Carti’s August 19th date at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club was characterized by this slapdash, improvisational feel.
“Hey uh… we got someone’s keys up here.” The music cut abruptly, an hour or so after nearly a thousand sweaty Bostonians filed their way into Paradise Rock Club from a line that spanned more than two blocks. “They’re for a Ford. So if you got a Ford, but not your keys… these might be your keys.” A brief moment of silence. A small handful of swiveling heads. A collective shrug. “Alright, who’s ready for PLAYBOI CARTI!?!?!?” Party resumed.
Carti’s August 19th date at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club was characterized by this slapdash, improvisational feel. Guests came and went without much clarity. Airhorns blared. Lights strobed. DJs played the same three Migos songs *so many* times. It was high-energy, featured plenty of sound and fury, and didn’t manage to signify a whole lot. For most of the young-skewing crowd, that didn’t matter much: the bass was heavy, the messages were positive, and the performers were well-dressed. Hedonism pierced the modest mosh pit on the floor; a quieter buzz spread throughout the mostly-stationary observers in the balcony. By the time Playboi Carti actually showed up, he could’ve been anybody. Attention to detail wasn’t on anyone’s radar.
One could chalk up this cheerful indifference to the rapper’s own age. Born Jordan Terrell Carter in Atlanta in the September of 1996, Carti wasn’t yet old enough for one of Paradise’s 21-and-over yellow wristbands. He rose to prominence early this summer with “Magnolia,” an infectious trap-tinged single from his eponymous mixtape. It’s nothing new, but it’s devilishly effective: a singsongy hook cut from the cloth of Young Thug burrows its way into your head and stays there for days at a time. Shortly after “Magnolia,” he got a feature credit on Lana Del Rey’s “Summer Bummer” which circulated his name in wider circles despite the fact that he only contributes ad libs to A$AP Rocky’s verse.
Carti has yet to find a lane that definitively separates him from his peers and influences (he has close ties with the A$AP Mob, which should come as no surprise after a preliminary listen to his mixtape). His music is strong, but his entire mixtape is stuck in one prolonged game of atmospherics, like Drake without the emo touches. Unfortunately, this lack of a specific identity hurt his live performance. The bevy of guests that opened for him—including Pi’erre Bourne, who produced “Magnolia,” and the flamboyantly dressed Yung LB—all played sets that sounded exactly like Carti’s. It didn’t help that when the time came, he hardly took the stage for 35 minutes and was plagued by a muddy mix that made his rare stage banter even tougher to hear than his song lyrics. He was clearly having a blast, at one point taking Paradise’s modestly sized stage with no fewer than eight of his friends, but it was difficult to invest in what was happening onstage much more than you would invest in a good house party playlist. It did its job, but it felt ancillary. It was something to accompany the dancing rather than a show unto itself.
In Carti’s defense, he’s still extraordinarily green. He’s yet to drop an official album, and the promise exhibited in “Magnolia” (which truly brought the house down, despite his puzzling choice to play it second in an encore-free set) is more than enough incentive to keep our eyes on him in the months and years to come. Taken on its own, though, his Boston show could’ve wrapped in that first hour: it was a talented guy with a nice car fumbling for the keys to make it go.