An In Depth Look at Travis Scott’s ‘ASTROWORLD’

Scott is playing the role of ringmaster in his own circus and at this point and nobody can stop him.

 

The most aesthetic way that I could describe what it feels like to plug in Travis Scott’s
third studio LP, ASTROWORLD, would be that it definitely feels as if one has mentally taken a
seat on a rollercoaster at the defunct theme park and is now sonically engaged into an
unpredictable cycle of dazzling psychedelic energy. One of Scott’s greatest attributes is his
ability to focus solely on his pocket – from his mind-numbing and spacey vibes all the way to his
menacing instrumentals and villainous shouts, tag-teamed with his grand ability to utilize artists
from all directions and place them strategically in the tracklist to ultimately curate the best
listening experience possible is beyond wicked. Opening a new chapter of his career, Travis
Scott is ready to come back home to Houston to give Texas its biggest nod yet and convince any
believer that hard work and a whole lotta heart can make it possible for anybody to live life to
the fullest behind the velvet rope. Although, not his most ambitious and hungry project to date,
ASTROWORLD is still legitimately worthy to be used as leverage in any debate that mentions
Travis Scott’s name from this point on. Emphasizing the power of exuberance and presentation
on this LP more than anything else, Travis’ holes in his game are exposed at certain stops of the
album, but never enough to the point to where Scott seems vulnerable, as the artists around him
and swirling production pick up any slack where needed.

 

It’s now been five years since hip-hop got derailed by the groundbreaking mixtape that
all genuine fans of the Houston native should be extremely familiar with by now, Owl Pharaoh.
Within only half-a-decade, the T.I. and Kanye West protege has proven himself to be the most
gorgeous of all diamonds in the rough. Quickly growing into an underground sensation, Travi$
Scott’s sprawling fan base quickly spread word of the new kid in the game with the wildest live
shows and music years ahead of its time. Another mixtape, two solo and one collab album later,
Travis Scott (now-formerly stylized as Travi$ Scott) has undoubtedly blossomed and molded
into the game’s next superstar and newest inductee into the class of hip-hop heavyweights.
Whether it’s for a quick hook on wax or for his ad-libs, Travis Scott’s demand is at an all-time
high, and to his veteran loyal fans, this newfound superstardom seems to feel like it all happened
overnight.

 

While discussing ASTROWORLD with a friend of mine, a thought occurred to me that
seemed to be a proven trend: almost every great and influential hip-hop artist of this generation
has already had their first big moment. This particular moment being: ALL EYES ON ME –
sales and billboard charting, Grammy nominations, the internet’s attention, dinner-table
conversations, merchandise sales, sold-out arena tours – I’m talking artists like Kanye West
(Graduation), Lil Wayne (Tha Carter III), Jay-Z (The Blueprint), Drake (Views), Kendrick
Lamar (To Pimp a Butterfly), Eminem (The Eminem Show), J. Cole (2014 Forest Hills Drive),
etc. The most important and influential artists of this generation, with the very unfortunate
exception of select few creators including Kid Cudi and Pharrell (both who still undoubtedly
deserved such moments), all had the sole spotlight at one point in their career. ASTROWORLD is
undoubtedly Travis Scott’s moment. Two years since his last solo effort and almost one full year
since the lackluster and muddy Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho collab album with Quavo,
ASTROWORLD has finally arrived with massive press, promotion and campaigning that went as
far as placing a giant golden Travis head on top of legendary record store Amoeba Music in
Hollywood.

 

The album begins with the far out and mellow “STARGAZING”. Evidently feeling
boring and a bit underwhelming for a Travis Scott intro at first, at the halfway mark an abrupt
beat-switch takes place and we’re enlightened that we are in for one hell of a ride.
“CAROUSEL” opens with a message from Texas legend Big Tuck and one minute into the track
we are met with our first major impression from the album: Frank Ocean has crawled out from
hiding and placed his soothing vocals on an album in the year 2018. At this point I’m at the edge
of my seat and fully engaged, due in part to a shocking alley-oop from Frank Ocean and the
ongoing trend of omitted feature credits and capitalization of album titles and tracklists. Even if
Frank didn’t perform his most astounding and breathtaking feature ever on the second track, any
Frank Ocean “stan” is left satisfied and happy to know that the young legend is still on the move.
Drake makes his entrance on “SICKO MODE” which turns out to be an automatic fan-favorite
for most, as it essentially is three separate songs combined into one. Travis’ vocals and delivery
prove to not be as compatible as Drake’s over Tay Keith beats, but with dizzy production on all
three separate legs of the track, by the end you still find yourself wishing it hadn’t have come to
a close. One DJ Screw shout out later and we finally find ourselves the first track with a
meaningful message. “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD” perplexes itself into being one of Scott’s
most haunting and thought provoking songs to date: with the always beautiful and paramount
Kid Cudi hums layered over the hook and an assist from a stunning Stevie Wonder harmonica
cameo, the track concludes with the brilliant James Blake singing about the redundant problems
that humans create by fronting like they are perfect, almighty, and never in the wrong. Directly
after a full five minutes of goosebumps and potential tears, ASTROWORLD viciously escalates
with rumbles from a Three 6 Mafia sample and hip-hop’s best kept secret, Sheck Wes, on the
neck-breaking “NO BYSTANDERS”, and then smoothly transitions itself into the floating Kevin
Parker production on “SKELETONS”. Halfway through the album and it’s impossible for me to
sit still as we are at the core of ASTROWORLD’s unpredictable facade. Scott is playing the role
of ringmaster in his own circus and at this point and nobody can stop him. As the LP continues
its development of mind-bending cycles, other takeaways include a classic Goodie Mob and Lil
Keke sample, another duo with The Weeknd, the wildly-humorous but still head-bobbing 21
Savage feature, a radio-furnished Gunna hook, and the finale to ASTROWORLD, “COFFEE
BEAN”. On the seventeenth track, Travis strips down the autotuned and fierce out-of-this-world
production to focus purely on the status of his relationship and his mental state as of late. This
particular record is a prime example of the holes that Scott’s game exhibits, as Travis makes his
best attempt to reflect and vent to anybody who’s made it this far into the album. Even though he
isn’t coming off as clever or outspoken as we would like, he’s already caught himself from
falling flat on his face, due in part to the moody production and echoed background vocals we all
needed to help unwind from the craziness that was ASTROWORLD.

 

Travis Scott threw everything but the kitchen sink at us on ASTROWORLD. Mentally, I
believe this album accomplished exactly what Travis Scott had intended it to. Travis has never
been one to “wow” listeners with his lyrical ability or cohesive storytelling, but where he lacks in
lyrical content, he always make up for in production, aura, presentation, curation and delivery in
order to make one of the most sonically refined albums of 2018 thus far. ASTROWORLD was
Travis Scott’s Graduation and was the security blanket that summer ’18 needed to fall back on
after the calamity that was Drake’s feature film-length Scorpion. As hinted at earlier,
ASTROWORLD feels like a rollercoaster in itself – with the opening tracks seeming as if the
coaster is inching upwards to its start, “SICKO MODE” officially kicks off the madness. After
the first waves of any great rollercoaster, it gets to the point to where you feel completely numb
– this is where the body of the album and its trance take position. And at the end of any ride,
there is no sudden stop – the coaster eases into its end steadily. “HOUSTONFORNICATION” is
the perfect finish to the ride and “COFFEE BEAN” is the most relaxing theme park exit and
walk to the parking lot that one can ask for.

 

ASTROWORLD is that chilling rollercoaster that you were scared to get on but
consequently ended up being glad you that you did. Travis Scott’s third studio LP was the result
of an influential artist hitting on all cylinders and targets on his biggest album to date to create
one of his most throwed projects in the discography that was sure to make the city of Houston
and the Screwed Up Click, dead or alive, extremely proud. Six Flags AstroWorld may have been
yanked away from Houston, Texas in 2005, but Travis Scott is here to stay.

 

Written by, Benito Davila

Benito Davila, A.K.A., Primetime Benny D, is a full-time film student at The University of Texas at Austin and the lead music reviewer for Drop The Spotlight. Primetime Benny D is a creator, actor, director, producer, writer, editor, curator, designer, innovator, filmmaker, and star.

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