Travis Scott has amassed the sort of industry cache that comes with earning the respect of his peers rather than having to open up his checkbook, leading the way to a bevy of collaborations and features. For his latest full-length album, ASTROWORLD, Cactus Jack puts Houston firmly on his shoulders along with some of music’s biggest names to aid him in delivering his potent vision.
ASTROWORLD is the third studio record from Scott and comes almost two years to the date after his last release, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. The record was promised some time ago and fans were efficiently satiated with 2017’s joint project Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho alongside Quavo of Migos fame, but it wasn’t the project that truly delivered all the talent Scott has in his possession.
The album opens with “STARGAZING,” with production from 30 Roc, Bkorn, BWheezy, and Sonny Digital. This Kanye West-like approach to a production corps is a consistent theme throughout the album, and the star-studded recording sessions in Hawaii from earlier this year captured the wide scope of sound Scott was hoping to employ. The second half of “STARGAZING” might feature some of Scott’s best rhyming, and would have benefitted from being a longer version because of its energy alone.
Hit-Boy provides the backing track for the second track “CAROUSEL” and Frank Ocean lends his vocal assistance. Throughout the hazy, bass-heavy production, Hit-Boy adds a variety of elements that only serve to enhance Scott and Ocean trading verses before quickly morphing into “SICKO MODE” featuring production from Rogét Chahayed, Hit-Boy, OZ, Tay Keith & CuBeatz.
The track, split into three parts, opens with Drake, marking the third time the pair has worked together on a track before going into an extended second act with late Houston rapper Big Hawk of The Screwed Up Click sampled for the hook and assistance from Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee. The track ends with Drake and Scott going bar for bar over Tay Keith’s portion of the track with Drizzy rhyming with measurable aggression and Scott gives a loving reference to his daughter, Stormi and her mom Kylie Jenner.
Highlights continue with the Swae Lee-assisted “R.I.P. Screw” with production from Scott and FKi 1st, and the epic “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD” produced by Scott, CuBeatz, Mike Dean & JBeatzz, and featuring Kid Cudi, Earth Wind & Fire’s Phillip Bailey, James Blake and harmonica work from Stevie Wonder. Another on-paper pairing that works amazingly well is the Tame Impala-produced “SKELETONS” featuring past collaborators Pharrell Williams and The Weeknd.
On “5% TINT,” the homages continue with Scott using part of Goodie Mob’s “Cell Therapy” hook and saluting fellow Houston fixture Slim Thug with FKi 1st allowing Scott to be the star of the song. The album’s final three tracks, 2017 single “BUTTERFLY EFFECT” with production Felix Leone & Murda Beatz, “HOUSTONFORNICATION” with Sevn Thomas & Wallis Lane on the beats, and the closer “COFFEE BEAN” from producer Nineteen85 neatly wrap up the 17-song track, and completes the saga on a satisfying note.
Of the three, “COFFEE BEAN” is the most explicit look into his high-profile relationship with Jenner and with his vocals stripped clean of his signature auto-tune and yelping adlibs, it is perhaps the most vulnerable display of rhyming present on the record.
Travis Scott delivered his best album yet in his decade-long career in ASTROWORLD. While the concept of this album being something of a nod to the now-defunct AstroWorld park that shut down in 1999 is a loose one at best, what is firmly on display is the rapper’s knack for creating moods, delivering strong hooks, and constructing songs that sound leaps and bounds more polished than many of his trap-influenced compatriots. Even with some minor controversy regarding the album’s cover, there are several potential hit singles to choose from the cohesive project.
ASTROWORLD stands out as a true summer album that could very well put Scott in the conversation to be among the best of this current crop of twenty-something superstars angling for the top position.
Photo: Epic Records/Grand Hustle/Cactus Jack
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