Houston, we have lift-off! I repeat! We have lift-off!
The listener has landed on Travis Scott’s third studio album Astroworld. By now, Travis has been known to write and produce hits for all the stars. Eventually, after working with his musical influencer, Kanye West, he became an in-house producer for G.O.O.D. Music. Creating his lane as the the true successor of West’s 808’s and Twisted Fantasy eras, Scott takes his own sound a step further on this new LP. The Houston native and hitmaker has crafted the perfect, dark wonderland advertised in the album cover.
The album is the sonic equivalent of a club that was blasted off into space, crash-landed on some distant yet familiar planet, and made into the most dangerous, fun amusement park in the universe. The journey begins on “STARGAZING” where the ears are treated to bass and trap drums that are as captivating as they are mesmerizing. It is as if you are in the ship looking out in space traveling at hyperspeed, wowed by everything going on around you. The second half of the song lets the listener know that the fun ride is over. It’s time to get to work as the beat changes and shifts the tone for what the listener should expect from the album. The construction of the nightmarish amusement park has begun. From that point on, it has you in its grasp.
The ride continues to string you along with twists and turns equivalent of the best thrill ride. Almost every song has a beat switch, the best series of which comes on “SICKO MODE”. Each one straps you in and lets you wait for the drop. Another standout is the “somebody ‘bout to fight” anthem “NO BYSTANDERS”. As the song implies, no one is going to be standing to the side when the beat drops. If you are on the wall, you are doing it wrong.
Throughout the album, there aren’t lyrical backflips or tongue technology that you have to rewind, but some witty or funny bars jump out when they can. They are drowned in autotune and ad-libs that hype them up. The lyrics don’t have to catch you, because the beat is punching you in the face and it is not letting you go. After it’s done with you, thank you is the only thing you can say.
The album does take a turn after the track “NC-17”. The thrill hasn’t stopped but the momentum slows greatly. The production isn’t as loud, and even when it is, it doesn’t take as many risks as the preceding tracks. None of them are particularly bad – some catchy hooks are being laid down, but something loses the shine – it’s Travis. While he doesn’t have to be the best rapper, the charisma isn’t there. The junk food you had been scarfing down at the park isn’t bad but it isn’t giving you anything else, because you have eaten too much of it. The sign of too many tracks weighing down the project.
Luckily, the last song brings it all home. While you are in the car, contemplating on everything you had done that day “COFFEE BEAN” rears it head to take you through Travis’ mind. It is the one song out of place on the album content and beat wise, but individually, it is one of the highlights. It offers a new side to Travis that is never truly explored and possibly a preview of what’s to come.
Astroworld is undoubtedly the best produced album of the year. Something that shouldn’t surprise anyone, as it has been two years in the making, truly demonstrating what can do when they take their time. More than anything else, this album emphasizes how much rappers need to thank their producers and engineers – the masterminds behind the curtains that operate the rides you love so much. Astroworld is a thorough joy to the ears with its ups and downs. Travis once again shows why he should be considered to be a part of the stars fans like to shoot in the sky so much. Get your bags ready, because the park is open.