On Friday, Astroworld, the long-awaited third studio album by Houston rapper and producer Travis Scott, was released. The 17-track album is his latest solo album since 2016’s Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, and first project since his Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho collaboration with Quavo late last year.
After announcing the album shortly after the release of Birds, Astroworld has finally arrived two years later (an eternity in rap-years.) On the album, Travis sticks to his usual formula: dark, auto-tuned trap songs with a number of mainstream rap and R&B features. What tends to vary from album to album for Travis is the experimental and often psychedelic elements. Albums like Days Before Rodeo and Rodeo brought Travis to rap stardom because of their creative, dark take on the modern trap sound. On his latest effort, the theme remains, though occasionally with spotty results.
“Stargazing” is an excellent song to start the album. Travis croons over a bass-heavy beat, which then switches to a faster-paced instrumental with a hypnotic sound. Lyrically and flow-wise, Travis is up to his usual concepts: “Packin’ out Toyota like I’m in a league, and it ain’t a mosh pit if ain’t no injuries; I got ’em stage divin’ off the nosebleeds, and she hit that booger sugar ’til her nose bleed.” The album carries over into “Carousel,” which features Frank Ocean. However, this song isn’t as cohesive sounding, and Frank’s vocals feel out of place. “Sicko Mode” has one of the most interesting beats on the album, featuring many different sounds and even vocal samples. Swae Lee’s singing adds a nice touch to the track, and the beat switch is executed well, despite being marred by a lazy Drake verse.
Any real faults on Astroworld come in the middle section of the album. Some songs here are either underwhelming, such as “Stop Trying to Be God” and “5% Tint,” or could have been executed better, like “No Bystanders.” The Weeknd and Travis collaborate on two songs that appear back-to-back, both of which are done well. “NC-17” is a lackluster moment, and 21 Savage doesn’t do much to make the track interesting. The middle of Astroworld is a batch of inconsistent tracks that bog down the album at certain spots, even though sonically they fit with the record.
The last few songs on the album are some of the best. “Who? What!” features two-thirds of Migos, and delivers some needed energy to the album. Travis and company deliver a solid banger on this track, which is followed by the album’s only single, “Butterfly Effect,” a hit which came out last spring. “Houstonfornication” is another great song in which Travis’ melodies and flows perfectly match with the hard-hitting instrumental.
In full, Astroworld features Travis staying in his element. While he doesn’t offer anything creative or exceptionally new (see Rodeo,) the record we get this time around feels like Travis Scott staying comfortable within his sound. At times, he is a bit too comfortable, as we’ve heard many of these themes before. Astroworld, given what we know Travis Scott is capable of on past projects, could be called a disappointment by some. However, the quality of the music we get is still up to par. Much like the amusement park theme the title and cover invoke, there are ups and downs on Astroworld but overall, the net result is a quality album with a handful of great songs.