By Evan Haynos
For The Diamondback
Travis Scott was over an hour late to the Osheaga music festival in Montreal, and the crowd was frustrated. The rapper’s previous 24 hours had been a whirlwind — releasing his third studio album, Astroworld, and performing at Lollapalooza in Chicago the night before — but I was still bitter that he got held up coming through customs.
Suddenly, Travis runs on stage and — above the roar of thousands — proclaims, “I’m sorry I’m late y’all, but let’s rock this bitch!” The eerie “Stargazing” instrumental started, the kaleidoscopic lights began flashing and all was forgiven.
The Houston native is no stranger to keeping people waiting, with rumors circulating every few months for the past year that Astroworld would drop. He finally kept his word when it came out earlier this month, and (much to Nicki Minaj’s chagrin) it remained at the top of the Billboard 200 for two weeks.
Astroworld contains elite, unique and heavily-layered synth-y production that pairs perfectly with Travis’ often-distorted voice. Featured artists also complement the album well, with Stevie Wonder’s harmonica on “Stop Trying to Be God” standing out.
The album’s seventh track, “Skeletons,” features a super team of Pharrell, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and The Weeknd. It’s an embodiment of Travis’ signature sound, with a hook that spins you around like you’re in a transition from That ’70s Show and leaves you craving a second verse.
Of course, there’s “Sicko Mode” featuring Drake, which you likely know from Instagram captions. Travis has churned out club bangers in the past with “Antidote” and “Goosebumps,” but he never abandons his creative direction for the sake of making a pop song. “Sicko Mode” delivers no fewer than two sharp beat switches and a chopped-up Swae Lee sample.
Travis has never built his music around intricate lyrics or game-changing flow — that’s not his style. Some verses on the project, particularly the ones where he receives no feature help — like “5% Tint” — feel like repurposed freestyles.
That being said, no one expected Travis’ verses to be on par with those of Kendrick or MF DOOM. Astroworld will not be remembered for its social or political or emotional commentary, but that can be overlooked. Travis is pushing the genre in a new direction, producing music that is distinctly different — and better — than his trap contemporaries.
Travis is not your typical rapper, and he’s never tried to be. The album embraces alt-rap themes that seem to draw from psychedelic and punk rock. Astroworld stands out in today’s hip-hop landscape largely because Travis is the only MC in 2018 who could possibly have delivered a project with this style of sound. And it’s well worth the wait.