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Album Review: Ken Carson, A Great Chaos
By Jacob Leavey
On Friday, October 13th, A Great Chaos, Ken Carson’s newest album was released on streaming platforms. The album builds off of the rage trap sounds of Ken’s 2022 album, X, and comes hot on the heels of fellow Opium signee Destroy Lonely’s release this summer, If Looks Could Kill. Each Opium release this year has contributed towards general hype for the all-Opium Antagonist tour early next year, where Ken joins Destroy Lonely, along with Opium duo Homixide Gang as openers for Playboi Carti’s show.
Overall, the album represents Ken’s evolution from Playboi Carti’s mentee to a fully-fledged rapper in his own right. The album continues to explore Ken’s playful and feminine “Boy Barbie” persona while also expanding Playboi Carti’s rage-trap sound and “vamp” aesthetic. The album has a bold, dark sound, with far more energy than any of Ken’s previous releases, potentially representing an evolution in Opium’s sound. Ken’s previous albums gave him a reputation of being a Playboi Carti clone, however, A Great Chaos is perhaps the most sonically distinct Opium release since Playboi Carti’s 2020 release, Whole Lotta Red, the defining record for the label.
A Great Chaos’s influences are both musically diverse and relevant to the album. Firstly, the obvious: the album takes heavy influence from Whole Lotta Red, which is a genre-defining album that recontextualized Atlanta rap and rage rap. Furthermore, Carti’s subsequent live performances of the album in 2021 and 2022, particularly the ones featuring live guitar, emphasized the showiness and punkiness of the album. Next, Destroy Lonely’s May release, If Looks Could Kill, provided a musical background and context to Ken’s album, with the dark, rolling 808s and feathery hi-hats of Lone’s album inspiring the production on A Great Chaos. An interesting inspiration for the album comes from Opium associate (although notably not a signee) Lancey Foux. Lancey, a British rapper, has embraced the rage sound, adding his spin with unique flows and grooves from his frequent producer and collaborator, Back2Bally. If you’re interested in Ken’s music, you should also check out Lancey’s latest mixtape, produced almost entirely by Bally, BACK2DATRAP. Other sources of inspiration include 90’s and 00’s emo, alt, and punk-rock, with “Jennifer’s Body” even having the same intro structure as “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day.
Tracks such as “Jennifer’s Body” and “Nightcore” exemplify Ken’s signature style, featuring elements of rage, plugg, cloud rap, and pluggnb subgenres, while “Green Room” and “Lose It” are examples of development in Ken's sound, with similar sonic choices to those made in If Looks Could Kill, however, incorporating distorted production and overdriven 808s. Interestingly, Ken, a producer himself, wasn’t responsible for much of the production on the album, with producer credits going to creators such as Starboy and Atlanta-based production team 808 Mafia.
A Great Chaos steps out of the long shadow cast by Whole Lotta Red, marking the enablement of smaller artists such as Ken Carson to grow and evolve the rage sound without following the lead of Playboi Carti, the undisputed pioneer of the genre. I really enjoyed the album, and have loved every re-listen so far. I’d rate it an 8/10 and am very excited to see it performed live. Stay tuned for more, in particular, an album review of Homixide Gang’s 10/26 release, 5TH AMNDMNT (spoiler: not that great).
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