'Astroworld': Travis Scott's Finest Hour
BY MARK DEMAURO
THE YEAR WAS 2016 -- A TIME OF GREAT MUSIC WITH KANYE WEST'S THE LIFE OF PABLO, CHANCE THE RAPPER'S COLORING BOOK, BEYONCE'S LEMONADE, AND MANY MORE. 2016 WAS ALSO THE YEAR TRAVIS SCOTT, BORN JACQUES WEBSTER, BECAME A NAME TO BE HEARD BY THE WORLD.
Just coming off of the success of his 2015 debut album Rodeo -- an artistic wonder into the Houston rapper's upcoming, downfalls, and desires -- all eyes were on him to see what he would do next. Then in May of that year, he announced to the world "the name of my new album after Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight is now called Astroworld."
After that, it was quiet for Astroworld. The aforementioned album Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight was released in September 2016 resulting in mixed, but overall positive reviews. A year later, the world heard of a collaborative effort from Scott and Migos' member Quavo, called Huncho Jack Jack Huncho, along with the album Astroworld coming out sometime in 2017. We saw Travis Scott on three singles released on SoundCloud, and the Travis Scott and Quavo album out in December, but still no word of the long awaited solo album. In July of 2018, we saw Scott locked in Hawaii working on the album to perfect it with hopes of it on the way; finally, in August, we got a trailer from the rapper giving us the news the fans waited two years for, "ASTROWORLD 8.3.18."
With two years in the making, the hopes were high for this album and Scott succeeds with flying colors in recreating what it would feel like being in the now closed Houston theme park. Right away with the opening track "Stargazing," Scott's vocals and the track's production give listeners the sense of wonder, awe, and excitement of a theme park. It's as if you are physically there, rolling up to the top of the rollercoaster, with the sky right in front of you.
This is a feeling that stays with each track as the album continues: the atmosphere, the psychedelic experiences that are channeled into the imaginative park, ride by ride. On "Carousel," Frank Ocean lends a hand in delivering the feeling of this experience he and Scott are having in the park, making the park a place where anyone can come to escape their worries and enjoy the good times. The track "Skeletons" is a shining moment from the production for how it creates the wondrous and concurrently psychedelic vibe of the album. With help from Pharrell Williams, The Weeknd, and Scott's dream collaborators Tame Impala, they bring so much to the track to make it a standout dream-like moment that Scott himself says "feels like slow motion."
Much like any person's time at a theme park where they either don't want it to end or they don't get what they felt they needed out of the trip, Scott expresses his fear and anxiety of the "good life" on numerous tracks. On songs like "Astrothunder," he speaks about how he feels the life he needs is much further away from the life he is living -- a reference to the need of change in his life now that he is in a serious relationship with Kylie Jenner and raising a daughter with her. It seems he feels that following the influence of others takes him away from the life he needs and should stick by his own principles.
On the track "Stop Trying to Be God" with Kid Cudi, Stevie Wonder, and James Blake, Scott raps more about this life and how he doesn't want to forget the people who were by his side throughout all the ups and downs, like his DJ Chase B. He also expresses the pressure he has as a celebrity to not put himself to too high of a standard and develop a God complex. Even with these ruminations, Astroworld is Scott's getaway from these worries and troubles, as he expresses on the track "Wake Up" with The Weeknd, he doesn't want to wake up from this for it's "so sweet."
If there is one other thing Travis Scott wants listeners to take away from this album, it is the fact that this is for his hometown of Houston, Texas. On the track "R.I.P. SCREW," he pays his respects and tributes the song to Houston hip-hop legend DJ Screw. One could say DJ Screw was a pioneer in making the chopped and screwed technique that many see in the hip hop world today, which helped put a spotlight on the Houston hip hop scene. He died in 2000 of a drug overdose, but what he did for Houston hip hop will never be forgotten and Scott clearly wants to make sure his name lives on through Astroworld. Later in the album, Scott even gives an upcoming Houston act, Don Toliver, a moment to shine on the track "Can't Say." Toliver doesn't disappoint either, giving a satisfying vocal performance and great energy to the track, making his hometown proud all the while.
Still, Astroworld is not just a tribute to the former Houston theme park. It's a symbol of where Scott is now in his life and where he wants to take it from here. It's the safe space he created for himself and his fans where they can go and escape life's worries and struggles, to get away from anxieties and troubled thoughts, and make listeners feel apart of something. This is Scott's 'thank you' to his fans who have stuck with him since his name first blew up in 2013, to let them know that no matter where life goes or how hard it may be, you can always make your escape and enjoy the ride in Astroworld.
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