- The spacey & innovative production
- The ambition of the project
- The underwhelming guest spots
- The monotonous overuse of autotune
The theme of the album is derived from the influence befitting the title – ‘ASTROWORLD‘ was a theme park in Travis‘ hometown Houston – aims to give you a lucid and trippy roller coaster theme park experience. Spanning an engrossing 17 tracks that run for one minute shy of an hour, the project gives plenty of time for you to go on many of the rides and see all the sights.
The 3rd studio album from established hip-hop artist Travis Scott was one filled with hype and excitement, with some even considering him to take over where Kanye left off – Travis can be viewed as a direct descendant of the combination of seminal Kanye albums ‘808s And Heartbreak‘ and ‘Yeezus‘. From the off the album’s blend of experimental tracks and beats, mixed in with Scott’s vocals have a surreal and almost trip-like experience and one I find to be very pleasing.
When analysing the lyrics it is apparent this is some of Travis Scott’s best work to date, with some meaning and introverted content. An example of this is found on the star-studded track ‘Stop Trying to Be God’ (featuring Kid Cudi, Stevie Wonder & James Blake). A piece that to me showcases how far Travis has come so far, lyrically and musically. With lyrics like “Cause they did not create commandments. When you hustle, always make it fancy.” A touch of how lyrically gifted the rapper can be.
What is most frustrating about the project, is it’s inconsistency. For each real high, there are an equal amount of lows. In my eyes far too much of the album can be lamented for sounding quite samey, despite the commendable production as the vocals tend to be stagnant and basking in autotune monotony. Cuts like ‘Who? What‘ and ‘Yosemite‘ are examples of this, where generic and unimpressive guest spots fail to illuminate the enticing beat they are layered on top of.
A main and consistent aspect of ‘ASTROWORLD‘ is the poor quality of the guest features, save for a few spots like Frank Ocean’s illusive as-ever performance on ‘Carousel‘ and the aforementioned ‘Stop Trying To Be God‘. In particular the contribution of Drake on ‘Sicko Mode‘ is just bizarre & feels shoddy, as he seems to be essentially bragging about how taking half a xanax on a long flight had him “out like a light” – how are we supposed to react to this? ‘Oh wow Drake uses prescription drugs as prescribed, damn son what hard bars!!!’
Promoting drug use culture is (sadly in my eyes) far too prominent a feature on the album, yes I realise this is a common feature in rap music, particularly mainstream rap music and artists I like have and are occasionally guilty of this, but Travis‘ (and all the guest features) do it in such a played out, predictable & recycled way. Furthermore, Travis professes to not using all these drugs he’s promoting, claiming in interviews that “I am a drug, sober” and that “It stresses me out because people think I’m on a lot of drugs, which fucking pisses me off“, retorting “I’m not at all“. He goes one step further to even shit on the people that lap up his drug-fuelling music by saying “I think that’s weak people need all that weird shit just to, like, tap into their fucking brain“. He is therefore considered in the same realms of deceit for projecting a fake musical persona that Future is.
The production is by far the best thing about the album, with it’s cosmic spacey sonics that are exciting and provide a dimension-warping quality, the lively enticing beats have an “astronomical” feel, as Travis states on album opener ‘Stargazing‘. The beat switches we are accustomed to from Travis‘ music are dotted around ‘ASTROWORLD‘, keeping you on your toes. Beats are menacing and threaten damage to your speakers, they have a looming presence and feel very alive. Boisterous and flamboyant in places, dreamy and ethereal in others, unpredictability is a key factor as you really don’t know what’s around the corner when listening.
However, one downside to the record is the multitude of producers on the project. Sure it makes sense in today’s industry, to have various different individuals including the likes of Tame Impala, WondaGurl, 30 Roc, John Mayer and many others. And while it adds enough variety to the album, I do feel it can come across as too many cooks in the kitchen. None the less, the experimentation exhibited and innovative production produced for the most part is a positive, although in places is a case of knowing where to stop with said experimentation.
Instead of the unique and extravagant theme park it appears to be; chocked full of equally ecstatic and terrifying rides, in reality it’s more like a stale go on the tea cups while being surrounded by screaming kids as you try to fathom how they can be so seemingly mesmerised by the mediocrity, the experience that falls far short of what you’d hoped it would be from the incredible looking exterior and all those posters plastered around town. ‘ASTROWORLD‘ is far more like the mobile fair that comes to your town once a year that is always frightfully disappointing but by the time it’s looming again the following year, for some reason you convince yourself it will be better and deliver the full-on enthralling theme park experience it promises.
‘ASTROWORLD‘ is out now and available on all streaming sites, as well as for purchase on Travis‘ website here.