The All-Timers #3: Playboi Carti & Lil Uzi Vert's "Shoota"

The All-Timers #3: Playboi Carti & Lil Uzi Vert's "Shoota"

In this series, I write about one of my all-time favorite songs. There's no rhyme or reason to the order, I just pick whatever I'm feeling in the moment. The past editions have been on New Order's "Your Silent Face" and Viktor Vaughn and Apani B's "Let Me Watch."

Successful rap groups, or even duos, are a thing of the past. Migos were the last great hope, but it's been almost three years since their final album together. Rae Sremmurd started out strong, but they released their Speakerboxxx/The Love Below just four years into their career and have delivered diminishing returns ever since. Who else is there? Brockhampton? City Girls? With respect to more alternative-minded duos like Armand Hammer and Run The Jewels, as well as more under-the-radar groups (that have also splintered!) like Shoreline Mafia, SOB X RBE, Sicko Mobb, and Doughboyz Cashout, the past 10 years have been a wasteland for what was once a dominant subset of hip hop.

There are obviously factors that led to this—everyone didn't suddenly wake up one day and say 'solo rappers only' in unison; the current pop charts are also ruled by solo artists—but I'm not writing about the death of the rap group with the aim of exploring those. I'm writing this to highlight how special and rare it is to hear two or more contemporary rappers with palpable on-record chemistry. We had, for a brief, glorious moment, Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan. Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B were electric together on "WAP." Oddly, Drake and Rick Ross always seem to make bangers together. Young Dolph and Key Glock had something going before Dolph's death. Veeze, Babyface Ray, and Talibando all work so well together that I want to hear them attempt a joint album as a trio.

But my favorite rap collaboration of the past decade is Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert's 2018 song "Shoota."

It may seem confusing to call what's going on in this song "chemistry," as Carti and Uzi each claim one successive half of the runtime and never overlap. Neither shouts ad-libs over the other. There's zero evidence to suggest that "Shoota" wasn't recorded in two separate studios across the country. But there's something in the ether, some mysterious force linking the two and proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that no other rapper could sub in and provide the same spark.

Both sing-rap in stilted, cyclical patterns. Uzi ends a line with the words "pecan drop" and starts the next line with the words "pecan drop." They rhyme "bestie" with "bestie" three times in a row. Carti's "verse," sandwiched between two hooks, is just nine bars long and repeats half of its lines for emphasis. It's so audacious that it works.

There are so many little vocal nooks to obsess over: Uzi drawing out the word "bustdooooo-own" and incorporating that into a flow switch, Uzi cutting themself off mid-verse with a punch-in, Carti finding a melody midway through his hook and then letting it carry through to his verse, that little descending "ye-e-e-ah" before "and I love my goons" that only Carti could do, his silly gun sound ad-libs, the way the beat drops on the second "don't talk to me just talk to my lil' dude."

A major reason "Shoota" works so well is producer Maaly Raw, who'd been working with Uzi for years at that point. On Uzi's early tapes, I'd argue Maaly is the most instrumental force in crafting the technicolor trap sound that became Uzi's calling card. Especially on the opening three tracks of 2016's Lil Uzi Vs. The World, they're perfectly in tune with each other, yet another example of an upstart producer/rapper combo who'd come up together and outshine that rapper's collaborations with more established beatmakers.

"Shoota" is a masterclass in atmosphere and restraint. The two-and-a-half-minute song was most likely built off of a beat snippet that was a quarter of that length—mirroring Uzi and Carti's contributions, there are really only two distinct sections, and both are slight variations of two brief loops. It's a bright, sparkly composition. The first half is brought back ad infinitum during Uzi's verse to create tension, which the second half spectacularly releases with the addition of drums, bells, and the catharsis of letting the melody play out in full. Just like Carti and Uzi, Maaly (or maybe the engineer) adds gravity via prolonged unresolved moments.

Maybe the sense of chemistry also comes from the two rappers' history together. "Shoota" was their sixth (and to date, final) collaboration, and especially on Uzi's back-to-back guest appearances on Carti's self-titled 2017 debut, it was clear that they were kindred spirits. "Wokeuplikethis*" in particular stands out. Produced by an ascendant Pi'erre Bourne, the Maaly to Carti's Uzi, it plays as a more conventional, bombastic version of "Shoota."

A year before Playboi Carti came out, I saw Carti and Uzi play a raucous show in a 260-capacity venue in Portland. It was two months after the originally scheduled date and, most likely because Lil Uzi Vs. The World dropped in the interim, it was clear that they'd already become far too big for that room. I wish I had videos from that night, but because of the all-consuming moshpit they'd be blurry as hell. As far as I remember, they basically did a joint headlining set and were onstage together for the entirety of it, acting as hypemen for each others' songs. Even though their best collaborations were yet to be released, it was magical.

Since then, they've both been on different trajectories. I don't want to say that Uzi has peaked, but last year's Pink Tape left me very cold, especially in comparison to 2020's vibrant-but-well-curated Eternal Atake, which was my favorite rap album of that year. Carti, on the other hand, has never stopped his upward trajectory. He began as a loose affiliate of my beloved Awful Records crew, and I was sold from day one, interviewing him with the rest of the group in early 2015 and seeing him absolutely destroy an Awful show at SOB's that year with a performance of "Broke Boi," which was functionally the only song he had out. Since Die Lit, he's spearheaded the "rage rap" sound with the Christmas 2020 release Whole Lotta Red, toured stadiums (I caught him in late 2021 and it was wild), started his Opium label which has seen several underlings (most notably Ken Carson) take off on their own, and is now in the midst of the rollout of a new album. If modern, cutting-edge rap had a center, he'd be right in there.

(Trigger warning)

Both rappers have also allegedly assaulted women in recent years. Uzi is currently on probation for charges stemming from a public 2021 incident with their ex-girlfriend, Brittany Byrd, in which they "put a gun to her stomach and then hit her." Carti's 2023 felony assault charge for "choking his pregnant girlfriend following an argument over a paternity test" is still hanging over him, having not yet gone to trial. That's awful, unforgivable behavior, and I think because of both artists' stature, it hasn't been talked about as much as similar transgressions by their less trendy, less critically acclaimed contemporaries. Personally, I've written off musicians I love for less heinous offenses.

I do think contemporary rappers face a far higher level of scrutiny than that of famous abusers of the past, especially classic rockers like John Lennon or Jimmy Page. That doesn't excuse the behavior, but it does prompt more nuanced questions about "separating the art from the artist." I will probably always love "Shoota," just as I'll probably always love The Plastic Ono Band and Physical Graffiti, but I think any discussions about artists with allegations of sexual assault or abuse need to include these details.

It's 1000% understandable if this isn't true for other listeners, but the knowledge of Uzi and Carti's actions doesn't take anything away from my enjoyment of "Shoota." It was released years prior to both incidents, and it may contain boilerplate references to gun violence, but none of it is directed at women.

Four years ago, I wrote something similar in tone to this about one of my all-time favorite albums, The-Dream's space-age R&B masterpiece Love Vs. Money. I spent the majority of the article lauding praise on the album for its 10th anniversary, but I also included an aside about the singer's assault allegations. It resulted in The-Dream going on a Twitter rampage about me, but despite his 100k+ follower count no one seemed to notice.

I don't know if "call-out culture" is the answer, but I know that simply refusing to acknowledge music made by abusers is even less productive. People still listen to and defend R. Kelly, for fuck's sake. I think most human brains are large and complex enough to hold multiple, even conflicting opinions about art they love, and talking about art as honestly as I can is all I've ever strived to do.

Note: the original post misgendered Lil Uzi Vert, and it has since been edited. My apologies.

BOI (Best Of Inbox) #18

bbymutha - go!

Genre: cloudy Southern rap // RIYL: Gangsta Boo, CupcakKe

Chattanooga's bbymutha has been grinding independently since the early 2010s, relentlessly releasing material that shows off her eclectic range. This week she announced that her next album will be released on longstanding indie label True Panther, which is great news. New single "go!" offers up exactly what I've loved about bbymutha for years: forward-thinking production, flows that recall both Gucci Mane and Gangsta Boo, and lyrics that initially read as raunchy but also contain startling vulnerability. Sleep Paralysis is out 4/19.

Danielle Durack - "Dean"

Genre: country-tinged indie // RIYL: Waxahatchee, extreme emotional blodletting

This one's beautiful, but absolutely brutal. On "Dean," Nashville singer-songwriter Danielle Durack crafts a devastating tribute to someone who took their own life, and makes no effort to disguise that. I mean, "I hope when you took that final leap of faith it felt like flying"? That hits like a ton of bricks. On a completely different note, I just went to look at the credits on Bandcamp and found out that someone I went to high school with produced and engineered this! So shoutout Samuel Rosson, who has also done great work with bands like Pool Kids, Kississippi, Sydney Sprague, and Great Grandpa. Durack's Escape Artist is out today.

fanclubwallet - "Band Like That"

Genre: slacker-y synth rock // RIYL: Charly Bliss if they were fronted by Emily Haines

What a novel, relatable concept for a song! On "Band Like That," fanclubwallet's Hannah Judge succinctly boils down the experience of wanting to emulate your favorite bands so much that you start your own band. You try to dress the same, you buy the same guitar, but it's not that easy. In the press release, Judge lists Metric, Pinback, Plumtree, and Alex G as specific artists that inspired this feeling in her, and while I hear bits and pieces of each in this song, Judge has clearly found her own way, as most great artists eventually do.

Maria Chiara Argirò - "Closer"

Genre: neo trip hop // RIYL: "In Rainbows"-era Radiohead

Maria Chiara Argirò is a UK-based Italian artist with an apparent background in jazz, though you might never guess from "Closer." “This is completely different from everything I've done before,” she says of her upcoming album. Its title track is a hypnotic, vocal-driven affair that conjures up late-night ambiance. Closer is out 4/26.

MASTIFF Feat. Harry Nott & XIII - "Serrated"

Genre: hardcore-tinged sludge metal // RIYL: High on Fire, Nux Vomica

Nothing like a song with two screaming vocalists, one of whom fills the role of the gruff brute, and the other the shrieking goblin. I'm not sure who's doing what on this song by the UK's MASTIFF, as the band XIII and a member (Harry Nott) of the band Burner are both credited as guests, but it works. "Serrated" is gnarled and brutal, sure, but also a bit anthemic. Deprecipice is out 3/22.

Pride Month Barbie - "Obsession"

Genre: electropop // RIYL: Crystal Castles, Purity Ring

Pride Month Barbie are poppy, synth-heavy duo from LA who currently only have two songs to their name. "Obsession" is an infectious jam that feels equally indebted to the '80s and the early 2010s, a mess of burly synth tones and airy vocals. Their previous track, "Withheld," might be even better, and I can't wait to hear what they come up with next.

Rogét Chahayed - "Aurelius"

Genre: neoclassical piano // RIYL: Jon Brion, Erik Satie

Get this man in touch with Hollywood, STAT! "Aurelius" is ripe to be the central, recurring theme of a moody, twist-laden drama, its foggy foreboding and chilling staccato melody just begging for scenes of secretive people in trenchcoats lurking unseen under rainy eaves. Oddly enough, the pianist behind it, Rogét Chahayed, is best-known as a pop producer/songwriter who has contributed to hits like Travis Scott's "Sicko Mode" and Jack Harlow's "First Class." This man's got range.

RYL0 - "Oo! Ah!"

Genre: pre-hyperpop // RIYL: Charli XCX, PC Music

The jury's still out on the yet-to-be-announced upcoming Charli XCX album, but while I'm waiting, this ebullient 117-second slice of delicious robot-pop is enough to hold me over. I don't want to belabor the Charli comparisons, but RYL0 even says "number one angel" on here! "Oo! Ah!" was produced by Purity Ring's Corin Roddick, which is neat.

Track of the Week

Mei Semones - "Inaka"

Genre: pastoral twinkle pop // RIYL: Soccer Mommy with a Kinsella brother guesting on guitar and strings arranged by XTC

In Inbox Infinity's early days, I thought I'd stick to a "no repeat artists" policy. The past few weeks have seen me breaking that policy again and again. Especially if it's an artist who I think deserves more shine than they're currently getting, I'm gonna keep posting their music! "Inaka" is the second straight track by Mei Semones that has absolutely floored me. She's just so unique—the jazz-influenced, emo-adjacent guitar playing, baroque string arrangements, and bilingual lyrics all add up to a final result like nothing else I've ever heard. Both "Inaka" and previously featured track "Wakare No Kotoba" are on the Kabutomushi EP, out 4/5.

All Inbox Infinity picks are available in playlist form via Apple Music and Spotify.

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Jamie Larson