Travi$ Scott is polarizing. Those who hate him cannot understand the appeal, while those in favor of the Houston native and purveyor of rage tend to chalk their fanaticism up to more abstract characteristics, citing the sound he's characterized by or the energy level he brings to his performances. Regardless of public opinion, he's been able to quickly win over industry heavy hitters, signing to Kanye's G.O.O.D. Music as a producer and to T.I.'s Grand Hustle and EPIC Records as an artist, in addition to sharing the stage and working with some of the biggest names in music.
His debut album is a testament to his far-reaching industry grip, as the guest features and production credits read like an all-star lineup of who is buzzing right now. Future, Metro Boomin, Kanye, The Weeknd, 808 Mafia, DJ Dahi, Young Thug and more all deliver in full force - hell, even Justin Bieber makes an appearance. Rodeo arrives roughly a year removed from Travi$' acclaimed Days Before Rodeo, and I've been interested to find out if the themes and sonic stylings that permeated that project would be more fully developed and polished for his studio debut.
As per 1 Listen rules, I'm not allowed to pause or rewind the album, this is purely my stream-of-consciousness, gut reaction to the album as it plays in its entirety. I'll revisit the album in a few months when I can really measure it's impact. I'm fully prepared to rage, so I'll cut to the chase and jump into the darkness that is Travi$ Scott's highly anticipated Rodeo.
Note: I wrote this review on a bus. It was freezing.
What is this, an OutKast album? Is this T.I. taking over the Southern drawl-infused, spoken word intro duties from Big Rube? The album is going to be frightening, that much is obvious. "Pornography" sets the tone early, it’s sex, Auto-Tune, bass and wailing croons from Travi$. T.I. comes back in, a good time to mention that I always forget Travi$ is aligned with Grand Hustle. The second half finds Travi$ hitting his flow, and while I’m not really hearing many standout lyrics (of course) it rides well. Also, it is way too cold for a 1 Listen, my frozen fingers can barely type.
"Oh My Dis Side" ft. Quavo
MIGOS! “Ohh myyyyyyyyyy” The production on this album will be insane, I’m 100% confident. Oh lord I like this beat, and Quavo’s flow and ad-libs adds the perfect wave of energy to complement Travi$’s crooning. This chorus is addictive, I cannot wait to hear this in the club. Some mesmerizing, evil carnival-esque glistening pops up before we move into a more uplifting, melodic section. You won’t find anything mind-blowing being said, but anyone listening to this album looking for bars rang the doorbell on the wrong house. I’m a little disappointed the production mood was lifted before Quavo came in, I was really looking forward to him in all-out “fuck you and the clique you claim” mode over the early, darker production. Also, six minutes is an eternity for a Travi$ Scott song.
"3500" ft. Future & 2 Chainz
"3500 for the coat!” Early on, I was surprised this song didn’t blow up to the point I thought it would, but I think now I may have initially overestimated how much I liked it. It still gets regular play, but it’s not quite to the extent I first expected. Single artwork was super dope though. Future is God. So are Zaytoven and Metro Boomin, who have crafted an exceptionally luxurious piece of trap music here. What ever happened to 2 Chainz, are people just losing interest in him? Jesus why is this song almost eight minutes long? I don’t have time for eight minute songs these days, next time cut the second half off and call it an interlude. Seriously, I’ve got a whole album to review, I can’t have a beat ride out for two minutes.
"Wasted" ft. Juicy J
How obvious is it that the Juicy J guest feature would land on the track entitled “Wasted”? Auto-Tune heavy out the gate, though I feel like I’m in some screwed-up, haunted house. In the desert. Without electricity. The Houston influence is strooooong on this one, and chopped-up Pimp C comes through like a beacon from the hip-hop heavens. This is a good PSA for being able to handle your shit, lightweights heed the warning. Juicy has been spitting the same verse for over a decade now, but it’s almost more comfortably familiar than stale. Sort of like McDonald’s, you know what you’re getting and you know it’s not going to be very good, but you’re so used to it that you still strangely look forward to it. T.I. is back, funny that he’s narrating the album with zero features spots.
Is this an ode to the classic ‘90s soap opera? Probably not. This sounds like 808s & Heartbreaks mixed with FKA Twigs so far. I’m reminded of “Drugs You Should Try It,” but in a more hopeless, “pit of despair” type of way. I’m not sure if anyone really realizes this, but according to Travi$ there are quite a bit of superstar drug addicts in Beverly Hills. Who would have thought? Wow, I love how this just shifted up, we’re heading towards soulful right now. Did Ye co-produce this? I should have paid more attention to the credits beforehand. The vocal sample feels like it came straight out of the G.O.O.D. Fridays days. I can’t deny how much I enjoy what I’m hearing right now, those piano keys are godly, word to DeJ Loaf in all white. The second half of this song >>>>>>
"Pray 4 Love" ft. The Weeknd
The Weeknd is everywhere right now, but who shows up here? Dark, cokehead, sex addict Abel or pop-star, MJ reincarnated, cokehead sex addict Abel? The production sounds like a good blend of both artists’ sweet spots, something you would maybe hear out of a futuristic 80s movie. I feel like I’m blasting through space, the bass kicks propelling me along in heartbeat fashion. Overall, this record was kind of “meh” for me.
"Nightcrawler" ft. Swae Lee & Chief Keef
La Flame. SremmLife. Sosa. Obviously one of the more intriguing lineups on the album. A lot of noise here, maybe too much, a lot is going on right now. I like where they were going here, but it sounds very crowded and indiscernable. Chief Keef, believe it or not, almost sounds like the more articulative artist here, and special props to him for the "Korean spicy garlic” reference. I can only imagine that will be his next child's name. I’ve seen some comparisons between the music of Travi$ and Rae Sremmurd, but hearing this song on the Sremm album would sound completely out of place. Could have used Slim Jimmy too.
"Piss On Your Grave" ft. Kanye West
I’ll be honest, I accidentally heard this record before and I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about it. I love the blues rock, that the momentum never stops building, and I enjoy both Ye and Scott individually on the track. That said, I don’t know when I’m going to play this song. Really, what is the acceptable situation to pop this out? I’m pretty sure the only appropriate time to listen to this is while you’re actually pissing on someone’s grave (or writing a 1 Listen album review). This is pure, unleaded, distorted testosterone.
POPPING PILLS IS ALL WE KNOW! The song that wasn’t initially supposed to make the album, yet ended up becoming so popular it made it’s way into the final tracklist. Instant party starter. This is a top 20 song of the year for me, no doubt, with absolutely no regards to those who wonder what the big deal is. If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it won’t understand. That said, I heard this played about 34 times at Trillectro festival over the weekend, so I’m not exactly excited to rage along right now.
Drugs are a prerequisite here. This is spacy, paranoid, and incoherent - about what 56 Xans would turn into to make a miraculous listening experience. So much reference to the nighttime, maybe Travi$ is a vampire too? I just realized how bad I fucked up by not doing this at 2 AM, since there is no way this record was created for mid-afternoon enjoyment. I like this song, it reminds me of Johnny Cinco in that sense that right now I’m like “this is cool” but if I was under the influence of various substances at 3 AM it would turn into “SHIT IS LIIIIIIIIIIT BRO."
"Maria I’m Drunk" ft. Justin Bieber & Young Thug
I’ve been trying to figure out why the hell people keep referencing Maria on Twitter, so I believe I've stumbled across a bit of a breakthrough. OH SHIIIIIITTTTTT. This is “Drunk” with Young Thug. The record that leaked. Holy shit, he put Justin Bieber on it? ON THIS RECORD? I enjoyed “Drunk” as a leak, but I’m thinking the album version is about to take things to a whole new… my god…. Bieber is rapping? Wait, what is happening? I-I-… I was just nodding along to a Justin Bieber verse. I think he might have killed it. Alright, no shame here, moving along. Damn you Travi$ Scott, why do I like this song so much?
"Flying High" ft. Toro y Moi
I’m gonna be honest, up until about two days ago I was confusing Toro Y Moi with the Reggaeton duo Wisin & Yandel. Don’t ask. (Anyway, his new project Samantha is great.) Positive vibes set in early, and "Flying High” is about as apt a title possible. "WE DON’T FUCK WITH COPS!” This is the starkest contrast in mood on the album so far, a definite departure from Travi$'s characteristic sound, but with enough churning bass and wait.. these synths are magical. To Pimp A Rodeo or nah??? I’m going to put this out there-- can Kendrick please jump on the remix? Not likely, but you never know.
"I Can Tell"
Happiness is replaced with a return to slightly horrifying, and more than slightly epic depravity. What’s odd is that I don’t really have any thoughts on what I’m hearing. It bumps, and other than that it sounds, at times, very much like a Kanye West song, maybe the end of "Lost In The World" but in a much darker, psychotic kind of way. Imagine the world is ending. but more repetitive.
These reviews are exhausting, and this record seems like it’s been especially tiresome, most likely an effect of the same pervasive sounds reappearing in bulk across the entirety of the album. Say what you will, though, you can’t argue that it doesn’t sound cohesive. “Apple Pie” has Travi$ saying “I am everything except a rapper,” which is convenient because it comes at the end of a project that proves exactly that. Right on cue, T.I. shows up to send us off with some words of wisdom. I actually don’t recall a single line Clifford spoke on any of his appearances, but I’m sure they were very wise.
Rodeo is a wild ride, an adrenaline-fueled look into the dark mind of an artist seemingly on the brink of breaking. The chaos doesn't quite reach Cherry Bomb levels, as it's too finely polished and theatrical, but steadily simmers throughout while occasionally heating to a boil. The album raised huge expectations solely based on the incredible number of high-profile contributors, which is both Travi$'s gift and his curse. Part of his draw is his tendency and ability to connect far-reaching artists and styles and bring them into his world and sound, but that will also be the big reason why people may be left wanting more.
That's my biggest gripe with the album. I personally expected more after my first listen, but I understand now that was the wrong way to approach the project. When I heard Days Before Rodeo for the first time, I went in expecting little and was excited to realize how much I liked most of the material. This time around, I expected the effort to reach a deeper level that was never touched, at least lyrically. I honestly cannot remember anything that Travi$ said, but in fairness I was much more focused with vibing out than drawing meaning. Travi$ himself says he's not a rapper, and while he does rap it's only when hearing the final package that things start to make sense. And that is Travi$ Scott defined; this is a project to fuel nighttime disobediance, aimed at the lonely stoners, the misguided drug users and late night ragers. It's a cohesive body of work that sometimes borders on repetitive, but one that pulls you into a fully realized world of darkness and disorder. It may be shallow, but it's Travi$'s show - the night show - and who has time to stop and think when you're hell-bent on turning up?
Favorite tracks: "90210," "Antidote," "Maria I'm Drunk"
Not so favorite track: "I Can Tell"
[By Brendan Varan. Maria, he's drunk. Follow him on Twitter.]