The Nugget

Travis Scott’s Best Work

John Orzechowski, Head Writer

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When Jacques Berman Webster II was 13, his hometown of Houston shut down the Six Flags theme park Astroworld. He later recalled it as Houston taking away a part of his childhood. Now, 13 years later, under a different moniker and with millions of dollars to it, Travis Scott aimed to bring Astroworld back to the world with his album named after the park. He tried to fit an entire amusement park into seventeen songs. And he succeeded.

Travis is one of the biggest artists of the decade. From his early mixtapes in 2013 and 2014 (Owl Pharaoh and Days Before Rodeo, respectively), to his monster album Rodeo in 2015, few artists have seen the rise in recognition that he has over the past five years. He’s toured with The Weeknd, Rihanna, and Kendrick Lamar, and his own tours are selling out NBA Stadiums. It wasn’t overnight success, but his rise has been quicker than many of his fellow rap titans.

His life changed on February 1st, 2018, when Kylie Jenner gave birth to his daughter Stormi. He was reasonably quiet musically for the first half of the year, only appearing on a couple features through the first few months. On May 4th, he released “Watch” with Kanye West and Lil Uzi Vert. Fans expected it to be the lead single off Astroworld.

On July 30th, he released a minute and a half long trailer for the album to the track of “Stargazing”, the first song on the album.

Four days later, on August 3rd, he released it. “Watch” was missing.

At 17 songs and around an hour long, Astroworld is a perfect balance between the 6 or 7 track albums released this year by Kanye West, Pusha T, and The Weeknd, and the over 20 song albums released by artists like Drake, Migos, and Rae Sremmurd.

The album’s features include rappers 21 Savage and Quavo, R&B stars Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, up and coming rappers Sheck Wes and Don Toliver, along with artists Tame Impala, James Blake, and Stevie Wonder, among others. They’re all thrown together perfectly, and even small parts like Kid Cudi’s humming or Stevie Wonder’s harmonica on STOP “TRYING TO BE GOD”, or Juice WRLD’s introduction on “NO BYSTANDERS” feel significant to the song. No features, except for maybe NAV’s on “YOSEMITE”, feel out of place or unnecessary. Production includes names like Murda Beatz, Boi-1da, Pharrell Williams and Mike Dean, some of the biggest producers around today. Williams himself has been behind some of the biggest albums of the last decade, and these other producers have created some of the biggest songs in recent years.

Besides being named after a Houston theme park, Astroworld owes itself to the city and the Texas rappers who came before Scott. Dallas gangsta rap legend Big Tuck puts his verbal stamp of approval of the album at the beginning of “CAROUSEL”. “5% TINT” and “CAN’T SAY” sample songs from Houston rappers Lil Keke and Goodie Mob. And “R.I.P. SCREW” is a tribute to DJ Screw, the late legendary Houston emcee who invented “Screw Music,” where the DJ chops up songs to remix into new beats. Travis recognizes the effect these rappers and DJs have had on him and his city’s culture, and doesn’t let them down.

The albums biggest song is “SICKO MODE”, and for good reason. If Astroworld the album is Astroworld the theme park, SICKO is the roller coaster. It’s complete with two beat switches, two samples from 90s songs (“Gimmie the Loot” by the Notorious B.I.G and “I wanna rock” by Luke), melodies by Swae Lee and one of the best Drake verses of 2018. It’s fittingly been nominated for best rap song and best rap performance at the 61st Grammy awards.

There isn’t a bad song on the album. The intro track “STARGAZING” starts off with a psychedelic melody that cuts off and transitions into a hard beat with one of Travis’s best verses on the album. Songs like “NO BYSTANDERS” and “WHO? WHAT?” reflect Travis’s classic turn up vibe, while songs like “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD” and “SKELETONS” reflect serious thought on relationships, success, and expectation.

The best song on the album is “HOUSTONFORNICATION”, which nears the end of the track list. It provides a reflection on his new life as a father, his old life as a reckless teen, and everything in between. It has a sobered tone to it, but he maintains an intensity throughout that feels like it comes from pride in his accomplishment.

Astroworld is the best rap album of the year. He met any expectations fans had, and exceeded them too. Houston natives never thought they’d experience their old six flags again after it was torn down. But I’ve been there since August. It’s December, and I still don’t want to leave.

Welcome to Astroworld.

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