As the man who many say is responsible for influencing Kanye West’s sound, Scott has lofty expectations attached to his third outing. He’s already a star, but there’s something missing that will push Scott to the Rockstar stratosphere.
So is this the album that does it for him? Here are five things that struck our ears upon the first listen to Astroworld.
Travis Scott pushes his artistic boundaries even further than expected
After a first listen, it’s obvious that Scott had a goal to tap into his curation superpowers. There’s a clear overarching goal that he’s looking to accomplish by crafting an album that wastes nothing. Not a guest or an instrument feels out of place. Each song has a unique aesthetic and ambiance that highlights Scott's strength; it’s as if the influence of Kanye West was magnified and brought into 2018. There’s the youthful energy the Quavo and Takeoff assisted “Who? What?” that will have heads nodding in approval, as well as the maddening Beastie Boys loop that is submerged under Frank Ocean vocals on “Carousel” that demonstrates Scott’s ability to tap into numerous vibes and deliver them effectively.
The title is appropriate for the musical journey
Astroworld is one hell of a ride, where each song is like a different attraction while managing to fit the overall theme of Travis Scott’s hyperactive mind. The aesthetic and textures of the album are brilliantly laid out as the listener journeys from one ride to the next. You'll enjoy some rides more than others, but this is undoubtedly Travis Scott’s most mature work to date. Songs like “R.I.P. Screw,” which involves a homage to the late Texas DJ, serve as the calm walk to the next adrenaline-filled rush, like the volatile “No Bystanders,” where you’ll most definitely want to throw a chair through a window. It’s the ebb and flow that makes this album everything you want out of the shuttered Houston theme park that it is named after.
Astroworld is an epic collaboration project where every guest nails it
Yes, it’s a Travis Scott solo album, but this could be deemed as something akin to a DJ Khaled album, with all of the guest spots. While it can be considered a crutch for some artists to jam pack their album with guests, Scott effectively orchestrates each guest's involvement, making sure they all play a vital role in shaping the sound of the album. Think of it as Travis Scott having a plethora instruments at his disposal and knowing how to play each one. Other collaborative albums have guests for the sake of having the opportunity to show the world how deep one's personal contacts list is, but Scott ensures that each guest has a purpose. No guest is misused or inserted arbitrarily.
"Sicko Mode" is the most daring use of Drake
Imagine that you have a Drake feature in your back pocket. Normally, you wouldn’t do much more than let the 6 God rip one of this trademark verses. But Travis Scott eschews normalcy and opts to go a different route with Drake on "Sicko Mode." Right as Drake gets into a groove, Scott abruptly cuts him off mid-verse, switches up the beat and goes a completely different route. But fret not, the rest of Drake’s verse is coming back around. You just have to wait for Travis Scott to get a couple of verses in, with Swae Lee and Juicy J dropping by for the bridge. Several minutes later, Drake returns to finish what he started as the two polish off one of the more unique songs on the album.
“Stop Trying To Be God” might be the collaboration of the year
Travis Scott has some epic moments on this album. But none may be more remarkable than “Stop Trying To Be God,” where he brilliantly brings together Kid Cudi, Stevie Wonder’s harmonica, James Blake and Philip Bailey. Scott delivers a narrative about remembering where you came from, but the guests are what really add the bells and whistles to the song. Kid Cudi’s hypnotic hum and Stevie Wonder’s harmonica are instrumental in pushing the song along, before James Blake’s melodic vocals bring it all home. Its beautiful, atmospheric vibe is one that will catch the listener by surprise and cause the staunchest detractor to reconsider their opinion on Scott’s ability as an artist. Hearing Stevie Wonder play harmonica over a Travis Scott production while James Blake croons is something that sounds absolutely outlandish, but Scott manages to bring it all together brilliantly.