Next month will mark the one year anniversary of Travis Scott’s Rodeo album. 11 months is a long time, but waiting four years for Frank Ocean makes 11 months a minuscule waiting period. Waiting is something Travis fans won’t have to do. I believe he knows his audience. He understands the anxious, restlessness that’s born in an age of short attention spans. Fans will want new music if the gap between releases is too long, they’ll ask for it in Twitter mentions and Instagram comments, they’ll ask for it at shows, they’ll ask anywhere they can find you. Travis didn’t give them time to miss him. Before the request could be sent, he announced a new project, Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight.
It only took Travis 11 months to prepare another full-length album. Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight is 14 brand new songs from the Houston rager. Rodeo set the bar - songs like “Oh My Dis Side,” “3500,” “Antidote,” “Maria I’m Drunk” and “Piss On Your Grave” had a strong presence throughout 2015. The long awaited debut was a strong release, showed that Travis had singles for the radio, that his fans went out and bought albums, and that he had staying power. I can’t say I was anticipating Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight - all the false release dates made me believe that the delays would continue. That’s the beauty of surprise albums, they come when they want, and you just have to be ready.
In usual 1-Listen fashion this will be a straightforward listen - no stops, no rewinds, no fast forwards, and every word typed is a gut reaction to the music. Let’s see how well these birds can sing.
1. "the end" (ft. André 3000)
Auto-Tune Trav appears with a soft melody over a pretty heavy beat. Feels rather Weeknd-esque. I feel like in the evolutionary Auto-Tune chart, Travis is somewhere between T-Pain and Future. Okay, after a singing intro, the bars are going. I’m usually not impressed by Trav’s rapping, but this is impressive. The sword is Samurai sharp. “They don’t want to see me in the ends” is definitely a Khaled inspired mantra. HOLD UP. Is that ANDRE 3000!!?!?!?!?!? IS THAT YOU ANDRE!? WOWOWOWOW STOP EVERYTHING IS THIS ANDRE HE SOUNDS LIKE ANDRE BUT THIS FLOW IS SO AHHHHHH, WTF MAN. I WASN'T READY. Nah, I don’t know what just happened. Someone tell me. He stopped rapping about 254 seconds ago and I don’t really know if my ears are working correctly. I DON'T KNOW WHAT JUST HAPPENED.
2. "way back"
Dog. Travis Scott has an Andre 3000 feature on his album. What is this? Okay, I’m back. “We in the house” Kanye sample. This is soothing. This beat sounds groovy but staticky. Really heavy bass. Trav hooks are gold. I hate rappers claiming they fall asleep with guns, all these girlfriends they’re stealing can’t be comfortable with that. A nice beat transition. This is like a slice of Trav’s Dark Twisted Fantasy. Eh, not really feeling this bridge. Surprisingly, I’m enjoying the rapping. Travis makes the music that sounds like you should listen while wearing Kanye’s Yeezy Season clothes. Post-apocalyptic, Y2K rap music. The electric guitar just set my whole world on fire.
3. "coordinate" (ft. Blac Youngsta)
T.I. is saying things. He’s not using his college vocabulary. Something to do with rockstar jeans. Okay, this beat sounds like it’s going to be a hit. Definitely an Atlanta producer. Which one of Future's producers gave this gem away? He’s even hitting the Future flow. This is the Pepsi to 56 Nights Coke. That bassline. Excluding Andre’s verse, this is already in the running for early favorite and I don’t have rockstar jeans. Catchy, this one is going to be a late fall banger. If Desiigner appears on this song I’ll lose my mind. I think Auto-Tune is in Trav’s cup and not lean, he uses the effect so much it has to be a part of his vocals now. I'm interested in who handled this production. Definitely a winner.
4. "through the late night" (ft. Kid Cudi)
Cudi hummmms. Cudi still got the best hums in the game. He's a top ten hip-hop hummer of all-time. The beat drops, the singing comes in, and it sounds like it could be the soundtrack for a hipster version of Batman. If Bruce Wayne went to raves and didn't fight crime. I’m liking this strange fusion of Cudi’s hums and Travis' singing. Cudi sounds like something is stuck in his throat once he starts rapping, but maybe that’s just his new tone. Eh, cool verse. I like Trav on this hook, Trav came on with the Day & Night lyrics. Have to respect the homage to his idol on the song with his idol. “Stroke my cactus” - what the hell does that mean? Literal? I mean I guess he could have an actual cactus. Or is that a metaphor for his… Alright. The verses were cool, but the hook is where the song shines. Wouldn’t mind if these two collabed more. Trav obviously knew exactly how to use Cudder’s voice to make something appealing.
5. "biebs in the trap" (ft. Nav)
Waiting for Justin Bieber… Who is this? There’s someone rapping, but his voice doesn’t sound familiar. It doesn’t sound like Bieber. I hope Justin isn’t pouring lean and sniffing coke. This is hitting pretty hard. He’s flowing. Some rappers just sound very natural on trap songs. This is some real dab-abble music. I expect to see many heads going into their arms when this drops. Interesting. I would love to know how Travis constructs these songs. There’s some small nuances that catch your ears. The sound effects he uses. My problem with Trav's features are, at times, you want to hear them more than him. The song was in a body bag, Trav didn’t add much for me. He should’ve given the whole track to this unknown rapper (Editor's note: His name is Nav). I would keep this one. The ending sounds like a demented cell phone calling you from hell.
6. "sdp interlude" (ft. Cassie)
SDP? There’s a subtle sample that’s really obscure. The beat feels like it’s building. The drums drop. Everything slows down. A woman’s voice. Smoke one, drop some, pop one - I should’ve known. So this is the part in the album where Trav allows us to re-up on all our drugs. Oh, this breakdown in the middle is pretty insane. Is that woman Kacy Hill? She was on the first album. (Editor's note: The female vocals are from Cassie.) I wonder what she’s doing. I have to say I appreciate Travis being considerate enough to allow us to get some more drugs and stuff to continue the album. Travis is a man of the people. There’s some talking. A voice that is muffled. I really can’t make out what he’s saying.
7. "sweet sweet"
Yo this higher note that Trav is hitting is very Swae Lee. The song has a strange similarity to “Hotline Bling.” His delivery in the first verse is impressive, but this beat is one that you can get lost in. Very minimum for a Trav song. Not so dark, not so heavy. Yeah, this has a Swae Lee/PartyNextDoor vibe. I can see this being a single, but it doesn’t scream smash to me. But definitely the song on the album that women will be singing as they hold their cameras trying to capture the perfect angle for Snapchat. Okay the song just went heavy with the white noise. It feels like the song combusted and left us with no trace that it ever existed.
8. "outside" (ft. 21 Savage)
I'm feeling this one early. The beat is knocking. A pretty straight forward Trav rap record on the first verse. This is actually pretty good. He’s not leaning too heavily on the melodies. Oh 21 21 21 21!!!!! The young Savage is killing it. Since 21 is on this record, production must be Metro Boomin. But it doesn’t really give you that Metro feeling. That kid 21 could go the distance. A strong feature. And it ends.
9. "goosebumps" (ft. Kendrick Lamar)
Trav comes in with the low tone and it gradually shoots up. Yeah, if the Weeknd isn’t on this I’ll be highly-disappointed. He needs to be singing about a house full of balloons here. My only problem with Travis is the album can start to feel very comfortable. He has a distinct style that can leave you wanting something different. Mix it up, ya know? But if it isn’t broken, you can’t expect a sudden fix. KENDRICK FUCKING LAMAR JUST APPEARED IN THE MIDDLE OF MY RANT AND HE IS FLOWING HIS GOOD KID ASS OFF. THIS IS UNTITLED 02 KENDRICK FLOW. GET TOP ON THE PHONE. Okay Travis, I apologize. DID KENDRICK JUST PREMIERE A NEW ALIEN VOICE!? Man oh man. Andre and Kenny with the cornrows? I have goosebumps. Well done Travis, well done.
10. "first take" (ft. Bryson Tiller)
This is interesting. Travis is in full ballad mode. I like this. Beat finally fully forms and he’s back in rapper mode. There’s definitely some unique notes being hit. This is even experimental for T-Scott. Kind of surprising to hear him singing something resembling a love song. I like this, but I’m also not deeply in love. I hear someone singing in the background. Sounds like Jeremiah. No, No. That’s Bryson. Bryson Tiller just appeared like a wild Jigglypuff except he didn’t put me to sleep, he woke me up. Yo, this should’ve been Bryson joint. Trap Soul wasn’t just an album title, he came and brought an added dose of soul to the birds in this trap. I’m not the biggest fan of Bryson but that was a strong performance. Travis Scott continues to deliver some of the best features in rap.
11 "pick up the phone" (ft. Young Thug and Quavo)
I probably heard this for the first time a few weeks ago. It didn't blow up as a single, but I like it as a song. Young Thug sounds incredible. There's some lines I really enjoyed. His eccentric way of rapping can be show stealing. Thugger will take your spotlight if you feature him on a song. T.I. "About The Money" is a great example. Quavo is also hilariously incredible. The way he completely made discriminze into a word just to fit his rhyme is why he’s a national treasure. I also hate the face melting breakdown at the end. These organ chords should only be heard when the world is ending.
12. "lose" (ft. Cassie)
The bass is super heavy, but Trav's voice is like a peddle skipping across the ocean. “Lose” doesn’t sound bad, but I’m having a hard time getting all the way into it. Maybe it’s just poor placement. "Pick Up The Phone" is a home run with the bases loaded. "Lose" is like a bunt in the 9th inning down five runs. This is the song that would be a great SoundCloud upload on a sunny Sunday, but not really material for the album.
13. "guidance" (ft. K. Forest)
Whoa whoa whoa. Now this is different. This beat has an interesting tempo and swing. Travis singing is alluring. Wow. Is this the single? This is like a dance-trap record, dancehall-esque, but Travis' version. Groovy. I can vibe to this. Actually, this is giving me GoldLink "Future Bounce" vibes meets Drake’s “Controlla.” Easily the most unique production on the entire album. Trav might have one here. This is a keeper with the potential to be that annoying single that blows up everywhere. Yep, this is the one.
14. "wonderful" (ft. The Weeknd)
Okay. “Work it like a stripper but you not a stripper” is going to be a hashtagged goal by the end of this four day weekend. Speaking of Weekend, here’s The Weeknd. An interesting vocal pitch. I don’t know why they decided to make Weeknd sing with the helium voice. Not sure how I feel about that. That bassline is NASTY. Overall, I like this, this is fun. Crazy breakdown at the end. Feels like a fusion of ‘08 Cudi and Yeezus. And then it ends.
Surprised. That’s the first word I thought as I removed my headphones. Travis kept this album cloaked in mystery for a reason, he wanted people to have moments of eyes wide, jaw dropped, holding your heart surprise. Putting 3 Stacks on your intro without warning could cause a man to faint from shock. Even with knowledge that Cudi would be on the album, not knowing when, or how, makes that first hum send a rush through your bones. Kendrick, Bryson, The Weeknd - it’s a star-studded release and everyone sounds tailored for their placements. That’s a talent that Travis possess; the ability to see the strength in other artists. He doesn’t ask for features, he asks for the missing pieces to his puzzle.
Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight is a Travis Scott album. It has all the strengths of his previous projects: grandiose production, great features, and infectious melodies. I’ve always found Travis’ rapping to be his weakest skill. He’s not trying to be an elite emcee, but there are a few shining moments where he delivers.
The album is safe in its soundscape, but daring in execution. The risks aren't big, but enough was changed to keep it from being repetitive. I didn’t feel like I was listening to Rodeo, but the successor to a successful album. And judging based on my first listen, I would say Travis has another one.
By Yoh, aka Writers In The Trap Read Yoh, aka @Yoh31.
Photo Credit: Instagram