Stand out Tracks: "SICKO MODE," "5% TINT," "WAKE UP"
Release Date: August 3rd, 2018
The Houston rapper’s latest is a dark, spacy and unpredictable rollercoaster ride that's lush in complexity and allows listeners a peek into the life of a rap superstar..
The seemingly endless wait is finally over. Astroworld is Travis Scott’s third studio album. It arrives after more than 2 years since its initial announcement in May of 2016. It’s hard to describe this album as anything but formidable. When Travis Scott traveled to Hawaii with several talented producers and some of the industry’s biggest names earlier this year, many compared the roster to that of Kanye West’s during the making of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. There are features from Frank Ocean, Drake, and the Weeknd. There’s production from Hit-Boy, Tay Keith, and Wondagurl as well a slew of other producers. Some collaborators from outside the genre of rap are also present. Tame Impala, James Blake, John Mayer and Stevie Wonder are all credited as contributors. Though not without its flaws, Astroworld serves as a beautiful tribute to Houston and is the dark and spacy wonderland that Scott had always envisioned.
The opening track “Stargazing” boasts a trippy main melody with eardrum ringing snares and crisp cymbals. It immediately immerses you into a cold and psychedelic atmosphere. Scott’s autotune and yelpy falsetto vocals add many layers of excitement to the song. The later beat change completely drives up the energy to a point of pure intensity and insanity. The following track is the more laid back “Carousel” that contains an excellent Frank Ocean feature. The bright and punchy keys mixed the echoey backup vocals make for an instrumental that’s rich in texture. The third track “Sicko Mode” is separated into three different parts. The song sees Travis and Drake go back and forth over 3 grimy and exciting instrumentals. It’s arguably the most hard-hitting track on the album. A perfect variety pack of exciting sounds.
“R.I.P Screw” is a tribute to the late DJ Screw and has Swae Lee on the hook. “Stop Trying To Be God” is one of the few tracks where Scott had a significant role in the production. This song is a beautifully layered triumph. James Blake lends his voice as well as Kid Cudi who hums away during the intro. Music legend Stevie Wonder shows off his harmonica talents as well. “No Bystanders” features two of the strongest newcomers in rap, Juice Wrld, and Sheck Wes. Juice Wrld’s hook is the perfect balance of catchy and haunting. The production is punchy, and the song contains an homage to the classic Three Six Mafia song “Tear Da Club Up ‘97”.
The following tracks “Skeletons” and “Wake Up” both feature The Weeknd and continue the albums’ hot-streak of dense and unique instrumentals. “5% Tint” features an angry and infectious piano-lead beat that could’ve fit into Scott’s 2015 album Rodeo. “NC-17” sounds like a theme song to a horrifying circus ride. The track sees Scott teaming up with Atlanta rapper 21 Savage. The 11th track “Astrothunder” is a highly atmospheric song that features bass playing from Thundercat that gives the instrumental a bouncy main groove.
“Yosemite” sees producer Turbo add some southwest flair with some twangy guitars. The track also has Gunna on the hook and a confusingly quiet guest verse from Nav. “Yosemite” along with the following 2 songs fail to live up to the extravagance of the first 11. Released last year, the hit song “Butterfly Effect” makes an appearance on Astroworld. Despite its soothing beat and undeniable catchiness, ‘Butterfly Effect” has a hard time fitting in with the well-established theme of the album.
The final two tracks mark a return to form. “Houstonfornication” displays a ton of enthusiasm from Scott, and the tempo of the instrumental makes it an undeniable banger. “Coffee Bean” is everything you could ask for in an album closer. It isn’t a grand spectacle one would expect, but producer Nineteen85 gives us one of the best beats on the album. The sound of the rugged guitars and the cellos perfectly fuse with a much more introspective Travis Scott than we're used to hearing.
Travis Scott has given us another bold effort. His goal of creating an album that’s the music equivalent of a bustling amusement park has come to life with near-perfect execution. There are moments where Scott sounds completely re-invented. It’s clear that a lot of hard work and dedication is present on this record There are stretches of this album that fail to impress but the highlights present on Astroworld completely outweigh the negatives. It’s incredibly satisfying to say that Travis Scott is once again working at a masterful level. Astroworld solidifies Scott’s status as one of rap music’s most remarkable curators.