“ASTROWORLD” is the third studio album from Houston trap rapper, Travis Scott. This is a 17-song album that comes in just under an hour and features a wide list of artists, including Drake, 21 Savage, Tame Impala, The Weeknd and James Blake.
I have been a fan of Travis Scott ever since his “Rodeo” album back in 2015. Here, Travis made some of the best trap music the genre has seen, with “Oh My Dis Side” and “3500” being some of my favorites to this day. His next album, “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight,” was another solid project, though a slight step back from his previous effort. It has been two years since “Birds” was released, and I was very excited to see where Travis could take his consistently intriguing sound with this highly anticipated album.
Much like what he did on “Rodeo” and the best parts of “Birds,” Travis has found a way to excellently combine some of the best production of the year with a variety of different artists, as well as finding a way to bring some strong verses of his own along the way. “ASTROWORLD” is Scott at his most sonically interesting and diverse yet.
This starts with the intro, “STARGAZING,” which is a gorgeously produced track from start to finish. The opening half hits very hard, and if the whole track went in this style, it would have been good. But, it is the out-of-this-world beat switch that makes this song such a highlight. Travis comes out of this switch with some of his most impressive bars to date, as well as with a brilliantly energetic delivery.
Only one track is able to top this opener, and that, without a doubt, is “SICKO MODE.” I could go a whole review on how much I love this song, as it is up their with the best track that Travis has ever crafted, and is easily one of the best songs of 2018. The intro is insane, both beat switches are masterful, and both Travis and Drake on the feature bring the perfect amount of energy and intensity. I love the way Drake is split into both the intro and a separate verse, and I love the use of Swae Lee in this song. Also, the Uncle Luke sample in the middle of the song gets me amped more than any singular moment in a song this year.
“STOP TRYING TO BE GOD” is a song that works for Travis in an entirely different facet, and one that I didn’t know that he could do. This is a much more laid back, insightful track that features the likes of Kid Cudi, Philip Bailey, James Blake and a Stevie Wonder harmonica, and it all comes together brilliantly. I love the message of artists thinking they are literal gods, and the chorus from Bailey and Cudi’s hums works magically with Wonder’s instrumental. A great song turns fantastic with Blake’s outro, making this song one of Travis’ deepest, most unique moments of his career.
Where many trap rappers would come out with a new project that stays very much in their wheelhouse, releasing banger after banger with similar production, Travis finds ways to come through on slow songs, melodic beats, acoustic guitars and much more, while also finding ways to improve on the banger side.
The songs “SKELETONS” and “WAKE UP” back-to-back both really bring Travis’ diversity to this record, as the first one introduces production by Tame Impala, bringing a sound unlike any other on this album, and Travis handles it excellently. The Weeknd is on both songs, but he really shines on “WAKE UP,” giving the album one of the most infectious choruses on the project.
I could talk about the amazing production on nearly every song, as it is consistently unexpected and beautifully strung together. I love the mix-ups on “NO BYSTANDERS,” the “Cell Therapy” sample on “5% TINT” and the R&B flavor of “CAN’T SAY,” as there are only a few rare moments where I didn’t absolutely love the instrumental side of the track.
The features list runs long on “ASTROWORLD,” but that doesn’t mean that Travis gets lost under them, which has been a problem with some of his songs in the past. Because he has found a way to adapt and improve his song in new genres and styles, Travis brings unique flows and energy to multiple songs here, with his mediocre lyrics only occasionally bringing him down.
But, if we are talking features, there are some fantastic ones to be found here. Drake is great, yes, but of the opening songs, it is Frank Ocean on “CAROUSEL” that stood out even more for his verse that reaches high into the upper register, while still sounding as emotional as ever. Gunna deserves a load of credit for his stunning chorus on “YOSEMITE,” which is another standout track, as does Don Tolliver on “CAN’T SAY.” For two relatively new faces, they both made a huge impact on their respective songs, showing more as essential pieces than forced features under Travis’ label.
The album closes on “COFFEE BEAN,” a deeper cut than any Travis has ever attempted. For the most part, I really enjoy the song, as it shows even more range for Travis, and the lyrics about his relationship with Kylie Jenner, though not as deep as they could have been, still feel sincere and give a whole new layer to the album.
Though mostly hits, there are a few tracks that felt more good than great. I can get behind the sentiment of “R.I.P. SCREW,” but I felt it’s placement after “SICKO MODE” made it feel like a massive slowdown that I couldn’t get fully behind. Travis isn’t at his very peak on “NC-17,” but, thankfully, 21 Savage is, and he really makes the track work, especially with the “baby face” bar of the century.
“ASTROTHUNDER” and “HOUSTONFORNICATION” are both fine songs, especially for lacking features, but because they are just Travis, they do tend to get stale a little faster than some other cuts here. The only song I can say I didn’t really enjoy was “WHO? WHAT!”. Travis is okay on here, but goes for too long, and Quavo and Takeoff add so little to the song I wonder why they are even there. This is also the only generic beat on the entire album, and this could have easily been a song that didn’t make the cut. Also, I like “BUTTERFLY EFFECT,” it was a fun single when it released nearly 15 months ago, but it did not need to be on here.
There are no lyrics that felt brutally awful from Travis here, and that is all I’m really looking for with him. But, I cannot go through this review without mentioning how comically low volume NAV’s verse is on “YOSEMITE.” It’s been fixed now, but on release, this thing was hysterically soft, and even now the verse is about 15 seconds and terribly unnecessary.
“ASTROWORLD” is Travis Scott’s best album to date, bringing together genres and new sounds unlike any of his efforts previously. The features are great, but Travis isn’t overshadowed by any means, as everyone works together on top of some of the most well-produced songs you will hear in 2018. There are some shortcomings here and there, the lyrics could obviously improve and NAV’s feature is still hilarious. Still, this is an incredibly tight album, something I haven’t been able to say enough about rap albums this year, and Travis really cemented himself as a man who can do much more than a trap banger.
What did you think of “ASTROWORLD”? Comment below with your thoughts.