Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Live Review - Travis Scott - Rodeo

Is Travis Scott even crazier than Young Thug??

This is the sort of article I would like to read on a hip hop-themed Buzzfeed-esque website, along with a bunch of inane lists like "top 50 E-40 ad-libs" and "another top 50 E-40 ad-libs". Travis Scott's many controversies, beefs, inexplicable choices, and acts of outright depraved aggression are too many to enumerate outside of any gif-based article. But, luckily for us, so are the list of amazing choices he's made in his music, and of hype talented artists who are kicking down doors to work with him.

Let's briefly list those for the purposes of hype. This album has:
-A track with Quavo
-A track with Future and 2 Chainz
-A track with Juicy J
-A track with The Weeknd
-A track with Swae Lee and Chief Keef
-A track with KANYE
-A track with Toro y Moi
-A track with Schoolboy Q
-A production team including Metro Boomin, Sonny Digital, Zaytoven, TM88, Terrace Martin, WondaGurl, Southside...

Like holy crap Travis Scott didn't even need to exist for this album to be hype af. But oh man does he exist, he exists all over the place. His music, which blends the spacey, vibed out music of cloud rap with the flow-centered kineticism of new Atlanta trap while also somehow maintaining an aggressiveness that feels right out of Chiraq drill perfectly matches a character of a man who's mom worked for Apple and is actually named Jacques Webster and was mentored by Kanye but also screams slurs at his fans at concerts. It all adds up to something, presumably, like, there is an album here that I'm about to listen to, but it feels like it shouldn't. And yet the fact is that it does exist and it finally came out and all rationale also demands that it will also be excellent. So let's give it a try!

Travis Scott - Rodeo
Live Review

1. Pornography
Hmm... this is a sorta Outkast intro maybe lol. "Fuck this shit", alright here we go. Choosing to jump of your mama's porch, yeah, this sounds like Travis Scott. And this nice smooth spacey flow now, "You get high with me, you come down with me, that's all I need in my fantasy"... This is sick man, "I'm a rubber duck trying to get it up"??? Oh man the way the beat comes in around 1:50, so distant and echoey, I love that. And then this descending piano part, living like a bronco, I'm really being sold on something here, I'm really believing it... This is hella slick man... And now an entirely new sort of flow... this has a nice overture sort of structure to it. Ohh the transition into the triplet flow was slick, what a talented guy, what a hard worker. Ahhh yes and then this super harsh effect on his screams near the end, that's what I like to see *

2. Oh My Dis Side
He has all these super menacing beats and the way they transition is so sick. I feel like Travis is the sorta guy to demand Quavo to do a really really good verse so I'm super excited. BANDO! Geez the way the beat changed at a minute was so slick, that sort of opening of tone... Alright yeah the triplet flow coming in, MONEY! CASH! MOMMA! Why is Quavo the best at these sort of ad-libs, what a genius. OH MY! This has a really cool sludgy swirling sort of feeling to it, all these aspects moving in and out of "frame", breaking down even further... "wow..." Oh now we're on the "dis side" part okay. "You never come around past midnight" is a heartbreaker sorta. The autotuned howling over this is really nice, plays super well with the really rhythmic staccato flows. And then Quavo coming back in, so slick, with these huge piano chords, "Look at my diamonds don't get blind" lel. Big success story, I love this "Graduated from" pattern. The vocal effect at 5:20 is so good, Kanye likes it too, I wonder how they do that. Cool. Haunting piano outrooooooooobweeeeewww S

3. 3500
This was a single, I heard it a few times, the hook is so crazy man, the stuttered repeating I love so much. This raspy flow is so good, the perfect mix of burnt out and aggressive. And the contrast between it and the really kinetic hook in the background is nuts. Apparently this song is because Kim bought Nori a $3500 little coat that she can only wear for like a year maybe before she outgrows it. Unclear what his opinion of this decision is. Future sounds so good on this man, his intro was so good too, the drum fill. Holy the way he slowly brings up the pitch of his voice is so sick... and the violin? Jesus Christ this song is so insane. It's almost 8 minutes long too lmao it's just absurd, Travis has no restraint, he is guided by visions, now an electric guitar too, and the beats getting so heavy. 2 CHAINZ, my bath tubs as big as swimming pools SHEEEESH. "Drinking breast milk outta lean cups" a quintessential 2 Chainz line. "TV with my swimming pool", "Crib bigger than your imagination", "Emotes: sad faces!" hahaha oh man oh man. Jesus the intensity of this is raw and physical and consumable. Future now on a sick trill-enumeration, man a kid I know tried to tell me that people didn't say "trill" anymore where was he coming from. Oh man do you hear that little piano riff? This is so crazy lol. Like this song actually makes no sense whatsoever. How did he envision this? Or was it reasonable at many points and then it just got crazier and crazier through some inner thermodynamics-violating engine? The way it slows down here at the end, hnnng, and this is just the THIRD TRACK, where could we be going from here? So good wow. **

4. Wasted
Oh man and immediately back into it, got the Rocky sorta "augh", I dk how to express that sound you know what I mean. Woah this flow from Travis is pretty sweet, repping Houston, makes sense I guess Juicy J is from Memphis so that's sorta close? This really does sound like a Houston sorta flow, so it's really the origins of Rocky too, chopped and screwed son. So good, H-town needs to rise again in a big way, I think the conditions are just right. Juicy J ayyyy TRIPPY! "Project hos going up in the Ritz!" sick. Damn this is some nice flow from him, he's really taking this seriously lol. And then this outro which is like Houston's past and future in some crazy... and wow this outro oh man woah. S+

5. 90210
Man the transitions on this album are niiice, there's a real consistency to this whole project that's super impressive. "All from her panties", dang... this sort of style is pretty interesting, the contrast between the unfiltered female voices and his heavily distorted male counterpoints... This sort of "rampaging auto tuned flow" is pretty cool. This one is a definite slow burner though I'll be (happily) surprised if we get a straight up verse. Looking for the ally? Oh like that's where the girl is I guess. Ohh and then where's this going at 2:30... there's an almost vapourwave sort of quality to that guitar, a distorted-nostalgic feeling, that sort of conceptual distance, same with this vocal sample. Damn I love this beat though woah, Hahaha and I was wrong now we get an actual verse. Talking to his granny, damn man, this flow is great wow... "Youngest nigga out of Houston at the Grammies", "Shoulda wrote this in Latin", damn. "Gold chains, gold rings, I got an island on me", woah. "I'm driving too fast to stop, so all these signs I'm ignoring them"... prolly unsafe. Man though this song is nuts, I should never have doubted, he's like Rich Homie Quan, he can promise he will never ever stop going in etc etc. *

6. Pray 4 Love
This title sure sounds like a Weeknd song and yeah so does this beat so far lol. The effect on the voice is so good, it's so sharp, so cutting. He has such a melodic flow all the time, so good. "Toxicated, animated, got me feeling kinda lit", "They looking at me crazy got me feeling Communist", "If my album never sell than we gonna hit that lick", among others. My personal feelings towards The Weeknd peaked at "High For This" but I really respect his hustle and innovations and such. How did Jacques become Scott?? Origin stories ayy, "Every time we in the party we take it up a notch", "Wanna know my dick longer than a Pringles box" holy shit lmao. I really like the amount of piano on this album, it all sounds so good. Ah yeah this is the sort of flow I associate with the Weeknd, "My daughter never gonna meet a nigga like me", wow. "Nobody pray for us" is pretty compelling man. This guy sure has a lot of soul, whatever that means lol. Whatever it means it means him. S

7. Night Call
Alright this is a pretty weird lineup... Chief Keef, who is approximately 12 and has probably killed people, Swae Lee, who sounds approximately 10 but I'm told is actually slightly older, and Travis Scott, who I think is 23 but feels like he's 40 or something, such an expert and a vet. Again we're in this swirling space of indistinctness, "Order more bottles!" is a pretty good hook, good shit Keef. "When the night calls/Order more bottles", a good combined message. "And I don't need your drink - high off life", good for you Swae, good role model for your underage peers lol. Okay I looked it up and he's 20 no way no waaaay, one of the suggested searches was "Swae Lee age" lmao. "I'll just order me some brunch", and then "You know I'm from the projects", these feel maybe mutually exclusive. "Order some more money", is that how it works? I should do that I guess. That outro was pretty sick, I like the synth riff.

8. Piss On Your Grave
Lol right when I was thinking "these songs are maybe getting too same-y" we switch into this grungy dirty guitar solo thing how what is happening, how will Kanye emerge from this? Wow this hook, "piss on your grave", "fuck you and all of your relatives", damn man that's cold. Isn't that the name of a horror movie or something? "Kamikaze over commas", okay BUT LMAO WOW, what is even happening, I cannot process this one. It's just sheer aggression. Like punk sorta stuff I guess. S

9. Antidote
Travis sounding tenderish for just a second and then the whole beat rushes up behind him and it changes the whole context. "Party on a Sunday, do it all again on Monday" and then the double shouting "ONE MORE TIME" is pretty sick. This whole idea of the smoke and drugs and stuff being the "antidote" is interesting. "Anything can happen at the night show", this is like... internal reference to a lifestyle very far beyond me. Really expressing how it feels, beyond how it can be shown to others, y'know? The way the beat becomes really full and echoey at 3:10ish is really sick, and then he just GOES IN, he can never resist it Call Me Rich Homie Quan Because I Will Sign A Legally Binding Document To You Certifying That I Will Never Stop Going In Under Punishment Of Death could have been the title of this album. S

10. Impossible
Woah weird cascading sort of drunk sounds, pretty interesting... he's on a super warbly sort of flow, a real sorta Future-esque feeling. "It was never love, I could tell", ahhh... "Let's go find a place that's far from here", it's all about that tortured bleeding inner core. "Nights like this, I wish I could do the impossible", this is a compelling sort of feeling, I think I've felt a flavour of this feeling before. The play between the "normal" effects and the super-low version is pretty hypnotic... And this breakdown at 3:20, man, I love the sort of drum effect they have there, it's so abrupt and yet it feels sustained. I just had a very vivid vision of when I was standing in the basement of some friends of my grandparents and looking at the puzzles they had made. That has nothing to with this but it just happened. S-

11. Maria I'm Drunk
OKAY THIS IS THE ONE, what the hell, what is this. "Calling for Mariiiiiiiiia", and these awesome night sounds, this awesome beat, is this features list a typo? I won't believe it until I hear it. Or should I say I won't Bielieb it jaJAjaJAjJAhAhaHAhHHAHhAhHahA. Oh man we bent out of the night, where can you go from there... this little piano riff... TRAVIS SCOTT, oh man it's THUGGA THUGGA BABY for real, HEY! "Call your friends and let's get drunk" sorta an anthem now already. Woah is this Justin? Is this actually Justin? Jesus wow I never ever would have predicted this. "I know you stay sober, I'm sure a few drinks won't phase you" uhHHH idk if that's OK Justin, Idk if that's the attitude you should give to your fans lol. Thugger is on his Thuggest, making the noises of imaginary animals. "I'ma speed race in that", "My momma still got my back"... "Let's take a shot together and then lay up like planks"... man... this song ACTUALLY EXISTS, who woulda thought. Young Thug and Justin Bieber on the same track. And it was good ofc. **

12. Flying High
Okay this is nice, nice and uptempo now. Toro Y Moi always lends something really nice and implacable to tracks like this, something no one else could do. Like this mixture of vocal range and oh man this melody, so avant-garde lol uhhh, this is so fun, it feels like a straightforward banger but there's actually a ton of really weird crazy stuff happening too. How does that work? It reminds me of that Itchy and Scratchy focus group joke... "You want a simple catchy banger... and you want crazy off the wall instrumentation and structuring?" You stupid kids! You don't know what you want! But then Travis Scott provides. S+

13. I Can Tell
Oooh this is the spookiest beat yet... "You ain't told no tales" this is like actually skellington pirate talk lol. "It all started in the basement, it was an attic but we called it the basement" lol. The way he does his voice here is sick, the rumbling harshness at the ends is awesome, reminds me vaguely of 3PAC lmao. Oh man this verse is insane, he's "transcended" where I thought it had to end like several times, he just keeps exploding into new flows, now into PATOIS, huh?? "Bitches hanging on my dangalang" lol im reading broom of the system atm and this makes me laugh lol. I love the contrast between these churning guitars and choral voices and that ticking hi-hat, sick. S+

14. Apple Pie
Okay that's uh, that's a title for sure. I love this beat... "I guess that's why I'm so high on the street" is the only line I can understand. "I don't want your apple pie momma", I think this is MAYBE a euphemism. "Keep an ounce of garlic just to keep away the Draculas", the way he says Draculas is really enjoyable. "I don't need your apple pie, I want my own legacy", I genuinely don't understand what that means. Woah that transition, "A city you saw Bun B blow up", hell yeah. "Look bitch this the rodeo but I'm not going out for your bullshit", "I am everything but a rapper", "Shit I got at least 25 lighters on my dresser", he really does have a sort of rock-esque sensibility to him. "Roxanne and I", is this Roxanne of the Police? And then this crazy scat-esque outro, also feels sorta Outkast-y, I mean this as the greatest sort of compliment of course. OK I think this is the "real" ending, the other two are bonus tracks. "Will he survive the rodeo?", well, I guess so. *

15. Ok Alright
Of course the Schoolboy Q song is gonna have him able to shout "OK, OK!" a lot. Genuine thanks for that I love when he does that. I hope they do the "Braaap braaap braap braaap" sound too. Q sounding pretty solid, really one of the most consistent rappers out there these days. Wow this one is seven minutes. Like 3500 it has that cool "fast hook, slow beat" contrast. Q really doing his thing, really going in holy shit, ooh and then a transition... is this the "Alright" part I guess? At almost exactly halfway through the song too huh neat. Woah man I am caught off guard again, this crazy layered development, sounding absolutely angelic, and then riding that with this crazy flow sheesh... and now that same (?) sweet woman's voice from way back... cool... very cool sort of feeling... S

16. Never Catch Me
Really western sorta twang to this one... oh man and then those deep sounds, intense... This one could really explode if he goes in on it and is that even a question anymore? "She take a shot of Hennessy I took a shot of Pimp C", "I'm the next lone star to blow" or whatever, I really like all the Texas feelings on this album. "I look like an emoji" lol what. Oh man this super melodic autotuned flow... Cool outro, very raw. Good. S

Surviving the Rodeo...

Alright that was really solid. I get the sense that Travis is just incredibly difficult to satisfy... every track has so much going on, on so many levels. Like if it's focused on a melody and a hook, it also has to have a super hard verse. If it has a lot of rapping, it has to have a big variety of flows and styles and vocal effects. If it feels really Atlanta-y, it needs to have some L.A. If it feels L.A., then it's gotta have the roots to it too, so let's get a bunch of Houston stuff. Etc, etc. The end result is that every track feels like it has everything he can do, almost all at once, which is a whole lot of stuff.

And this is, for the most part, pretty amazing. It leads to some really mindblowing moments, where you're situated in some superposition of three major cities, listening to what sounds like a hook, and a chorus for an R&B song, and a crazy verse all at once... Oh, and half of the time, some of those are provided by other famous and talented artists specializing in those areas. This attitude works wonderfully for his all-star supporting cast, who are all also encouraged to bring not just their a-game, but every game they have, all at once.

There's a downside to this, though... with every track doing everything, they all sort of end up sounding a bit samey. It feels like he creates songs from ideas of thematic cohesion or meaning rather than a definite memorable hook or flow, and then applies verses and hooks and such to those concepts. It's a fine way of doing things, yeah, but it means that his tracks are a bit hit and miss with what will actually stay in your mind. Everything ends up in this sort of swirling miasma that is very dynamic and compelling but is almost homogeneously dynamic, if that makes any sense, and it's kinda exhausting.

Basically it might just be a bit too much of a good thing... often in tracks, I really look for and anticipate this sort of moment, when everything has built up to this point and is occurring simultaneously, like when the hook is brought back in over the verse, or they add some sort of vocal effect to the final repetition, or how the rapper will go super far in and start rapping doubly fast on the last verse... but with Travis Scott, all of this happens like, right away, and for the whole time. And it is amazing, but oh man, kinda overwhelming? I dunno, we'll see how I feel about it later.

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