On first listen, Travi$ Scott’s long-awaited advent project plays out like a high-octane scene from the 1982 cult film, Blade Runner. There are raging, futuristic synths, bombastic bass lines, and they’re all layered under this mysterious, trippy ambience. Upon further listens—and there’s a lot to digest here—Owl Pharaoh remains equally invigorating and insistent.
Stylistically, the Houston wunderkind exhibits a lot of the qualities of his mentor, Kanye West. He’s got the spirited hunger of a young T.I. too. There’s even some Kid Cudi in here, but everything considered, Travi$ isn’t a rip-off of megastars. There are obvious influences, but they’re channeled into something that’s uniquely his own. The piano-laced “Hell of a Night” is a great example of this, transitioning from something that initially reminds strongly of ‘Ye before becoming something entirely different.
From the haunting “Meadow Creek” to the surreal “Chaz Interlude” (with Toro Y Moi) and apocalyptic “Quintana” (with Wale), the 2013 XXL Freshman laces up a laudable body of work. While he’s still finding himself lyrically, his work behind the boards and eagerness to try new things keep this from becoming problematic.
The pothole-damaging “Uptown” with A$AP Ferg sounds like an orchestra playing over Midtown Manhattan rush hour traffic. “Drive” with James Fauntleroy shows radio instincts and Travi$’s bleeding potential, as do the stadium-ready “Dance On The Moon” and “Bad Mood/Shit On You”.
Perhaps Owl Pharaoh’s sole drawback is that it still doesn’t quite seem to answer the question “Who exactly is Travi$ Scott?”. Luckily for him, this incredibly cohesive debut is so mesmerizing that everyone should want to find out. —Ralph Bristout (@RalphieBlackmon)