The preamble to Carti’s Rolling Loud set had the potential to be great, but went horribly awry before you could even say “Flatbed Freestyle.”
Playboi Carti’s communiques are as cryptic as they come. His exceedingly rare posts on social media are more often than not accompanied by exclamation points and an array of choice “symbols,” as if he’s weaponized the Wingdings font in pursuit of Pavlovian conditioning. Since the release of his debut album, Die Lit, a tad over a year ago, Carti’s musical presence has been curbed by this sort of erratic teasing. He’s found himself in cahoots with the likes of Tyler, The Creator (“Earfquake”) and Solange (“Almeda”), but his solo endeavors have been rather hush hush and altogether too difficult to pin down. Besides the incessant leaks that plague his every studio breath, Carti’s intentions for sophomore encore Whole Lotta Red continue to draw him closer and closer to the fabled precipice of Chinese Democracy limbo, where there’s no telling what will materialize on the other side.
Having skipped over the phase of publicly vacillating on whether or not the album will see the light of day, Carti and his “next 60 days” saga touched down last night at Avant Gardner on the outskirts of Williamsburg. The venue, one of Brooklyn’s many repurposed warehouses, was spliced by red strobes and a looming projection behind the turntables that can only be described as a mix of Windows ‘98 screensavers, Monday Night Football graphics, and leftovers from the Tron cutting room floor. In an attempt to escape the threat of the mob, several of the most limber concert goers (who very easily could have been featured on the album cover of Die Lit) clambered up the steel beams supporting the aging brick and mortar foundation. The evening’s aroma, a blended scent of sweat and lukewarm Miller Lite, surfaced among the clouds of weed smoke shortly after the doors opened at 8:00. With muffled 808 kicks emanating from the music hall and on to the surrounding streets, the DJ proceeded to cycle through the usual gauntlet of hits. Resident driller Pop Smoke’s “Welcome to the Party” elicited roars, while the opening notes of 6ix9ine’s “Gummo,” carefully pitched as a feeler by the DJ, were met with an equally animated response, though understandably for very different reasons. Moshing to “Faneto” carried the weight of a spiritual experience, but was followed by a befuddling snippet of “Party Like A Rockstar” that no doubt prompted soul-searching among those who remembered one of middle school’s fastest burning one-hit-wonders.
By the time a deep house, Garageband-esque remix of “Goosebumps” made its way into the rotation at 11:00 in what was a crucial misread of the room, the crowd had had enough. Murmuring frustrations with the lateness of the hour and an absence of Carti sightings snowballed into the kind of booing reserved for missed note feedback in Guitar Hero. 11:30 came and went, and with midnight approaching, the clock was rapidly becoming an enemy of the man of the hour. Just when it seemed as if all was lost, Carti descended from on high, sirens blaring and blond dreads swinging willy nilly. “R.I.P.,” the fan-favorite tone-setter that has settled snugly into its place at the top of Carti’s setlist over the course of the past year, revived the previously depleted spirits of those in attendance, and bled effortlessly into “R.I.P. Fredo.” It was a seismic one-two punch that had everyone testing the limits of the proverbial “riot act”; “I think the Xans tryna tell me something” admittedly hits different when Carti’s belting it out while wearing tinted ski goggles. All of this is to say that had the decibel level been any higher, a sinkhole likely would have opened up and swallowed everything in a three block radius.
This may as well have been the concert’s outcome, as Carti stormed off stage a mere five songs into his set after berating the sound crew for technical difficulties that only he seemed to pick up on. “I want everyone in this bitch to get the fuck outta here and go the fuck home,” he yelled. “I love you, but fuck this.” Just like that, as if possessed by some unknown entity, Carti was gone, his mic hastily tossed to the back of the stage where it landed with a bruised thud. Any hope of the antics being some sort of elaborate ruse was quickly extinguished by staffers shooing the masses back out into the brisk fall breeze. The five stages of grief began to set in, washing over the lingering diehards left to pick up the pieces amidst a post-apocalyptic trash heap of abandoned sweaters, crushed beer cans, and shredded Doritos bags.
via Playboi Carti Instagram Story
Carti later took to his Instagram story to apologize for the incident in the most Carti-way possible, vaguely citing some sort of “malfunction” as the source of his discontent before curtly thanking those who had thrown flowers on stage. In the end, what should have been a rollicking good time and an opportunity for Carti to add another feather to his crimson-trimmed cap in front of adoring fans was tarnished by inexplicable behavior. Perhaps he’ll provide further clarity on the matter during his performance at Rolling Loud New York this weekend, but all things considered that seems unlikely. For now, fans will have to settle back into the doldrums of the waiting game with a freshly etched pit of disappointment in their throats.