“Screw found international sound…” -Travis Scott, ‘R.I.P Screw’
Travis Scott’s new album Astroworld is an accurate depiction of Houston’s sonic mainstream evolution but rather than play puppet to the wave, he’s the ringmaster, orchestrating the perfect blend between classic screw music and his psychedelic trap style with R&B undertones.
Astroworld displays the talent of an artist who is reflective in his lyricism, even on the surface, but progressive in his style and aesthetic. Yet, the true motivator for this project was building a conceptual album centered on winning the praise and respect at the GRAMMY’s.
Despite being snubbed Grammy nominations for his 2016 album Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, his A&R, Sickamore recognized there was more work to be done to develop a standout album.
“We felt like we really worked hard and we really made a great album with Birds and we just got snubbed. We were like, man, are they not respecting us? That’s when it was like, “no, y’all got it fucked up.” We went back and wanted to make an album that was undeniable. The Grammy snub was probably the best thing that happened to us. It gave us a chip on our shoulder.”
Naming his album after the defunct theme park, Astroworld, representing a staple of Scotts’ upbringing, acts as a functional piece of art taking listeners on a thrill ride of adventure and chaos.
Creating a marketing buzz prior to release, with a huge inflatable gold head, doubling as cover art for the album, teased fans, both new and returning. The opening of the mouth resembles a carnival “fun house” entrance and paired with lyrics like “It ain’t a mosh pit if ain’t no injuries I got ’em stage divin’ out the nosebleeds,” on “Stargazing” he sets the tone of what to expect from an adrenaline-pumped experience.
However, let’s note the irony in how Scott is pegged to borrow or plagiarize sounds and is so-called influenced by his peers when most artists have lifted screw music for themselves reaping the benefits of such success. Notably, ASAP Rocky and Drake have used the culture of Houston for their own repertoire of music, but rarely do hip hop artists from the city rise to the ranks of mega stardom.
Although Travis is a stylized producer and curator, he’s made it his business to do that for his city by utilizing old samples thus transforming them into new mediums to be accepted by mass consumption.
Songs like “Carousel,” “5% Tint,” and “Can’t Say,” featuring newcomer Don Toliver, permits Travis as the rightful courier who directly receives the credit and monetary reward for being from Houston. Instead of bashing Scott, he deserves the applause for successfully representing and redefining Houston rap culture.
As Scott’s third solo album, he doesn’t miss when it comes to big ticketed artists with features from Drake, Frank Ocean, Stevie Wonder, Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire, to James Blake and Gunna. Lyrically, the album is filled with cheap amusements about his self-indulgent lifestyle up until the last song with its odd placing at the end of the album.
Buried underneath the main attraction of notoriety and hometown glory there seems to be a darker entity occupying the space of Travis Scott. As a contrast, with a slower tempo, “Coffee Bean,” is where he eventually shares his vulnerability rapping about the state of his relationship with Kylie Jenner, who is also the mother of their child.
Experiencing a new high profile relationship, fatherhood, and the duty of executing a standout album, all presenting its own challenges, this is rather perfect material for a story worth delving deeper into. But for now, Astroworld is for rockstars choosing to escape reality finding freedom in exploring drugs and their raging fun until the park closes.