29. Playboi Carti - 'Playboi Carti'
Release date: April 14
When Cousin Stizz was in New York earlier this year, I asked him what he was listening to and he said one name: Playboi Carti. "Yeah, he's my favorite rapper right now," he said without hesitation. At this point, I wasn't convinced that Carti was more than a stylish, connected, cool guy who young hip-hop fans connected with. But when his self-titled debut mixtape finally came out, Stizz's co-sign popped up in my head and I had to spend time with it.
Stizz was right. Carti's lack of effort sometimes seems like a statement that represents everything that young rappers have been proving for years now: it's not all about skill. Or, maybe that skill can be defined in ways more abstract than just how complicated and intricate your lyrics and rhyme schemes are. Carti's appeal lies in his ability to tap into the simple things. When you've got a good line that fits perfectly into the pocket of a beat, repeat it, drive it home, turn it into that catchphrase that fans can latch onto.
This formula, along with Carti's strong brand and lively performances, has made songs like "Magnolia" and "wokeuplikethis*" unlikely hits that hint at a superstar in the making. For every rap fan that dismisses Carti as a talentless hack, there's another willing to call him their favorite rapper alive. His debut mixtape makes both sides of this argument understandable, but in all honesty, enjoying "Magnolia" is way more fun than trying to hate on it.—Jacob Moore