. While the kid was swiped up promptly, there definitely was a brief moment when we all thought Carti was leaving and I thought they were going to KILL this kid. The craziest things is, despite being an obvious Carti Stan – he begged for the security guard to allow Carti to punch him — the culprit LOVED the hate. No matter what you think of the tactics, the kid’s got moxxy, he might have a future in this business.
In all, the most impressive thing about Carti’s performance was exactly what makes him so popular among angsty teens all around the world, his ego.
Despite having PLENTY of hits with other people including, “Telephone Calls”, “New Choppa”, “wokeuplikethis” and the aforementioned “Fetti” – all of which were performed – not once did he allow the fans to enjoy the often more lyrical verses of co-collaborators A$AP Rocky, Tyler, The Creator and Maxo Kream. The only sliver of mercy he allowed them was a brief 16 from Rocky on “Telephone Calls” that is honestly necessary in order to grasp the shorter Carti verse. Before the song could jump back to the rest of Rocky’s wild verse, Carti waved his hands across his neck, signaling the DJ to move on to the next one.
The second most impressive thing might be the fact that he just inspired me to write a 1,700 word piece on his show, and my only “Magnoila” mention was a nod to Pierre Bourne.
Not bad, Carti. Not Bad.
You can purchase tickets to any of the stops on the Playboi Carti Tour here and be sure to stream his self titled debut album, out now, everywhere.