Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Drake, Stevie Wonder, James Blake, and more serve as special guests on the rapper’s most hyped album to date.
The long awaited ASTROWORLD from Houston rap sensation Travis Scott finally dropped this week. On his third studio album, Scott uses his signature psychedelic style of music to create a piece of work that is full of stellar production and infectious beats along with the assistance of many pleasing features.
It opens with ‘STARGAZING‘ – which appeared on the trailer for the album. The track begins with a low-key beat and simple lyrics about his use of drugs and going crazy. The beat then slows down to a stop accompanied by a roller coaster sound effect to relate to the theme park concept. From there it abruptly transitions to a beat reminiscent of a 16-bit video game soundtrack paired with hot bars from Travis. The transition between the two parts of this track is sudden, however it does add an interesting layer to the song and makes for a stronger opening with that extra verse.
‘CAROUSEL’ is up next and features lended vocals from Frank Ocean. The beat is subtle with bright sounds throughout to give the vibe that the listener is riding a light and bright carousel (obviously). Ocean delivers a variable performance with deeper, more low-key vocals on the hook and a vibrant sound on his verse which contrasts Scott’s lower end vocals.
We then transition to what will most likely be the biggest hit off of the album. ‘SICKO MODE’ is the star-packed banger featuring Drake, Juicy J, and Swae Lee. It opens up with an organ-esque beat and mundane vocals from Drake, which abruptly cut short when Scott spits over a banging beat with the help of distorted vocals from Juicy J and a higher melodic tone from Swae Lee. The least interesting part of this song comes from the third part where Drake comes back for a prolonged verse over a relatively basic Tay Keith beat. The hook for the third part is uninteresting and repetitive, however Travis delivers on his verse following with a decent flow and bars.
Taking a step back and slowing down, ‘R.I.P. SCREW’ is one of the more melodic songs on the album to honor the memory of DJ Screw – a rapper that cemented most of Houston’s hip-hop scene early on. Swae Lee gives his typical vocal performance over the somber, synth-filled beat. However, the rhyme and lyrical content of Scott’s verse leaves much to be desired, and the lyrics overall do little to pay homage to Screw.
Keeping with that same tone, ‘STOP TRYING TO BE GOD’ brings another somber beat with features from Kid Cudi, James Blake, and Stevie Wonder. Cudi brings his signature “hmmm” to the song on the hook and nothing else, but kills his humming anyway. Scott’s vocal performance on this track is one of his best on the album, however Blake absolutely steals the show in his performance which left me wanting more. Blake and Wonder then close out the track harmonizing on the outro which results in a very ethereal vibe.
Scott then picks up the pace a little with ‘NO BYSTANDERS.’ This is another banger featuring the ‘Lucid Dreams’ rapper Juice WRLD – who brings a melodic performance on the bridge and Sheck Wes on the hook. Scott’s flow forces the listener to turn up and will make for a fan favorite live performance.
It then slows right back down with ‘SKELETONS,’ bringing melodic performances from Pharrell Williams and The Weeknd. Scott gives a short verse and leaves room for the vocals of Pharrell and The Weeknd. The light guitar on the beat compliments the two singers to create a wavy sound that is sonically relaxing to the listener.
The Weeknd then returns for another performance on the next track ‘WAKE UP.’ The two give their performances over a guitar with some Southern vibes that is fused with some R&B-type beat. The song truly feels like you are in a dream that you do not want to wake up from, in this case being the romantic and sexual relationship.
‘5% TINT’ is another song that highlights Scott’s rapping ability and bars. The beat is one of the most low-key off the album, sparing use of piano and orchestral sounds. The focus of this track seems to be centered more on Scott’s actual vocals, which he delivers without seeming out of place with the beat and still keeping it with little emphasis.
‘NC-17,’ my personal favorite track off of the album, contains a haunting beat that creates an atmosphere of fear for the listener. 21 Savage delivers a surprisingly stellar performance that fits the beat perfectly with the vibe of the song. Scott’s higher-pitched vocals bring out the horror aspect of this track even further.
Following that, ‘ASTROTHUNDER’ is a short track that seems more like an interlude than a full track. The beat doesn’t bring anything inherently interesting to the table and neither do the vocals from Scott. It makes for a good track to vibe to, but nothing very special. This was more of a filler.
‘YOSEMITE’ is another low-key track that delivers on the beat. It features a nice guitar and flute combination that create a heavenly atmosphere for the listener. The feature from Gunna on the hook is fine, but his lyrics are often indiscernible and you can hardly tell what he is saying. Additionally, Nav’s feature on the outro is too quiet and gets drowned out by the beat. Scott’s verse is passable, but not enough to carry the track with weak features.
In stark contrast, ‘CAN’T SAY’ delivers on the vocals over a relatively simple beat. Scott keeps it melodic on his portions. However, the true highlight is the feature from Don Toliver, whose unique sound and voice make the track as great as it is.
‘WHO? WHAT!’ is the most radio-banger sounding track and features Quavo and Takeoff from Migos. Both deliver very basic performances that could be heard on most Migos songs.
The lead single from this album ‘BUTTERFLY EFFECT’ – a catchy affair – was released back in May of 2017 and has already gained its status as a hit by becoming certified double platinum. The infectious hook sticks in your head until you can’t help but bump to it.
‘HOUSTONFORNICATION’ tackles Travis Scott’s experiences living in the city of Houston. After all, this album pays ode to the city that gave birth to him. Scott spits some great bars and switches his flow up from time to time over a dramatic beat. The song itself serves as a worthy dedication to his hometown while discussing some of the vices of it in a similar way to the Red Hot Chili Peppers track ‘Californication’ that the title was inspired by.
The final track of the album ‘COFFEE BEAN‘ brings the most heartfelt and meaningful performance of the album. This track discusses Scott’s relationship with Kylie Jenner that has been met with criticism on both sides. The track serves as fitting closer to the album as it examines this aspect of his life over a solemn beat and has the most emotional heart of the entire album.
ASTROWORLD, overall, delivers on what many fans have been endlessly waiting for. The album does, however, have a lot more low points than many would expect from a Travis Scott album. With fantastic production, some good features, and potential hits such as “SICKO MODE” and “NO BYSTANDERS”, this will be an album that many people will be bumping to for the rest of the year and is a definite staple in Travis Scott’s discography. But does it cement Scott as a legend in the game? Not quite yet.