The heavy anticipation surrounding Travis Scott’s third studio album, ASTROWORLD, has been two years in the making.
The Houston native announced the album’s title back in May 2016, four months before the release of Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. That alone told fans that ASTROWORLD was “the album.” Many felt Birds lacked where Rodeo excelled. The disappointment of his collaborative effort, Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho with Quavo, made fans weary that Rodeo La Flame might be long gone. Scott always delivers a solid single here and there, but the fans wanted another project to reach the greatness and brilliance that Rodeo displayed.
With that being said, I’m here to declare that Astroworld is undeniably his strongest release to date. The album is named after the now-closed amusement park in his hometown of Houston, Texas. It feels like a humid day at a local amusement park full of thrilling rides, fast women, and lots of surprises. Scott is removing himself from the pack as far as trippy-psychedelic raps goes; a sound that ASAP Rocky has failed at. La Flame’s projects and shows take you on a journey and make you feel every one of his lyrics as though you are on the drugs with him. The album opens with “Stargazing.” Rapping “Psychedelics got me goin’ crazy,” his voice sounds like a synthesized robot as he pays homage to Houston legend Big Moe and shouts out Ellen DeGeneres. This is Travis giving us what we came to love about him; a vibe and a feeling.
AW has a perfect balance of heavy hitter features (Drake, the Weeknd, Frank Ocean), indie artists (Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, James Blake), and new-wave rappers (Gunna, Sheck Wes, Juice WRLD). Of course the production is the star of the album, with some of the most potent beats La Flame has delivered to date. “Astrothunder” features contributions from Thundercat and John Mayer, while “Stop Trying to Be God,” Scott’s best attempt at a ballad, is laden with harmonica lines courtesy of the legendary Stevie Wonder. The album is layered beautifully with samples throughout—like the fluttering guitar lines blending the hook of Uncle Luke’s “I Wanna Rock (Doo Doo Brown)” on “Sicko Mode,” his popular track with Drake.
“R.I.P. Screw” and the haunted Goodie Mob sampled “5% Tint” were both handled by frequent Scott collaborator FKi 1st. FKi is known for helping craft Post Malone’s sound, and from these two tracks we see the two Texas natives’ parallels are uncanny.
Scott’s one flaw on the album is also his strength. La Flame is a maestro at conducting all the sounds and feels we love — A fact that becomes apparent during Drake’s verse on “Sicko Mode.” Yes, Drizzy steps into La Flame’s world, but he still outshines him. On “NC-17” 21 Savage lets off one his best verses while Scott floats around the ghostly sounding track. It’s clear that Travis is a producer at heart and has no problem taking the back seat.
As the album nears it’s end, the lines between where Travis’ sound begins and Kanye’s influence ends start to blur. The lyrics on “Skeletons,” “If you take your girl out, do you expect sex? /If she take her titties out, do you expect checks,” evokes memories of Kanye’s lazier work. “Coffee Bean” mirrors the downbeat self-reflecting tone of “30 Hours,” addressing his and Kylie Jenner’s relationship and his complicated feelings on the matter; “Your family told you I’m a bad move/Plus, I’m already a black dude.”
As I stated at the beginning of this review, Astroworld is Travis Scott’s best work. The project starts off with a bang and then dies down a little, but the sound is progressive, nonetheless. La Flame creates a perfect concoction of turn up tunes and vulnerability. The album cover sends a welcoming and inclusive message (even without the regrettable absence of trans model Amanda Lepore). Astroworld is a mind-altering invitation into Travis Scott’s world of layered production, animated sounds, and intricate sequencing.