The Houston rapper’s third studio album is his most ambitious and accomplished project yet, expertly melding trap bangers with strange psychedelic flourishes.
When Travis Scott opened his electrifying headline set at Longitude with the then unreleased Stargazing, it felt like being welcomed to his home planet. It’s appropriate that just like his show, Astroworld is also opened with Stargazing; a psychedelic banger which is the culmination of his moody drugged-out sound which can also get thousands of fans moshing. The wait after longitude for the album to be officially released felt like an eternity. Now it is finally here, and it does not disappoint.
Astroworld is the album Travis Scott has been working towards his whole career. The long-awaited album has been teased to fans for over two years, even before his second album Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight and Quavo collaborative album Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho; both of which felt like placeholders to tide fans over while Scott worked on Astroworld.
Scott burst onto the hip hop scene in 2013 when he released his debut mixtape Owl Pharaoh and worked on Kanye West’s Yeezus. He showed tremendous potential with a good ear for experimental beats, but since then he has frustratingly failed to live up to his potential.
He has often struggled to balance his strange production style while also trying to make pop hits. He has achieved occasionally, most notably with his first hit song Antidote. However, on Astroworld Scott has finally refined his sound to a happy medium which should appeal to both the mainstream and fans of his early experimental work.
The album’s lead single, Butterfly Effect, teased the masterful mixture of weird production and pop melodies when it was released over a year ago. Now that it has finally been released, the album lives up to the promise shown by that single, and Scott’s promise as an artist overall.
During a year in which we’ve been disappointed by rushed albums from the biggest rappers in the game, such as Drake’s Scorpion and Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys, it is refreshing to hear an album which took time to perfect.
Far From Perfection
However, it’s not all positive, Scott has simply never been that interesting as a rapper, often leaning on the production and features to carry his songs. While he has certainly improved over the years, his lyrics still lack the personality or wit of his peers. Say what you want about Drake but at least we get a sense of his personality from his music; three albums in and I still couldn’t tell you much about Travis Scott’s personality other than that he likes drugs.
But if you are going to coast by on the production and features, then it helps to be able to afford the hottest talent in the industry. The album contains features from everyone from Drake to Frank Ocean, production from Thundercat and John Mayer, and even a gorgeous harmonica solo from Stevie Wonder on standout track Stop Trying to be God.
Overall Astroworld is far from flawless, it is overlong and inconsistent. It is almost too ambitious at times, with certain experiments such as the psychedelic Tame Impala-produced Skeletons failing to add much the album. But a few misfires are acceptable when the highlights are some of the best hip hop songs of the year.
Travis Scott is on top of the world right now, he just had a baby with self-made billionaire Kylie Jenner (“Baby mama cover Forbes, got these other bitches shook”), he’s headlining festivals, and he’s on the top of his game both critically and commercially. Here’s hoping that this isn’t his peak, but rather his belated breakthrough. For five years I’ve been somewhat sceptical of the praise he receives, but this time he deserves it.
By Peter Comiskey