A Bloodstained Conjuring | “Vamp Anthem” by Playboi Carti


Matt Cruz, Media Librarian

Playboi Carti’s 2020 album, Whole Lotta Red, turned heads with its unorthodox rollout and polarizing production choices. Gone was the drug-addled haze of his breakout projects, Playboi Carti and Die Lit, their soundscapes sacrificed for a new form that summons the association of dusk.

Playboi Carti had transformed himself into a vampire, and with Whole Lotta Red assumed his throne on the highest peak in a fictionalized WorldStar Transylvania. While it is certainly a seat he invented, there are thousands eyeing it with a bloodthirsty, bloodsucking envy.

Receiving both critical acclaim and intense backlash, Whole Lotta Red is certainly an acquired taste and undoubtedly one of the boldest releases from one of hip hop’s artistic frontrunners. Merit aside, Whole Lotta Red is a project with many different facets to explore. True to Carti’s imagery, today we’re exploring the most direct and self indulgent cut from the masterwork: “Vamp Anthem.”

The organ descends into a familiar tune and an effigy levitating with a popped collar hangs above, crucified to the wind. The veil lifts, and the candles extinguish into a smoldering plume. Moonlight creeks through the windows, tiptoeing on the shadows in an infantile crawl.

With a fanged grin and tied back dreads, King Vamp opens his eyes, glowing red like ionizing particles in a vacuum.

When them vamps outside, lil’ bitch, you better be ready /

When them guns outside, lil’ bitch, you better be ready /

When the stars align, lil’ bitch, you better be ready /

I won’t take my time, lil’ bitch, you know I’m ready /

I want it right now, lil’ bitch, you know I’m ready (go, yeah).

Pummeling drums completely reskin the familiar melody into an otherworldly instrumental. Carti raps repetitiously, utilizing a hypnotizing rhythm and flow which assails the listener, line after line bursting forth from a magazine full of silver bullets. A colony of bats swirl around you in a vantablack tornado, asphyxiating what little light drips off the walls. You are consumed by darkness.

“​​We pop right by the curb, they can’t tell it (yeah) /

I’m smoking on them herbs, you can smell it (yeah) /

This bag I got all orange like a felon (yeah) /

My bitch, she say she want me, n***** telling /

We caught him on the block, we topped his melon /

We push up to your spot like it’s nothing (Yeah).

With this verse, Carti assumes his villainous posture foretold by the instrumental — as a vampire, a being that dominates the night. Carti’s artistry has always been about control: how he controls the instrumental, manipulating it with his sparse, psychedelic delivery. “Vamp Anthem” continues to cement what is otherwise a fact, showcasing his dominion both over the instrumental and his subject.

I been sipping on codeine, I got pink eyes /

.223 gon’ hit him up, he done got hypnotized / 

I done made a mil’ in a white tee but I ain’t franchise /

These n*****  be the new bitches, they just dickride /

I done called up to the hotel, she left me paralyzed.”

Carti repeatedly and proudly recalls monstrous imagery, alluding to the occult and magic with a human edge. The transformative nature of the vampire has its roots in a corrupted being, something Carti knows all too well.

He profoundly calls out copycats like a mystical vizier: He is a mythological being that is widespread, all knowing and feared. He is unabashed, ruthless and in total control. The day is as much his playground as the night. 

Vamp Anthem, Vamp Anthem, yeah /

Vamp, uh, Vamp, uh.

This is not a suggestion, but a proclamation: a symbolic instruction to all dwellers of the night.

Serious or not, it’s clear that Playboi Carti has entered the next phase of his artistry, and he’s more empowered and unique than ever before. Gone is the King of Trap. Long live King Vamp.