Travis Scott’s ‘Astroworld’ Album Is the Best Version of Travis Scott
For Travis Scott, Astroworld is much more than just an album title. The name—a nod to a now-shuttered Six Flags-branded amusement park in Houston—represents a staple of Travis' childhood. He's bottled up that adrenaline and incorporated it into his long-awaited third album, a body of work that plays out like a 58-minute rollercoaster of thrills, chills and unrivaled pulsating energy.
The 17-track album kicks off with “Stargazing,” an atmospheric track that quickly sets the psychedelic trap tone. Travis lightly croons, “Whenever I’m down, it got me goin' crazy/Psychedelics got me goin' crazy,” later adding, “I was always high up on the lean/Then this girl came here to save my life." It's a reference to the highs, lows, ebs and flows that he's been through. Frank Ocean pops up halfway through the second track "Carousel," pairing Travis' paranoia with an angelic hook and verse.
The guest features play a major role in Astroworld's vast sonic diversity. Drake appears on the truncated three-in-one banger “Sicko Mode,” Swae Lee provides soothing vocals on the somber homage cut “R.I.P. Screw” while Kid Cudi, Gunna, Nav, Quavo and Takeoff all add vocals elsewhere. Surprisingly, the features don't bog down the album, though, instead adding a variety that fits within the album's theme-park vibe. Whether you prefer Travis’ softer side on The Weeknd-assisted “Wake Up” or the menacing 21 Savage-guested “NC-17,” there's an attraction for everyone.
Still, Travis is the show runner here. While he's natural-born hitmaker who often opts for vibes over introspection, he gives a peek into his personal psyche at times. Travis makes references to Kylie Jenner—Kardashian princess and the mother of his child—in ways that range from endearing to questionable. “Passes to my daughter, I'ma show her what it took/Baby mama cover Forbes, got these other bitches shook” he rhymes on "Sicko Mode," while changing his tone entirely on "Coffee Bean": “Your family told you I'm a bad move/Plus, I'm already a Black dude/Leavin' the bathroom, my hands is half-rinsed/If only a nigga just had sense."
Astroworld's production is a strength and weakness of the album. The futuristic trap symphonies are grandiose and poignant with producers like Wheezy, Tay Keith, WondaGurl, Frank Dukes, Hit-Boy, Cardo and Murda Beatz contributing to a contemporary clash of sounds. From the fluttery flutes used on “Yosemite” to the mosh pit-inducing Three 6 Mafia sample on “No Bystanders,” Travis shows incredible range. Yet there are too many beat switches and tempo changes within the confines of the same song, rendering a full playback mentally scrambling. The sheer amount of Travis’ signature ad-libs, rapid-fire hi-hats and Auto-Tune croons can leave an unprepared listener dazed and dizzy.
While Astroworld has some slight flaws, the project is Travis' best, most-progressive and most-well-rounded album to date. Hip-hop’s token rager is becoming a truly unstoppable force.
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