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Album Review: Travis Scott’s ‘Astroworld’

Delivering a roller coaster of high energy bangers over an expansive thematic landscape, this could very well be Travis Scott’s magnum opus.

Travis Scott’s progression as a hip hop artist has always been fascinating. Starting out as a Kanye West prodigy, Scott quickly proved his worth within the industry through his nocturnal production methods, and unique auto-tune design. /

His first two mixtapes, Owl Pharaoh and Days Before Rodeo, displayed a great deal of potential. His innovative drum programming became a tool West greatly appreciated when he allowed Scott to assist him with the creation of Yeezus back in 2013.

Even with a bright future from a production standpoint, the Houston rapper still suffered from a lack of lyrical prowess, something that would eventually plague his first two official album releases, Rodeo and Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. Despite some impressive sounds scattered throughout each project,  Scott hadn’t reached his full capabilities quite yet. 

After a disappointing turnout on his collaborative effort with Quavo at the end of 2017 ‘Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho’, Scott released Astroworld, in 2018. The album was relentlessly teased for about two years, and quickly turned into one of the most highly anticipated projects of the year.

Not only does Astroworld live up to its warranted hype, but Scott surpasses expectations in creating his own rendition of the torn down Houston amusement park, incorporating  psychedelic joyrides and recurring beat switches to the highly anticipated attraction. Scott intertwines different genres with ease, utilizing some of his biggest influences (like Tame Impala and Stevie Wonder) in the process. 

 Scott invites listeners into his coked-out amusement park on the intro track “Stargazing,” The song incorporates a myriad of infectious lyrics onto an incredibly amped-up drum loop. The song is topped off with a beat switch that will surely make one feel like they are experiencing their own drug trip.

The opening song perfectly represents Scott’s uncanny ability to carefully curate each and every facet of his artistry. He gives equal attention to the aesthetic of his brand as well as the production of his tracksAstroworld  feels like a roller coaster ride from start to finish. Scott follows “Stargazing” up with “Carousel,” a Frank Ocean-featured track that sensibly incorporates dream-like piano keys, and ominous screams into the background of the instrumentals  The song itself sounds as if one we on an actual amusement park ride.

The Houston artist then gifts listeners with a gorgeous exhale on “R.I.P. Screw.” The track is a much-deserved ode to one of Scott’s idols, Houston producer DJ Screw, who passed away in 2000. The track oddly fits with the overall landscape of the album, and provides another example of why Scott shouldn’t just be considered a “trap artist.” The production on the track features a calming energy, specifically when it comes to its simplistic synth patterns, and tranquil bass-line. It’s a total 180 from “Sicko Mode,” but it effectively balances out the tone of the album, thus adding another dimension to the record.

There are plenty of other moments where Scott masterfully extends his arsenal outside of the box people tend to put him in. Stevie Wonder’s harmonica on “Stop Trying to Be God” may just be the newest trend in modern-day rap music (remember when the flute was a thing?). Even John Mayer makes a entrance onto the album, both on the surprisingly introspective “Astrothunder,” and the steamy sex anthem “Wake Up.” Both songs still play toward Scott’s strengths, while staying in tune with the overall theme of Astroworld

Scott has shown huge improvment to his lyrical ability in his latest work. There’s something personally fulfilling when listening to “Yosemite,” especially when paired with the music video. Cactus Jack even dips his toes into comedy with lines like, “eating that punane got my bangs wet” on ‘NC-17’, or, “at Christmas time it’s no Saint Nick, we got the Grinch” on the heavy-hitting Migos track, ‘Who? What!’. 21 Savage assimilates his own debauchery on the former track, “NC-17.”

When listening to a Travis Scott record, one should expect the unpredictable. He’s been crowding fans with different sounds since his Rodeo days. It wasn’t until Astroworld where Scott finally developed his creativity into a more focused platform. He did it so well that psychedelic acts Tame Impala (“Skeletons”) and Thundercat had room to add their own sought-out techniques to the project. 

Essentially, this is Scott’s best effort to date. The rapper successfully integrates his innovative ideas into one clear and concise thrill ride, and has now entered the mainstream spotlight because of it (“Sicko Mode” reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100). Although the actual amusement park may be torn down, but Astroworld will continue to live on because of Travis Scott, and the many producers that made this experience so fun to be a part of./

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