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The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Liner Notes: Ken Carson goes mainstream with ‘A Great Chaos’

Illustration by Francesco Thorik-Saboia
Ken Carson released his third studio album, “A Great Chaos,” on Oct. 13.

Throughout his career, rapper Ken Carson has jumped between underground and mainstream music, but his new album “A Great Chaos,” released Oct. 13, may solidify his place in the latter.

With older projects boasting massive tracks –– “Yale,” has almost 136 million streams on Spotify, and “Rock N Roll” and “Freestyle 2,” each gained almost 50 million streams –– it’s obvious that Carson has consistently put out hits since 2020.


But despite some heavy hitters, the vast majority of Carson’s catalog hovers around several hundred thousand plays per track. Although these numbers are not unremarkable, it’s not much compared to larger rappers like Lil Yachty, Polo G and Playboi Carti.

However, “A Great Chaos” strikes a different balance in mainstream rap, and it seems like that space is where Carson will remain, given his history of hits and the monumental success of the album’s release.

The 18-track project was released on the same day as Offset’s solo sophomore LP, “Set It Off.” Carson outstreamed the Migos member by over 10 million streams during the album’s opening week.

Carson’s signing to Playboi Carti’s record label Opium in 2019 was definitely another factor in his meteoric rise to fame, especially since he was the first artist added to the label’s roster before its popularity rose significantly in 2020.

The Atlanta rapper’s 6.4 million Spotify listeners is impressive for an artist coming out of the Soundcloud-based underground scene. Autumn!, Summrs and Kankan, who also have roots in the underground, have about 1.1 million, 1 million and 2.3 million monthly listeners, respectively.

Carson’s vocal delivery varies throughout the album. He starts with his signature heavily autotuned, high-pitched and melodic rapping style on the two opening tracks “Green Room” and “Jennifer’s Body” then transitions to a deeper voice with a flattened cadence on the third track, “Fighting My Demons.”

This back and forth between high and low voices continues further into the record between “Nightcore 2” and the subsequent track “Rockstar Lifestyle.” The continued contrast in pitch adds an interesting dynamic and a layer of depth to the album’s sound.

Although many trap and pluggnb (a genre that incorporates elements of electronic music into rap) artists are not necessarily known for having remarkable lyrics, Carson delivers with hard-hitting bars on tracks like “Me N My Kup,” “Paranoid” and “Rockstar Lifestyle.” 

It’s just me and my cup in this b — / DRKSHDW all on my Rick / VVS all on my wrist,” Carson raps in “Me N My Kup.”

The production on the album is especially heavy on songs like “Succubus,” “It’s Over” and “Lose It,” which feature distorted 808 frequencies, fuzzy synths and deeply autotuned vocals that grip the listener’s attention.

Other tracks, like “Pots” and “Like This,” have fun, experimental melodies with chirping synths and smooth, well-mixed 808s that bring the song together.

“A Great Chaos” consistently keeps the focus on Ken Carson, with only four features by two artists on the 18-song album. Fellow Opium signee Destroy Lonely appears on “Singapore” and “Paranoid” and Lil Uzi Vert joins on “Like This.”

These features are perfectly spaced out on the tracklist and excellently match Carson’s energy.

Carson has significantly grown from his last album, “X,” where many tracks were simply boring or blended together. Every song on the new project feels like its own individual experience.

“A Great Chaos” is the next big step in the bold, electronic and melodic rap scene that artists like Playboi Carti, Autumn! and Destroy Lonely have been pushing for years. Carson’s newest album is a clear display of amazing production and vocal talent. I’d give it a strong eight out of 10.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @FrancescoThorik

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