There’s no weak tracks on this album. Travis Scott’s follow-up to Rodeo includes singles Wonderful and Pick Up the Phone, as well as a mouthwatering list of guest features and producers.
After missing a few release dates I was wondering whether we were falling down the rap-rabbit-hole that swallowed up Jay Electronica’s album five years ago. But thankfully, another one (DJ Khaled voice) less than a year after Scott’s debut album.
To venture down the list of producers first, Hit Boy, Cashmere Cat and Boi-1da are among an exciting list of names creating a grandiose sound to compliment Scott’s infectious hooks and melodies. The album samples include great use of Washed Out’s ‘You and I’ on the Cassie-featuring sdp Interlude, which holds as an impressive track in itself, and Jay-Z’s Roc Boys on the Cudi and Swizz Beats-featuring Way Back.
Guest-features include Andre3000, the Weeknd, Kid Cudi, 21 Savage, Kendrick Lamar, Young Thug, Cassie, Bryson Tiller and Quavo. Network to get work Travis! Am I right?
One of the album’s standouts is opening track The Ends, which features James Blake’s vocals and an Andre 3000 verse, providing the God-levels once more.
‘I gave up on the Bible ‘long time ago
I hope it ain’t give up on me, I don’t know’
Andre 3000 is dropping enough guest-verses to stir fans excitement once more; maybe this is the Hansel-and-Gretel-esque trail leading to a 3stacks solo album?
Other highlights include Guidance, where Scott, ever the chameleon, adopts a bouncy, PartyNexDoor-flow and switches up the tempo with Roy Woods. Elsewhere there’s Goosebumps delivering a classic Travis-esque feel to a track graced by Kendrick Lamar doing his impression of Chance the Rapper, doing his Adam Sandler doing his baby voice. Sweet Sweet is contagious and needed back-to-back plays straight away, as did the brilliant Kid Cudi track Through the late Night.
Most of the critique for this album involves Scott getting lost in the sauce, with the many collaborations he takes on (sixteen on a fourteen track record). Often selflessly giving tracks to guest-artists or noticeably slipping in to the background of his own songs, there have been critics noting his knack for the Ozil-esque-assist as oppose to limelight goal-scorer. There’s also some negativity about how much Scott sounds like Kanye West. This is of course because Scott has written so much of Kanye’s music, from production and writing credits on Cruel Summer, to playing a big role on 2013’s Yeezus. A lot of what you’re hearing in Yeezy’s dark and discordant auto-tuned-Houston-sounding flow is created by Scott, and Yeezy, just as Beyonce does so brilliantly, uses the creativity of a young, up-and-coming talent to revive the sound a middle-aged artist.
This is the difference between Scott and DJ Khaled, who creates a collaboration album and passes it off as his own, whilst ad-libbing and snap chatting some bullshit. Scott is a rap muse. A huge creative influence, whose subtleties and selflessness as an artist have occasionally worked against him.
The album is book-ended by strong, stand-alone tracks and The Weeknd-featuring single Wonderful closes off what’s possibly one of rap’s albums of the year. Scott knows his limits as an emcee, and isn’t trying to be the world’s greatest rapper. In fact, he stands in awe at his collaboration with Andre3000. It’s the record’s hooks, rap melodies and featured artists that are top notch and the reason for the success of BTSM. A lot of his tracks are addictive, getting better with a ninth and tenth listen; meanwhile Scott embraces the era of the rap weirdo, finding his niche alongside Thugga and freshmen Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert. Whilst doing this, Scott manages to keep it Texas, his sound a tribute to the likes of Geto Boys and Screw, embedding a Houston culture of a slow-sticky sound, hot summers and thick-bodied women.
On the album’s title, Travis says
‘I’m still confined to this fucking box. Kanye is the leading eagle, he’s like the president who stands up for kids like us who have ideas.
There’s a lot of us here that are birds man. We all just need to fly.’
Listen to Birds in the Trap sing McKnight below via Apple Music.