Music Review: Travis Scott’s ‘ASTROWORLD’

It’s always been about the “Ragers.”

Since Travis Scott announced the title of his third album, ASTROWORLD, in 2016, along with last year’s collaborative project, Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho, with Migos front man, Quavo, fans’ anticipation arose to seemingly immeasurable bounds. As their expectations grew, Travis continued to tease the project’s release, announcing the album’s progress while performing on his “Birds Eye View” tour.

Still, through a series of delays and misdirection, no release date was set. It would be several months at a time before new information surfaced regarding the project. But after two years since his last solo effort, Birds in the Trap Sing Mcknight, and the appearance of giant golden-headed La Flames were set at various locations around the country, fans’ teaser albums, mock track lists and outside speculations died and their inner “Ragers“ began to ignite.

As promised, the 26-year old artist and producer drew us into the hyper-exhilarating realm that once encompassed the now-defunct Astroworld theme park. The music, like the impulsive shifts of the park’s “Excalibur” and “Skyscreamer” rides, offers a gauntlet of calculated tonal transitions, only comparative to the roller coasters Scott admired as a kid and attempts to recreate throughout the project.

The album’s opener, “Stargazing,” marks the entrance into the 75-acre world he immortalizes. “‘99, took ASTROWORLD, it had to relocate/Told the dogs I’d bring it back, it was a seal of fate.” It’s a sonically psychedelic trance, with Travis’ signature auto-tune crooning and reverb-filled falsetto setting the project’s tone. Then, around the song’s half-way mark, it fades into the song’s final stretch of thrilling euphoria. The three-part, “Sicko Mode,” is possibly the most chaotic on the project. References alone, the song pulls samples from Uncle Luke’s “I Wanna Rock” and Biggie Smalls’ “Gimme The Loot,” while still managing to stick the landing.

Just as the 17-song track list transitions from hallucinogenic-trap (Wake Up) to stadium tour anthems like “No Bystanders” and “Who? What!”, Travis consciously embraces more personal and emotionally-focused fluxes. “Stop Trying To Be God” is Travis’ plea to embrace one’s past, present and forthcoming journey. “Strive for it every night/Visions and these angles tight/Truth be told I never try.”

On “Coffee Bean,” he reflects on the struggles he’s faced since being inserted into the cloak of mainstream success, considering his relationship with Kylie Jenner and ties with the paparazzi attraction, the Kardashian and Jenner Klan. Not only acknowledging the overabundance of attention he’s received since dating the recent Forbes List mogul and fathering the couple’s child, Stormi, but also the stress and criticism he’s faced within his newfound family. Though Travis has skimmed over the surface of his personal life in past projects, this is the deepest he’s ever cut. “If Ari told you I’m a bad move/Plus I’m already a black dude.”

ASTROWORLD feels like the first project crafted mainly by Travis himself. Now, while It’s largely a collaborative effort from superstar producers like Sonny Digital, wondaGURL, Hit-Boy, Tay Keith and features from Frank Ocean, Drake, Kid Cudi, Swae Lee and Stevie Wonder, it’s driven by his vision. They’re seemingly the engineers behind Travis’ construction of the project’s sonic landscape and psychedelic direction.

The rigid ends and unevenness of ASTROWORLD  make it as thrilling as the former theme park, all to Travis’ amusement. Though some have continued to compare him to his contemporaries and musical visionaries like Kid Cudi and, most often, Kanye West, this project separates Travis from the comparisons. The futuristically raw sounds he pioneered on Owl Pharoah and Days Before Rodeo have finally reached its purest form, establishing him as one of the biggest influencers in music. Even more so, ASTROWORLD shows Travis’ ability to elevate high-priced production and orchestrate a resounding palette all his own.

As heard from Stormi herself: “Buckle up!” ASTROWORLD is more than worth the price of admission.

SCORE: 8.4/10

 

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