September 2nd marks the one-year anniversary of Travis Scott’s second album, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. It was the album that propelled Travis into the mainstream with a slew of A-list features and Platinum-certified singles like “Pick Up the Phone” and “Goosebumps”. At the time of writing this post it is spending its 51st week on the Billboard 200, selling a healthy 12,900 units. Its success has clearly been extremely beneficial for Scott’s career, who has gone on to be the king of features this year, appearing on tracks with Calvin Harris, DJ Khaled (x 4), Major Lazer, SZA, Drake, French Montana, Migos and more.
Now that Travis Scott is a household name whose sound is being copied left right and centre, it’s time for him to follow the success of Birds up with AstroWorld. This is the highly-anticipated album that Travis announced over a year ago, teasing that it is set for a late 2017 release. But then again, so is the collaborative project with Migos’ Quavo.
It’s not wise to trust Travis’ word when it comes to these release dates. Both projects could come by the end of the year, or maybe one, or maybe neither. Either way, I want to put the Huncho x La Flame project aside to discuss AstroWorld, Travis’ next solo effort, explaining what I personally want to hear from the album and then concluding each one with what I realistically will be expecting.
1. No Artistic Dilution
Birds clearly aimed for a more mainstream audience. That meant it had to sacrifice the art trap elements that made Rodeo so unique. For AstroWorld I would like to see a return of that art trap approach; the 7-minute songs with progressive, layered production, attention for song structure and detail and beat switch ups. There can be an “Antidote”-styled hit here and there, but I wanna hear Travis at his creative best, not compromising for the charts. Now that the mainstream has accepted him, he should feel confident in returning to those fundamentals.
Travis’ post-Birds material has been some of his weakest songs to date. The three SoundCloud loosies that he dropped back in May come to mind. They were simply not up to par with his usual work, but that’s probably what happens when you record a lot. I just hope those and other songs in similar vein don’t make it to the album.
AstroWorld doesn’t have to be in this art trap style from start to finish, just enough for Travis to gain back some of his artistic creativity. Do I expect this creativity to return? Maybe for one or two songs, but not enough to the point where it will satisfy me.
2. Back to More Rapping
The Auto-Tune is good and all, however I would like a balance between rapping and melodic Auto-Tune singing this time round. Birds in the Trap was severely missing the normal-voiced rapping that made songs like “90210” and “Pray 4 Love” so memorable. Travis is able to say more when he is rapping rather than singing, which will elevate the substance of AstroWorld.
My realistic expectation: Travis will continue with Auto-Tune being the dominant approach.
3. No Trendy Features
On his last album Travis was able to get all the A-listers to feature, from Bryson Tiller to The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar and 21 Savage. On AstroWorld, I’d prefer to hear more from Travis himself and have less guest appearances unless they really add something special to the song. He threw us some underrated curveballs on Birds such as Cassie, Andre 3000 and Kid Cudi, whom provided a lot to the tracks they were on. An exception would be Young Thug, because their chemistry is undeniable and better than the chemistry between Travis and Quavo, in my opinion.
A return from background vocalists like Kacy Hill would add a lot without adding much, just like on Rodeo.
My realistic expectation: Travis is always pictured in the studio working with any and every rapper. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s yet again a dozen features.
4. No Lyrical Laziness
It’s hard to admit because Travis is one of my favourite artists, but he provided some irritating lyrical moments on Birds in the Trap. The first half of his verse on “Beibs in the Trap” springs to mind (“Flashes. Spotlight. Pull up. Nice guy???”). A fan of any artist shouldn’t be numb to flaws and giving criticism where its due. I don’t want Travis Scott becoming like Playboi Carti, who is lyrically dense, opting to ad-lib verses rather than giving actual verses. On AstroWorld, I’d like to hear Travis actually saying something.
My realistic expectation: From snippets it doesn’t sound like Travis is changing up that approach. But then again, they’re only snippets so I’m predicting there will be more album-quality content, just not Rodeo-level.
5. A Loose Concept
I’ve been comparing AstroWorld to Rodeo a lot in this post, but this is the most important point to me when comparing them. Rodeo followed a loose concept revolving round the journey of Travis Scott, which T.I.’s narration helped convey. There was clearly a focus with the songs and how they fitted together. Birds ditched that conceptual approach and didn’t even have a thematic approach. With a name like AstroWorld, which is inspired by a closed-down amusement park in Houston, Texas, I expect there to be some sort of theme to the album.
A dark sound and concept would be best. Apart from a couple songs, BITTSM had an upbeat sound to it. Sonically it is his most summery project. If Travis incorporates the darkness of Rodeo with a futuristic sound AstroWorld will benefit heavily.
My realistic expectation: I can’t predict this one. If I got to go by the title, I’m hoping for some sort of sound or theme.
As much as I’d like for Travis to create another Rodeo, artistically that’s difficult to achieve because artists are always being influenced by new things. However if Travis comes through with those five points in some sort of way and brings a mixture of Rodeo and Birds in the Trap, I think Travis Scott could deliver a brilliant project to round off his spectacular year.
🚀 Read the review for Astroworld, written a year on from this post
Artwork by Alan Ashcraft.