The world has waited patiently, if not tirelessly for Travis Scott to follow up to 2016's monumental Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight. With one album, Scott changed the face of hip-hop. In the two years since it's release, Scott has ridden the wave to fame, and is now back and ready to change hip-hop again, hopefully for the better. Travis Scott's ASTROWORLD was worth the wait, and has a level of creativity and sensibility that may just revive a dying genre.
The worst part about trap music is the lack of personality in many artists. Trap rappers feel so caught up in themselves and lack a sense of musicality that a lot of their tracks come off as dull. Of course, there are exceptions, and trap is beginning to branch out into a new beast, yet it's undeniable that the formula that used to produce monumental tracks has long since become unusable. Travis Scott is the one who set that precedent, however, and in ASTROWORLD, he breaks it. ASTROWORLD feels more grounded in late-2000's rap than it does in the current rap-stratosphere, full of active beats, samples, and constantly changing flows. Opening track 'STARGAZING' perfectly encapsulates the dynamic of ASTROWORLD: it's chill intro brings the record to a nice start, before the beat stops and restarts as something completely different, featuring arpeggiating synths that slowly grow and build more complexity as it goes. It's as experimental as it is poppy, a mix that's very hard to do, especially given what Scott is working with. But he does it perfectly, showing that ASTROWORLD is not a one-track ride full of empty trap beats that you've heard a thousand times.
On top of ASTROWORLD being daring enough to constantly change things up, it boasts a huge amount of collaborators from across a multitude of genres. The first notable feature: Frank Ocean. He guests on second track 'CAROUSEL,' its dark beat continuing off of the chill precedent from the previous track while adding a great hook delivered by Ocean to tie the song in together. Drake kicks off the next track 'SICKO MODE,' with such a demanding demeanor that even if you're sick of Drake, you can't help but feel a rush of excitement at. He digs in darkly and unrelentingly, before a fake out of sorts resets the beat into something more calm, ultimately returning to Drake's dark delivery in the end. All the collaborations work together to create a real interesting dynamic on ASTROWORLD that keeps it diverse: Tame Impala and Pharrell assist 'SKELETONS,' where The Weeknd croons before he returns again for a rawer, sensual beat on the following track 'WAKE UP.' Gunna and NAV trade off on the chill, gorgeous 'YOSEMITE,' the sweet guitar riff and light flutes and synths carrying the track peacefully and beautifully. Kid Cudi leads 'STOP TRYING TO BE GOD' before James Blake interrupts with a vocoded section that offers up introspection, which is then followed by a harmonica solo from Stevie Wonder.
The problem of trap music is largely a result of ego. It's become an easy gateway for any young rapper to get money, fame, and whatsoever else they may want. It's become a machine worn down by people who just want clout. Why Travis Scott succeeds is simple: he has a sense of conscientiousness. He doesn't settle for the bare minimum, which is seen in the dynamic beats he chooses to use. He wants to change the game rather than to follow it. Even safer tracks, like 'BUTTERFLY EFFECT,' ooze with a sensibility that feels lost in so many other rappers now. Not every track is a game-changer, but none are similar to one another, and, more importantly, are not similar to what's already been done. 'NO BYSTANDERS' roars with an angry, gang vibe while other tracks like 'CAN'T SAY' - though it's hook is a bit much - keep it more relaxed. There's a great balance and a very musical approach to this record, which is why even Migos' Takeoff and Offset sound like they have something to offer up in 'WHO? WHAT!' Travis did not settle for the minimum. He went the full way.
Travis Scott's ASTROWORLD was worth the wait, and hopefully, if it's impact will be anything like his groundbreaking previous effort, will mark a shift in trap. What sets Scott apart from all his other contemporaries is that he is not a follower. He's not chasing after anything; if anything, he's wallowing in everything he has now. All the same, he hasn't let what he has now become a reason to sell out. For a trap record, this effort is big. And for hip-hop, let's all hope it marks a new era where a genuine want for creativity rather than clout is what succeeds.
Favorite Tracks: YOSEMITE, STARGAZING, SICKO MODE, STOP TRYING TO BE GOD
Least Favorite Track: NC-17
Rating: 80 / 100
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