Travis Scott is a man who seems to thrive on the hatred lobbed towards him. Since 2012 the Houston rap-star has battled criticism of being an industry plant, to biting most of his musical style from his mentor Kanye West. Through it all though, Travis has delivered album after album of bangers that leave even the harshest critics raging along with him.
On his newest record, Astroworld, this remains much the same but it also refines elements of Travis’ past releases to give us his best crop of songs yet. At its core, Astroworld is defined by the spectacle and wonderment that Travis experienced during his childhood trips to the titular park. And although the real Astroworld is no more, Travis manages to capture those feeling into these songs.
From the get-go, Travis welcomes the listeners into the world of the album with ‘Stargazing’ a perfect thesis statement for the rest of Astroworld. The opening of the track with its bass raddling trap hi-hats and Travis’ auto-tuned falsetto feels like the slow climb over the first hill on a roller-coaster. But then the halfway point hits and the beat switches and Travis goes from 0 to 100 leaving the listener feeling like their being whipped around in the best way.
It’s an exhilarating track and it’s one of many to offer the kind of thrills that Travis has been trying to showcase in his last few releases. Of course, Travis doesn’t have much to say in these songs. Drugs, sex and partying are still at the forefront, but where this kind of repetition might bother me on a lesser record, Travis just sounds so good here it doesn’t matter.
This is helped too by the cavalcade of artists and producers that Travis surrounds himself with. Even if a Travis verse isn’t up to snuff there is always a production flourish or guest verse to take your mind off things. Just like this years A$AP Rocky album, almost every track on Astroworld features a guest, but where that albums additional voices didn’t add too much Travis manages to place them in the right spots to let them shine.
Be it Frank Ocean delivering some of his best bars yet on “Carousel” or newcomer Juice WRLD crooning out a sweet hook on “No Bystanders” the features here add to the amusement park feel by offering up exciting rides of their own. Even smaller moments work well against bigger ones like Swae Lee’s vocal harmonies placed under a monstrous Drake verse on “Sicko Mode.”
And then there is the production, which is surprisingly varied, and gorgeous sounding. Along with Travis typical collaborator, Mike Dean there work from Hit-Boy, Sonny Digital, Murda Beatz and many more. Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker even adds some appropriate psychedelic drumming on the druggy highlight “Skeletons.”
Each of these producers adds upon Travis’ already proven dark trap sound to add something new like the piano on “5% Tint” or the guitar licks on “Wake Up.” Just like the features, these production choices make each song feel like their own attraction in the amusement park.
But this does lead to some of the album’s failings, because if you’ve ever been to a sideshow you know some of the sights are more disturbing than entertaining. The subdued single ‘Butterfly Effect” feels even more out of place on the album and 21 Savages verse on “NC-17” is so bad that completely derails the track.
Ultimately though Travis does succeed in bringing that childlike fun of being at an amusement park to this album. Sure it might not stick with you for long and there is a ton of other more dense albums out at the moment, but for my money, you won’t find a more enjoyable summer release than this.
Astroworld is out now via Epic/Grand Hustle/Cactus Jack.