The world really must be ending soon, because after receiving new albums from the elusive Lil Uzi Vert and Jay Electronica, Playboi Carti has now finally returned with a new single called “@ MEH.”
After teasing new music earlier in the week, following an arrest on drug possession charges, Carti returned with the Jetsonmade-produced single on Thursday afternoon, which arrived with a music video co-directed by Carti and Nick Walker. Following many false-starts, delays, and leaks, it seems this might just be the lead single for his next album, Whole Lotta Red.
Expectations are higher than ever for Carti right now. So, did he deliver? Or did he fumble the opportunity to capitalize on all the hype? We put together a list of our first reactions and takeaways after a few initial spins. Dive in below.
You might not get it
Playboi Carti is an acquired taste. For the entirety of his career, he’s been making strange, impressionistic rap music that polarizes listeners. Honestly, there are two types of people in this world: those who understand that Playboi Carti is pushing the art form of rap into fascinating, unchartered territory, and those who can’t fathom why anyone would want to listen to barely-intelligible songs that don’t sound like anything they’ve ever heard before. On “@ MEH,” Carti continues what he’s always been doing and focuses on a style-over-lyrics approach to make a song that will piss off your parents if you play it loud enough. This is rebellious music that fucks with the traditional form of rap, while still somehow holding on to some mainstream pop appeal. And that’s exactly why it’s so exciting. In the years since dropping Die Lit, Carti has become much more popular, so there will be a lot of people hitting play on this one who have no idea what they’re getting into, and they’ll be confused. That’s why you’re seeing so much hate on your timeline right now. That’s fine. They’ll catch on eventually. For now, stop thinking so hard and have fun with this one. Carti sure is. —Eric Skelton
The flow is evolving
As we’ve mentioned before, Carti has spent the last few years playing around with the possibilities of his high-pitched baby voice flow. On some leaked songs, we’ve heard him contort his vocals in ways we’d never heard a rapper even try before. Here, he pulls back just a little bit and makes another left turn: this version of the baby voice flow is still experimental, but it sounds a more like Young Thug than what we’ve heard in the past. Paired with Jetsonmade’s bubbly production, it’s a little more bright and lighthearted than some past iterations of the voice. This baby is growing up a little and starting to have more fun. We’ve entered the Toddler Voice Carti era. —Eric Skelton
It’s a big moment for Jetsonmade
Jetsonmade emerged as DaBaby’s go-to producer, suddenly becoming a force in rap after “Suge’s” surprising success. He’s stayed loyal to Baby, but recently has expanded his repertoire with beats for Jack Harlow and Roddy Ricch. For the most part, though, Jetson has brought his style to these other artists he’s worked with. On Roddy’s “Start Wit Me,” featuring Gunna, Jetson populates the beat with flutes and bouncy low-end bass. You could substitute Roddy’s voice for Baby’s and not notice much of a difference. But on Carti’s “@ Meh,” Jetson plays with the animated aesthetic that’s turned Carti into a worldwide star. It’s perhaps the first widely-circulated Jetson beat that can’t be immediately identified as such.
On “@ Meh” Jetson brings along his SPACEBOY collaborator Deskhop and Neeko Baby, who has also produced for DaBaby in addition to providing beats for Quando Rondo, and Lil Gotit. While this trio of producers have made hits before, a credit on what is presumably the first single off of Carti’s Whole Lotta Red is a serious step up. Jetsonmade has emerged as a go-to producer of the highest order, which he always knew was coming. In an interview with Complex earlier this year, he said, “I definitely set the standard for Carolina period, and the south. I’m changing the game, honestly. I’m setting the standard for music, period.” Jetsonmade’s prophecy has been realized. —Will Schube
He dives head-first into the myth of Carti
Playboi Carti’s fans are known for their passion. Every snippet, leak, and bit of news regarding Carti and Whole Lotta Red is of Earth-stopping importance. With the release of “@ Meh,” Carti has doubled down on this notion, embracing the meme-ification of his style that fans have so diligently cultivated. Carti’s been happily vague and mysterious since the release of Die Lit, and as such “@ Meh” is barely understandable from a lyrical perspective. Carti’s speaking a cartoon language, nearly indecipherable in the same way his fans have made him out to be. It’s a shrewd move. If anything, “@ Meh” just adds more hype to the ever growing phenomenon that is Whole Lotta Red.
The song sounds like an automated version of who Carti’s become: It’s vague and mysterious, but with enough energy and captivating ideas to leave us wanting more. In the intro, he raps, “Just talk shit.” He takes this to heart: “@ Meh” is full of shit talk, but in typical Carti fashion, he performs it like no one else on this planet or any other galaxy. On “@ Me,” Carti morphs into the mercurial caricature his fans have always hyperbolically sketched him as, a perfect calibration of hype and self-awareness for the internet age. —Will Schube
It’s not an obvious lead single
If you were hoping for a polished pop single that would take over the radio this summer, you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re at least a little familiar with Carti’s career, you know that’s not what he’s good at. He makes mood music that can be a challenging first-listen and usually makes more sense in the context of a full album. If “@ MEH” isn’t hitting right, come back and enjoy it in the context of Whole Lotta Red. None of the songs on Die Lit sound as good by themselves as they did as part of the full album, and it seems that won’t change this time around. This feels like an album cut. Yeah, it’s a little more bubbly and danceable than most Carti songs, which is likely why it was chosen as a single, but it’s miles away from a by-the-numbers rap single. This will delight Carti stans, and confuse the hell out of the average listener. We’re here for it. —Eric Skelton