Review: Travis Scott & Cactus Jack, ‘JackBoys’

The Cactus Jack Records debut is a measured taster of the label talent, entertaining but frustratingly short.

Some may think it is too early in Travis Scott’s career to be adding ‘label executive’ to his repertoire. Forged in 2017, Scott is seeing green lights when it comes to Cactus Jack Records. Albeit a small team, signee Sheck Wes had one of the biggest hits of 2018 in “Mo Bamba”, and Don Toliver broke out in the same year with his show-stopping performance on Scott’s “Can’t Say”. The solo careers are yet to truly fly off, but there’s arguably no one better to be coming up under than Travis Scott.

It may be fitting for a small roster to supply a small album. The self-titled JackBoys compilation is a measured 7-track taster, leaving no room for error but much to be desired.

A leaked tracklist was promising 21 songs. When only 7 songs were released, Scott’s referrals to JackBoys as a “pack” implied a potential three-stage album rollout. So far there are no signs to validate the theory. But it would certainly make sense. JackBoys offers a remix to Scott’s “Highest in the Room”, on which Rosalía provides a complimentary dimension. An intro track succeeds the remix, leaving only 5 original songs to enjoy. Despite the popularisation of the 7-track album trend, JackBoys almost certainly comes across as an EP.

JackBoys makes up for its brevity by never missing. The star in focus on JackBoys is clearly Don Toliver, whose infectious voice takes centre-stage on songs like “Gang Gang” and “What to Do?”. The former feels like the official label anthem, offering Sheck Wes’ sole appearance on the project and even introducing their latest signee, Luxury Tax, who can take the crown for having the best verse on the song.

The marriage of Scott and Toliver on “What to Do?” results in the album standout, capitalising on Scott’s psychedelic sound and Toliver’s melodic vocals. It is a complete song that only gets better and better across the 4 minutes, ultimately ending with a spectacularly luscious violin outro.

New York rapper Pop Smoke’s interpolation of UK drill turns up on the album closer, “GATTI”. Producer 808 Melo ensures the song is a banger through the typical drill warps and string melody. Travis Scott’s verse fits comfortably into the drill pocket, one that Pop Smoke’s husky vocals has popularised overseas. It’s a song full of energy.

By the end of the 21 minutes, you’re left wondering why there isn’t more to absorb. JackBoys never misses a beat but doesn’t maximise the advertisement of the Cactus Jack roster, particularly in the cases of Sheck Wes and Luxury Tax.

Rating: 7 / 10

Best tracks: “What to Do?”, “GATTI”, “Gang Gang”