Travis Scott - 'Astroworld' Album Review
I promise I'm going to try and limit the amount of theme-park-based jokes in this review but it's important to address the roller-coaster that is Travis Scott's career up to this point. His debut album Rodeo in 2015 revolutionised modern hip-hop and pushed trap into a darker, more sinister sound putting it up there with some of the best hip-hop albums of the decade. But his follow up Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight was a complete misfire, seemingly doing away with most of the interesting production and intoxicating vocals that made Rodeo so great. Not even mentioning the dull and repetitive Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho collaborative project in 2017, Travis' creativity and impact took a nosedive after Rodeo but fans still held on to one saving grace, Astroworld. Announced in 2016 fans clutched at Astroworld praying it would see him back on form as one of pop-rap's most interesting artists and as it finally releases 2 years later I can say with a huge smile on my face that it definitely has. While not quite reaching the heights that Rodeo does, Astroworld see's Travis back on top of pop, with an album dripping with atmosphere and psychedelia.
When listening to an artist like Travis I think it's important to make a distinction on what I'm looking for from his music as it's no secret that he's no lyricist, often recycling the same cliche bars about his rockstar lifestyle. However this isn't what makes him such a great artist as it's his ear for production and creating soundscapes that has got him where he is. The way that Astroworld is structured is an educational study in atmosphere as the intro track 'Stargazing' really feels like walking up to a cosmic theme-park with the abrupt beat-switch transitioning you inside the gates. From here every song is draped in style and this moody-aesthetic that Travis helped create back in 2015. Some of the beat switches on this album are downright disgusting like the soon-to-be infamous switch at the start of 'Sicko Mode' cutting off Drake to make way for a glitchy and alien banger that Travis flows over impeccably.
This is another major improvement for Travis as his flows on songs like 'No Bystanders' and 'Astrothunder' are far and above what we expect from the autotune rapper. Calling him that isn't meant as an insult, as I think there is a place for autotune in the pop landscape and Travis uses it well on Astroworld to further his psychedelic and cosmic atmosphere, even if his monotone voice can get a little grating after a while. One thing that helps alleviate this monotony is the list of features longer than the cast of a Tarantino movie. Some highlights come from Kevin Parker of Tame Impala who produced the trippy and synth-y 'Skeletons' and Frank Ocean who delivers a chilling hook, elevating the otherwise boring 'Carousel'. The standout feature performance is by far Don Toliver who delivers a passionate and unconventional hook on 'Can't Say', one of Travis' catchiest songs to date.
However sometimes the features serve to take away from some songs on the album like the dull 'Who? What!' featuring a vanilla verse from Quavo of Migos or the hilariously awful verse from Nav on 'Yosemite' that sounds like it was recorded on an Xbox microphone. Despite these slip ups, the main thing that I can say about Astroworld is that it is consistent, both in the quality of the songs and the atmosphere they serve to create. Each song sees you walking further and further into this psychedelic theme-park that is both parts demonic and beautiful. On Astroworld, Travis takes on more of directorial role, much like a Kanye West, he is the glue that holds the album together. Injecting it with his signature dark and moody production and an assortment of fantastic features, Astroworld is a much more fulfilling release than his recent track record, putting Travis Scott back on top of the pop-rap landscape.
Listen to the album in full below: