Playboi Carti arrived at a time when mumble rap was boosting hip-hop’s bottom line, making it a ubiquitous but captivating innovation in music. On later releases like 2018’s Die Lit, Carti would tip a hat to his humble beginnings, priding himself on his ability to build wealth and buy his mom a house “off that mumbling s**t.” This self-titled 2017 mixtape was the beginning of Carti laying that very foundation. Born Jordan Terrell Carter in Atlanta in 1996, the rapper and singer takes a wide-eyed, unconstrained approach to creating—not unlike the stylistic technique he employed with his breakthrough 2015 single, “Broke Boi.” After Carti sprinkled a smattering of official and unofficial songs across the internet in the mid-2010s, his star power grew exponentially, thanks to fans who couldn’t get enough of his creative appeal. Playboi Carti is propelled by Carti’s sheer charisma and trend-setting persona. The artist, known globally for his unique fashion sense and an affinity for all things divergent, uses this radical mixtape as a launchpad for his brand of unconventional self-expression. The project is buoyed by repetitive chants and earworm phrases that stretch themselves into trance-inducing anthems and mantras, custom made for a new generation of ragers and moshers. “Magnolia,” the smash single produced by frequent collaborator Pi’erre Bourne, was Carti’s moment of arrival in the mainstream, thanks in large part to his breezy rapping style. Playboi Carti’s songs, lyrics, and ad libs have embedded themselves into the broader pop culture landscape, but don’t get confused: On “Half & Half,” he lets it be known that “This is not pop, this some rock.” Equally inspired by the unapologetic air of hip-hop and the irreverent attitude of rock ’n’ roll, he dedicates Playboi Carti to the merging of the two influential genres. The punk-inflected hit “Wokeuplikethis*” featuring Lil Uzi Vert shows the MCs directly addressing copycats and simultaneously flexing in their imitators’ faces. Lyrical minimalism is the ace up Playboi Carti’s sleeve, and he strategically plays his cards to bring us into his complex sonic universe.