The star-packed record from Kylie Jenner’s other half often sees the production upstage the lyrical contributions
Album review: Travis Scott – Astroworld
Casual pop-culture observers are probably aware of Texan rapper Travis Scott, even if they aren’t familiar with his music. The other half of Kardashian clan member Kylie Jenner, he also recently earned sizeable publicity regarding the models who appear on (and the one who disappeared from) the other version of the cover of his third album.
In fairness, his art hasn’t gone unnoticed in his native United States, where his previous full-length album, 2016’s guest-star-packed Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, topped the Billboard charts.
He has plenty of help this time around, too, with the superstar likes of The Weeknd, Drake and Frank Ocean lining up to cameo on Astroworld. Much like fellow southern rapper Future, however, how much you can get on board with Scott’s lackadaisical flow will depend on your tolerance to Auto-Tune.
Opener Stargazing is a strange Jekyll-and-Hyde affair that hints at his work with Kanye West, evoking as it does the songs-within-songs from recent Ye records. Its double-negative suggestion that Scott is prepared for plenty of future lawsuits, with the words “It ain’t a mosh pit if there ain’t no injuries”, also points to his roughhousing attitude to his audience when he played a rowdy Abu Dhabi show two years ago.
Drake’s appearance on Sicko Mode sees the tempo boosted with a pleasingly bouncing club beat, but in truth, the Canadian chart-topper doesn’t upstage the headline act.
The consecutive double-whammy of Skeletons and Wake Up, featuring The Weeknd, pulls the opposite trick, slowing things down in a manner more often associated with the I Can’t Feel My Face charmer.
Frank Ocean sounds the most incongruous, meanwhile, with his saccharine tones at odds with the low-end frequencies thrown around between his turns on the mic on Carousel. More fulfilling is the soulful Stop Trying to Be God, made by harmonising from British multitalent James Blake.
On a record speckled with A-list vocal talents, it’s perhaps surprising that the production often shines above the lyrics. The dreamscape of RIP Screw, for example, is unusually nuanced for a mainstream-crashing rapper, while left-field producers Tame Impala and Thundercat also contribute.
It suggests a depth to Astroworld that could reveal itself in coming weeks of repeated listens, hopefully hinting at an otherworldly experience to match that out-of-this-world title.