Travis Scott

(Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Owl Pharaoh (2013), 6/10
Days Before Rodeo (2014), 5/10
Rodeo (2015), 6/10
Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (2016), 4/10
Astroworld (2018), 5/10
Utopia (2023), 5/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Houston's rapper and singer Jacques "Travis Scott" Webster, discovered by Kanye West, emerged as a trap innovator with the mixtape Owl Pharaoh (2013). The attempts to create trap versions of Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon (Bad Mood Shit On You) and Kanye West's My Beatiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Hell Of A Night) are half-baked, but elsewhere the 21-year-old rapper employs massive synth surges and other tricks to create an original fusion of hip-hop and prog-rock. Several songs are chaotic audio collage experiments, starting with Drive. Dance on the Moon weds an explosive sound with hypnotic vocal effects. Some promising ideas surface in surreal interludes like Naked and especially Chaz Interlude. At its most austere, the album achieves a sort of cinematic melodrama, like a hip-hop version of Morricone's spaghetti-western soundtracks (trap anthem Upper Echelon and Quintana, both replete with church bells). Canadian producer Ebony "WondaGurl" Oshunrinde) sculpts the beat of Uptown. By the end of the tape, Scott indulges in a combination of symphonic arrangements and quasi-house beats (Blocka la Flame and especially Bandz).

The more professional mixtape Days Before Rodeo (2014), produced by Lex Luger, Metro Boomin, Southside and many others, contains the ebullient Don't Play (produced by Anderson "Vinylz" Hernandez, Allen Ritter and Anthony Kilhoffer, with a harpsichord loop and electronic distortion) and especially the cosmic suspense of Mamacita, one of his artistic peaks (produced by Metro Boomin and Dacoury "DJ Dahi" Natche), but the album is generally less adventurous. The electric guitar in the beat of Drugs You Should Try It stands out, the rare trap-rock hybrid (before Lil Peep and XXXTentacion).

Rodeo (2015), produced by Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes, Xavier "Zaytoven" Dotson, Metro Boomin, Kanye West and others (besides the ubiquitous Allen Ritter and Mike Dean), and featuring high-caliber collaborators such as Young Thug, Future, and Weeknd, was obviously a marketing project but also a sincere attempt at establishing the psychedelic branch of trap music. The album opens with the Kid Cudi-esque Pornography, and boasts the punk-industrial Piss On Your Grave (a hyped Kanye West collaboration, that borrows from the fashionable Yeezus sound), and the catchy single Antidote (one of his most popular songs, delivered in a high-pitched tone and sculpted by Dutch producer Bryan "Eestbound" Van Mierlo with a beat by Canadian producer Ebony "WondaGurl" Oshunrinde), and leans towards more intricate songs like Oh My/ Dis Side (one of his most popular songs, co-produced by Adam "Frank Dukes" Feeney, with ad-libs by Quavo of Migos) and the eight-minute trap mini-opera 3500 (a trio with fellow rappers Future and Tauheed "2 Chainz" Epps, co-produced by Metro Boomin and Xavier "Zaytoven" Dotson). Sometimes the result is confusing, like 90210 (co-produced by Dacoury "DJ Dahi" Natche and Ebony "WondaGurl" Oshunrinde), whose first half is a surreal duet with the suave contralto of Kacy Hill, and whose second half is a prog-rock and boom-bap fantasia. Past the hype and the glamor, the true highlights are few: the gloomy atmosphere and African swamp beat of Wasted (co-produced by Metro Boomin and Adam "Frank Dukes" Feeney) and the disorienting call and response and thick electronics of Nightcrawler (co-produced again by Metro Boomin but also by Joshua "Southside" Luellen and Bryan "TM88" Simmons). The album quickly becomes a tedious and monotonous experience, and it doesn't help that Travis drags Justin Bieber and Young Thug into a trivial song like Maria I'm Drunk. The album ends with two ventures into trap-soul, I Can Tell and Apple Pie.

The other big event of the year was the melodic and dramatic single Pick Up the Phone, a collaboration with Young Thug (produced by Anderson "Vinylz" Hernandez, Allen Ritter, Mike Dean and Adam "Frank Dukes" Feeney), a song later incorporated in the otherwise lame second album Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (2016), which however includes one of Scott's most popular songs, Goosebumps, a collaboration with Kendrick Lamar produced by Daveon "Yung Exclusive" Jackson, Mike Dean and Cubeatz (German twin brothers Kevin and Tim Gomringer) with a beat by Ronald "Cardo" LaTour, and one of his classic two-part songs, the lushly arranged Way Back with synth flutes and ad-libs from Kasseem "Swizz Beatz" Dean and Kid Cudi that are used for the beat.

Astroworld (2018), introduced by the single Butterfly Effect (2017), a collaboration with Canadian producers Shane "Murda Beatz" Lindstrom and Donald "Felix Leone" Paton, was mostly commercial filler (even when hyped, like Carousel with Frank Ocean). The hit was Sicko Mode, a daring fusion of trap, dubstep, Memphis' jookin and New Orleans' bounce, produced by Roget Chahayed, Chauncey "Hit-Boy"Hollis, Ozan "Oz" Yildirim, Mike Dean, and Cubeatz with a beat by Brytavious "Tay Keith" Chambers, and samples of The Notorious BIG's Gimme the Loot and Luther "Luke" Campbell's I Wanna Rock (two hits from the 1990s), Other highlighs include the explosive No Bystanders (that samples both Bjork's Joga and Three 6 Mafia's Tear Da Club Up `97, again two hits from the 1990s, and features fellow rappers Jarad "Juice WRLD" Higgins and Khadimou "Sheck Wes" Fall), the psychedelic trap of Stargazing (produced by Sonny "Sonny Digital" Uwaezuoke, Brandon "B Korn" Korn, Samuel "30 Roc" Gloade and Brandon "B Wheezy" Whitfield), and the eccentric Houstonfornication (sculpted by Canadian producer Rupert "Sevn" Thomas and Los Angeles-based beatmakers Wallis Lane, i.e. the duo of Nima "Nizzy" Jahanbin and Paimon "Farsi" Jahanbin).

Gatti (2019) was a collaboration with fellow rapper Bashar "Pop Smoke" Jackson. Travis Scott and Kid Cudi released The Scotts (2020), credited to the Scotts.

In April 2020 Scott performed inside the Fortnite metaverse, a historical "virtual" performance. In November 2021 eight people died in a stampede at a Scott concert in Texas.

Utopia (2023) was another "product" carefully crafted by professional songwriters and producers. Travis Scott's voice, not the main attraction is unfortunately in the foreground. Kanye West's sound prevails in several songs, notably the energetic Hyaena (composed by an army of songwriters and produced by three of them with Canadian producer Ebony "WondaGurl" Oshunrinde) the hypnoptic Modern Jam (co-produced by Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo from Daft Punk with Mike Dean and Jahaan Sweet) and the Weeknd-enhanced Circus Maximus, a bit too similar to West's Black Skinhead (also the title of a 75-minute movie released by Scott containing leftovers). The highlights are the tender autotuned ballad My Eyes (if Frank Ocean was an artist, he would sound like this), a collaboration with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (in fact co-produced by Ocean's producers Joseph "Vegyn" Thornalley and Josiah "Buddy Ross" Sherman besides WondaGurl and Wesley "Wheezy" Glass), Sirens, a banger with creative Latin beat (created by five producers!), the piano-based I Know (co-written and co-produced by Swiss producer Ozan "Oz" Yildirim), Til Further Notice, a Metro Boomin creation (featuring 21 Savage and James Blake), and especially the tribal and ominous Looove (featuring Kid Cudi and produced by Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes. Meanwhile, the collaborations with stars such as Drake, Playboy Carti, Bad Bunny Young Thug and Beyonce all fail, for one reason or another. The humbler Lost Forever, produced by the Alchemist (featuring Alvin "Westside Gunn" Worthy who steals the show from Scott), Telekinesis (with SZA and Future, produced by Ross "Hudmo" Birchard, Kanye West and Jahaan Sweet) and Topia Twins featuring Robert "Rob49" Thomas and 21 Savage (another song crafted by five producers and an army of songwriters) fare a little better. Unfortunately, where it fails it is truly embarrassing. This should have been a five-song EP, not a 19-song album.

(Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )