Updated: Dec 26, 2018
When the intro to Travis Scott’s latest solo venture begins, it feels incomplete without Travis screaming “New York City make some noooooiiise” over the opening chords. If this isn’t a testament to Travis’s live performance then I don’t know what is. Part of what makes Astroworld the thrill ride that it is, is imagining the chaos at a Travis show during one of his manic performances. Envisioning Off-White clad teenagers hurling themselves off of balconies, in to the welcoming arms of other over enthused Travis Scott fans, to the tone of “No Bystanders ” is pure insanity. The Travis Scott aesthetic, be it the cowboy themed stages of the Rodeo Tour, or the flying bird from Travis’s opening act on the DAMN Tour, is half of the enticing value. Astroworld is able to transport a listener from their bedroom, to the centre of a crazed mosh pit at the Terminal 5 club in New York City. It is inclusive in its nature; everyone is invited to come join the rage. After all, that is one of the most attractive qualities of Travis’s most recent project, and his catalogue as a whole. His music is about finding your inner child, and experiencing the joy and excitement that come with adolescence. At its core, Astroworld is a trip to the local amusement park, enjoying the rides and funnel cake, and then taking a joyride to the moon for sport.
Something about Travis Scott’s enigma, his rare silver–grill–filled smile, and his reclusive social media presence, draw fans closer to him, fueling their crazed obsessions. Travis’s mystique, his awkward interviews juxtaposed with the insanity at his live shows present to us a complex figure: a celebrity whose intricate inner workings remain unclear to any fan.
Aesthetic aside, Astroworld is musical gold. Easy on the ears, with seamless transitions, a clean mix, and beautiful beats, there is no doubt that it sounds amazing. Travis plays the role of a DJ Khaled, or maybe more apropos, a Kanye West. In the early stages of his career, Travis seemed to be in constant pursuit of Kanye’s sound, at times flat out settling in the role of a Kanye clone. It now seems that Travis has successfully emulated Kanye — in the sense that he has orchestrated a glitzy, cohesive project — without blatantly imitating him. Throughout his career, Kanye has been at his best when picking and choosing the best features and producers at the most appropriate moments. "RapGenius” has 7 credited artists on Kanye’s “All of the Lights,” and not one of them feels unnecessary. Much like ‘Ye, Travis’s most important role on Astroworld is picking and choosing artists to curate an engaging soundscape. While Astroworld is feature heavy, each artist plays a very specific, and intentional role. Swae Lee’s “someone said” refrain on “Sicko Mode” feels every bit as important as up-and-coming Don Toliver’s renegade of “Can’t Say.” “NC-17” loses its gritty tone without an attention-commanding 21 Savage appearance. Without Juice Wrld’s chorus on “No Bystanders,” there is no despondency to find comfort in after Sheck Wes’s “(expletive) the club up” adlibs. The array of producers with credits in the track listing only adds to the diverse sound already accomplished by Travis’s crew of collaborators. Astroworld’s producers span all across the board, from Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, to Memphis’s hottest rising producer, Tay Keith. Frank Dukes, Wondagurl, Bo1-da, John Mayer, and more provide additional production. Without the vision and networking ability of the main artist, these moments are impossible.
Where Astroworld lacks is in Travis’s lyrics. In his rush to the top of the rap game, his lyrics have taken a back seat to allow for a stronger focus on production. This is why mega-fans of Rodeo, Travis’s critically acclaimed debut album, may feel disappointed with the new LP. On Rodeo, we heard stories of the Houston born rapper’s upbringing with “Oh My Dis Side,” his bemoaning the Hollywood lifestyle on “90210,” and the brilliance of the Justin Bieber featuring “Maria I’m Drunk.” On Astroworld, Travis focuses more on glamorous production, Auto-tuned harmonies, and a strong cast of features (all of which he accomplishes).
In terms of career progression, Travis Scott is doing just fine. While Birds in the Trap Sing Mcknight, and Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho both seemed lethargic — lacking focus and energy —Travis picks it back up on Astroworld. He has come into his own as an artist, using his idols merely as inspiration, not the blueprint. With a supporting cast this strong, a cleanly executed theme, and unadulterated energy, Astroworld is a success.
Best Songs: “Carousel,” “Sicko Mode,” “Stop Trying to be God,” “Skeletons,” “5% Tint,” “Astrothunder,” “Can’t Say,” “Coffee Bean”
Worst Songs: "Yosemite," "Who? What?"
8 out of 10 Finches