DISCUSSION: ASTROWORLD by TRAVIS SCOTT
It’s been almost two weeks since Travis Scott dropped his third studio album, Astroworld. Travis has definitely been seeing his fair share of recognition in that time, and for good reason. That said, I want to dedicate this post to focusing in on the meaning behind this album, as well as how it stands compared to the rest of his discography. So, let’s dive into Astroworld! (*que “STARGAZING” instrumental)
For two years, Travis Scott has been promoting and teasing his third full-length project, leaving fans anxious and on the edge of their seats waiting for the album to finally drop, if ever. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of artists teasing the release of a project when in reality it isn’t dropping for another year (*cough* Lil Uzi *cough*). At any rate, we have the album; it’s finally here. I was expecting BIG things from this album, considering the amount of talent Travis has accrued over the past several years, being a well-known prodigy of Kanye West and a student of Kid Cudi. And I wasn’t disappointed, as I’m sure other fans could also attest to. This album is filled with incredibly high moments, not only that will inevitably be defining moments in Travis’s career, but for hip hop in general. I think what has set Travis apart from his contemporaries in the past is his vision for aesthetics to a body of music. The ways he’s able to make the listener feel like he/she is entering into a sort of alternate universe is a testament to that vision. With each project, Travis introduces his listeners into alternate realities that explore different parts of his own psyche. And that is no different on Astroworld. In the intro track, “STARGAZING,” the vibe of the first half of that song makes me feel like I’m hopping into a spaceship to be taken to a galaxy far, far away. And at the mid-way point of the song, the instrumentals stop for a second, making you think the trip is over, only to find the beat completely switches up into something completely new, signifying the entering into this alternate universe, a universe Travis calls Astroworld. Of course, the word ‘Astroworld’ comes from the old Six Flags Astroworld theme park from Houston, Texas. Travis, being a native of Houston, Texas, feels a deep connection to the park as it brings back memories he experienced as a kid. The park closed down in 2005, but Travis has resurrected and reinvented the park into a newly found universe in the form of this album. Even as we are entering into Travis’s new world with the second set of instrumentals on the opening track, he says,
99, took Astroworld, it had to relocate/ Told the dogs I’d bring it back, it was a seal of faith.
Travis paints a picture of recognizing the demise of his once loved amusement park, but tells his loved ones he’d bring it back one day. August 3, 2018 was that day, and now we’re all able to experience his newly created Astroworld.
Each track on this album feels like its own roller coaster ride; some faster, others smoother. But the fastest rides in Astroworld seriously take you for a spin, with tracks like “NO BYSTANDERS”, “5% TINT”, “NC-17”, “SICKO MODE”, “WHO? WHAT!” and, my favorite track on the record, “HOUSTONFORNICATION.” The transitions are insane, topped with Travis’s menacing flow make for an extremely unique listening experience. Of course, we’re met with the star-studded features along the way in the likes of Drake, 21 Savage, Quavo, Takeoff, Swae Lee, Juice Wrld and Sheck Wes. Speaking of features, the song “CAN’T SAY” contains my favorite guest verse from Don Toliver, an up-and-coming artist from none other than Houston, Texas. If you’d like to get more familiar with Don’s solo material, please check out Donny Womack. And I have to mention the fact that Frank Ocean decided to grace us with his presence on the song, “CAROUSEL.” Leave it to Frank to introduce the world of Astroworld to the listener after the intro track as he sings on the chorus, “Brand new, brand new/ This new place I got to/ New world, new sky/ That’s so blue it’s black too.” Even Frank admits that the world we’re entering into with this album is unlike anything we’ve ever seen or heard. A tip for any major artist out there: put Frank on at least one song in your album (or just have him make the album for you). Nothing will go wrong, I promise you.
I love how in this album we’re met with these fast paced tracks, but also calmed down by songs like “RIP SCREW”, “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD”, “ASTROTHUNDER” and “COFFEE BEAN.” These tracks get me just as hyped as a song like “NO BYSTANDERS.” The production is A-1, but Travis showcases so much versatility, arguably more so than what he displayed on Rodeo! I love the tribute to the late DJ Screw. I love how he incorporated Stevie Wonder, Tame Impala AND John Mayer. I LOVE the 90’s R&B style groove in “COFFEE BEAN.” There’s just so much to this album that it has only grown on me since its initial release. My only knock on it is “Butterfly Effect”… why put it on there, Travis? It’s a decent song (a hell of a lot better when he performs it live, I tell you), but it’s been out for well over a year. Why not stick “Watch” on here, instead? That track’s one of my favorites of the year, but whatever… “Butterfly Effect” is fine..
So with all this in mind, it begs the question: how does Astroworld rank up against Travis’s previous bodies of work? Personally, Astroworld is right up there with Rodeo for me at this point. It has so many raw, psychedelic elements that I’ve been waiting Travis to experiment with. Not to say Rodeo didn’t have those elements on there, as well, it’s just taken to a new level on this album. And although I enjoyed Birds In The Trap for what it was, I don’t think that project comes close to the impact both Rodeo and Astroworld have/will have on the hip hop and music community. Finally, Huncho Jack.. slaps. “Where You From” and “Dubai Shit” make that project for me. It’s on par with Birds as it doesn’t push the envelope stylistically, but contains some extremely catchy hooks and verses from both Travis and Quavo. So I guess if I were to rank Travis’s discography all in order, it would go: 1A) Rodeo 1B) Astroworld 2) Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight 3) Huncho Jack 4) Days Before Rodeo 5) Owl Pharoh.
Feel free to let me know your personal list, and I’ll leave you with this for now: Astroworld is a phenomenal album and an extremely unique listen. I truly believe that anyone can like something about this album, regardless of music taste. If you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor and give it a try. You may like what you find.