To hip-hop purists:
Stop Trying to Be God.
Is he a traditionalist? No.
Did he move 537,000 albums in a week? Yes.
Was it his first №1? No, but he’s two for three.
Despite criticism, rapper Travis Scott (nom de plume for Houston native Jacques Webster) finds himself at the apex of his career. He achieved Gold Certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) with over half a million units sold of ASTROWORLD. The album, a masterful mix of crisp transients and distorted 808s, boasts collaborative efforts from 40 artists, from Thundercat and James Litherland to Gunna and Tay Keith. While preparing the album for Spotify, Scott tweeted “BUCKLE UP @spotify,” so fasten your seatbelt.
Awaiting the listener, Slim Thug — always repping Houston — stands in front of his tribute ghost coaster for “5% TINT.” In close competition with Slim Thug, 21 Savage raps “NC-17” and commands a ghost coaster of his own (for those over 17). The following two tracks are the most scenic of the park, leading the listener through natural greens and white rocks on a rickety wooden coaster designed by Thundercat and Gunna. Then, make a loop back to the drop tower for “CAN’T SAY” and “WHO? WHAT!” because you forgot your Yale ID. In the distance, the listener sees real Houston, from the Rockets to the Astros; “BUTTERFLY EFFECT” and “HOUSTONFORNICATION” chronicle La Flame’s adventures and misadventures in Missouri City. After a long day at the park, in the car ride home, looping “COFFEE BEAN” sobers up the listener, reflecting on their demons and ambitions.
The ringmaster of the ASTROWORLD, Cactus Jack, pays homage to New York Ambassador Biggie Smalls and HTown’s Screwed Up Click icon, Big Hawk. Swae Lee’s melodic hooks punch through lean-drowned synths and chopp’d n screw’d vocal chops in “R.I.P. SCREW.” Keeping the same energy, Travis outshines the Toronto 6god, Drake, in “SICKO MODE” as both rappers flex through three beat changes over five minutes. For those with a nostalgia for 1970s hits like “Superstition” and “Isn’t She Lovely,” revel in Stevie Wonder’s harmonica harmonies and La Flame’s allegorical wisdom narrating “Stop Trying to Be God.” Other songs, including “ASTROTHUNDER” and “STARGAZING,” feature basslines sitting low in the mix, snares and hats panning across the melodies, and Travis’ flow carrying the momentum.
While this album is a cut above his past works, including Days before Rodeo and Rodeo, ASTROWORLD carries on the classic Cactus Jack tone heard in Scott’s discography. While he pointed out that the group “Screw[ed Up Click] found international sound,” Scott is the harbinger of a new era, the future of the hip-hop sound. As one of the genre’s titans, he participates in fashion collaborations involving Louis Vuitton’s artistic director, Virgil Abloh, and Nike’s signature brand, Jordan.
But the story of ASTROWORLD isn’t just a story about Travis Scott’s success. In it, Scott focuses on his fatherhood and relationship. There are numerous allusions to his love for Kylie Jenner and their child, Stormi, serenading them throughout the album. Let ASTROWORLD serenade you, and remember to BUCKLE UP.