Over the past four years, few have gained as much traction and acclaim as Travis Scott. Raised in Houston Texas, the polarising artist discovered and developed his unique sound that, over three solo studio albums, has continued to evolve and grow along with a mysterious persona. So with the long-awaited release of Astroworld, and the accompanying tour that expected to follow, let’s take a step back and clarify how each of these albums stack up against each other.
Birds in the Trap Sing Mcknight (2016)
Birds in the Trap Sing Mcknight is an underwhelming follow-up to Travis’s initial behemoth of a freshman album. It takes the glitch distortion sound established in Rodeo and creates a half-baked project filled to the brim with disjointed and boring leftovers. The album occasionally, though rarely, shows what Travis is truly capable of. The album opens adequately, with his opening track “The Ends”. The song begins with a lengthy and unnecessary monologue, followed by a surprise appearance of energetic Andre 3000’s verse. However, all initial momentum is immediately thrown out the window with “Way Back”, a jumbled mix of could-be hooks gluttoned with annoying ad-libs.
The mediocre ideas continue with “Coordinate”, where the listener hears Travis mumblingly repeat a barely audible chorus next to an excruciatingly bland trap beat. “Through the Late Night”, actually displays promise with old-school Kid Cudi humming over a French refrain and magnificent instrumentals. Unfortunately, after that hook is repeated nearly five times, the novelty wears off and begins to drag until Travis Scott is finally tapped for a verse.
He pulls a nostalgic throwback out of his sleeve, literally referencing “Day’n’nite” , and rhyming one of the first great verses of the album. Positively, Travis leaves two of his greatest songs in his entire discography hidden in this generic trap haystack. The first of which is “Goosebumps”, a dark trap banger that has Travis slowly, but powerfully singing over these eerie and ambient beats with an iconic and masterfully slurred chorus. Then there is Pick Up the Phone”, the track that actually made me a fan.
The song opens with a menacing verse, overlapped with steel drums and lyrics chanting about the cold shoulder he’s receiving from a girl he wishes to commit to. These two tracks are this albums saving grace, and if enough attention was put into the rest of the album Travis would have a masterpiece on his hands.
Astroworld is a ambitious leap in the right direction. The album kicks off with “Stargazing”, a journey through space immediately returning Travis to his former glory. Using distortion, a syncopated beat, and that glorious auto-tune, Astroworld kicks off to a much higher standard than previously. The psychedelic shenanigans continue on “Sicko Mode”, a beat changing adventure featuring Drake.
Travis learns to finally acknowledge his calmer side, and glossy tracks like “Skeletons” or, “RIP Screw”, are both lavish displays of production. After his departure from G.O.O.D music, Travis has clearly struggled with chopping up his own beats and its satisfying to witness him find his sweet spot again. The variety continues with “Coffee Bean”, wherein a rare lyrical moment, a relaxed Travis rants about the expectations and controversy surrounding his relationship with Kylie Jenner.
Nevertheless, the awesome hooks and gimmicks are still here in plenty. The high pitched Don Toliver and booming bass are an immediate draw on “Can’t Say”, and the loud chanting and falling instrumentals on “No Bystanders” make this one of the most hype tracks on the album. The impressive guest list continues to become even more unbelievable, with Kid Cudi’s hums partnered with melancholy instrumentals on “Stop Trying to be God”, and a delightful harmonica solo from none other than Stevie Wonder. However, it’s far from perfect. I’ve certainly heard enough The Weekend features on Travis’s albums, and the weird lyrics on “Wake Up” usually lead me to skipping the track entirely.
Also, I feel that the single, “Butterfly Effect”, is still sheepishly boring, and didn’t really have a place on this album. Regardless, Travis created something special with Astroworld and I appreciate Travis embracing his roots and realizing his missteps.
Rodeo is a modern rap classic. With Travis Scott’s first full-length studio album, experiments and variety are embraced entirely. This in part thanks to the one and only Kanye West, whose signature gravitas and bombastic nature act as icing on the production, and whose fingerprints can be found on just about everything else. That signature auto tune we all know and love is escalated on “90210”, a slow ballad complete with melodic singing, synth keyboard beats, and a chorus hitting gorgeous electric guitar riffs. However, that’s only the first half of the song.
After a beat change, Travis runs through an aggressive verse about fame accompanied by a piano and bongo drums. It has something for everybody. There are stunning R&B moments like, “Pray 4 Love”, where The Weekend delivers beautiful synth-infused vocals while Travis gains momentum on a verse that absolutely soars into the chorus. The legendary “Antidote”, where Travis loudly proclaims that staggered chorus surrounded by those angry guitar strums and snappy drum beats is utterly amazing. Sub-genres like Soul are embraced on tracks like “Apple Pie”, with its major chord piano melody ,background singers, and a heartfelt verse about how he’s determined to escape the shadow of his predecessors, and no longer rely on the legacy of his family.
One of my personal favorites is “Flying High”, with psychedelic and wavy instrumentals, along with an alluring chorus by Toro y Moi. Travis goes hard on “I can tell”, a song that would go on to inspire a generation of mumble rappers. Finally, the rap-rock Kanye feature is a blast and is unlike something either of them have ever done before. Rodeo is an absolute journey to listen to, and one that I continue to find new surprises within. It’s only a shame that Travis’s Scott's magnum opus had to be his first.
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