Musical kinships are formed over time, not overnight. Artists benefit the most from slowing developing a rapport with one another, and working toward finding a natural creative middle ground; not abruptly throwing together a full-length project in the span of a few months. It’s very similar to how Marvel has handled the Avenger films vis-à-vis DC’s Justice League. One was built gradually, within a universe that allowed the characters to grow and crossover, whereas the other went full sprint toward a blockbuster climax that has, so far, failed to create any magic or connection between its heroes.
Never rush the climax.
My hopes aren’t extraordinarily high, but I believe in Quavo and Travis Scott’s Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho more so than every big-name collaborative effort dating back to What A Time To Be Alive. Travis has worked with the Migos since the remix of “Quintana” and continued to weave their Auto-Tune melodies and robust delivers together in a strange yet satisfying union. Travis saw something in them early, an innate chemistry that could musically coexist. I see Scott as Sonic to Quavo’s Knuckles, the Megaman to his Protoman, and the Mario to his Luigi, separate entities yet similar in style. Both “Oh My Dis Side” and “Pick Up The Phone” showcased the crossover success between Travis and Quavo or Travis and Migos. They know what works, they’ve spent years slowly crafting winning harmony.
The anticipation for Huncho Jack has been high since the project was first announced last December, and consistent promotional “coming soon” tweets kept the feverish demand high. As the last scheduled collaborative album of the year, Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho could break a streak of rather lackluster duo performances. I'd like to imagine I just wrote that into existance.
The album art by Ralph Steadman is a wonderful first impression. If the music is as impressive as the cover than Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho will be a treat.
In usual 1 Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
1. "Modern Slavery"
This title… Ta-Nehisi Coates' Twitter has been deactivated for two days and Travis and Quavo are standing in for the culture. I love this long, deep horn. Beautiful production. Otis Redding sample, nice. Kanye would be proud. Very soft. Is Travis humming or is that Quavo? I swear, they are vocal twins. Beat drops and Quavo wasted no time mentioning how the chains of today are slave-related. Cool little melodic switch up. I’m really into this beat, like rubbing my ear against velvet cushions. For an intro this is rather catchy, possibly single worthy. Travis sounds comfortable, his ad-libs are adding texture to his delivery. Quavo tagged back in. This is harmony. Bruce Lee would say the two are moving like water. No particular standout bars but the atmosphere is pleasant. The song is such an odd structure. I’m not sure where the hook begins, or what’s considered a bridge. “Sip after sip I feel painless,” with a touch of reverb. Cool.
2. "Black & Chinese"
Talk about questionable song titles. Their publicist must have left the office early for the holidays. Keys are jumping, hyper, building toward something. Just heard that Southside siren. I think it's a siren. I know I cannot make that noise with my mouth. These drums are about to hit harder than Rick James' (R.I.P) five fingers slapping Charlie Murphy's (R.I.P.) face. It’s getting louder… BOOM! They just landed. Trap production is a bit too predictable for my taste. Travis is sorta mumbling. I have no idea what he’s saying. His voice is so low. Okay! He just woke up from whatever zombie trance he was in. Very Travis-esque, nothing new here or incredibly thrilling, but his flow has smoothened out well. Quavo. Man, after such a good year, I’m not feeling this Southside beat. The tempo would be better if it was slower; it needs a sip of lean. Why did he say “Black and Chinese”? Very random. Quavo has a thing for pocket rockets, LMAO. Punchy flow. Something about a wiped nose...
3. "Eye 2 Eye" ft. Takeoff
These are my kind of keys. Slow and ominous. Murda On The Beat. I'm loving Quavo’s melody. Very smooth transition into Travis picking up where he left off. I wish the beats had more life, or maybe if the artists sounded more lively. Travis' verse was cool. “I’m a deadly weapon i'm about to go off,” I chuckled. Quavo’s bird calls are worthy of a National Geographic series. “Real nigga eye, we see eye to eye,” this could become very infectious. This second Travis verse is more my speed. Takeoff! Fam said people commit suicide when they don’t have mob tides, we gotta stop rhyming things that don’t make sense guys. Ha, a Tupac reference. Predictable but well done. Glad to see Takeoff show Vine some love. The hook is a winner. Also, what I thought was Trav on the second verse was just the hook. Wait! This breakdown at the end sounds like something! Dammit.
4. "Motorcycle Patches"
My kind of bounce. Drums are knocking and there are strange, alien-esque chords. X-Files keys. Very grabbing melody, Travis. This song sounds like a video game load screen for the hood version of Luigi’s Mansion. This might be my favorite song yet. I like how unorthodox this beat is. Our duo also is very attuned. Their chemistry is on a synchronized swimmer level. This gives me old Travis vibes, a song that would end up as a bonus on Rodeo. Yeah, this is pretty sick. I don’t know about the cartoonish bridge, but it will grow on me. Travis has found his nimbus cloud on this second verse. Floating like a rock skipping across a lake without effort. Definitely an early favorite. Jack and Jill reference.
5. "Huncho Jack"
Okay, another Murda tag. A trap beat that sounds like it was fished out of a swamp. Very dirty. I’m enjoying Travis far more than I imagined. He brought the personality that I expected from Quavo. He’s stuck in one dimension both in delivery and flow, while Trav is keeping things fresh. Can a trap house look innocent? Like a church is innocent. Another good hook. Every hook could be attached to a hit song, but the songs as a whole aren’t very grabbing. “Huncho Jack” didn’t come to life until this obscure breakdown. I need more variety, guys.
Any chance this song is dedicated to Kanye’s son? Shout to Saint with the braids. Favorite Murda beat so far. It’s bursting with life, jubilant. Fish grease hot. Travis is once again flexing the melody muscle. I imagine there’s an alternate universe where Travis writes jingles like Jamie King instead of infectious rap hooks. Imagine if going commercial meant writing jingles for Meow Mix and Empire Today? Quavo is bragging about his recently-purchased 15-room mansion. This is good. “Collecting platinum hits like they’re jewelry” haha, I like the imagery. Trav just mentioned too much jelly on his PB&J. I guess you can never be too rich for the simple things. I wouldn’t mind hearing this hook on a loop.
Horns! I love this already. We’re somewhere tropical and rich. Imagine walking onto an island and just hearing this beat as the sand slides between your toes. Great tempo. Great bounce. The two really have a working balance. The loop is beginning to feel excessive but the drum pattern and background flutes are really keeping this one enjoyable. Felt rather short but enjoyable from start to finish.
8. "Dubai Shit" ft. Offset
I'm ready for Offset to take my soul to another world. I'm expecting another body bag guest verse. Hmm. I’m assuming this is a sampled hook as it sounds rather peculiar. Is that Travis? Ah. I know this Drake flow. Rappers really share different blueprints. This has the potential to be a banger. Trav’s Auto-Tune has a noticeable weight to it, definitely different than others, with completely different textures. Quavo with the second verse. Same flow. Quavo pays his goon allowances, what a great guy. I like the bridge! That was fire Travis Wonder. Dubai was very inspirational. This is odd, it sounds like Offset and Quavo are doing a strange fusion. Offset only did background vocals. No full verse? Wow, I haven’t been this disappointed since I illegally downloaded Magna Carta Holy Grail and got Papoose's The Nacirema Dream.
9. "Saint Laurent Mask"
This is the first song title that I love. Nice knock. Slower tempo. Has a bit of a moodiness. Music for late nights filled with counting thousands underneath a pale moonlight. Travis is in the pocket like Robin Hood next to royalty. I have no idea what Quavo is talking about. He’s talking about “she,” I wonder who this might be? Man, their vocal switch was smoother than swapping characters in Marvel Vs Capcom. “Yeah” x10. I’m not going to nitpick at the lack of interesting lyricism, there’s nothing interesting being said, but these two are great at making banal tolerable. KEYS GOING OFF. I really like how this ended. Thank God for producers.
10. "Moon Rock"
More keys. This time, it sounds like they’re being played in a haunted house on the moon. This is a very Travis song. Perfect production for his voice. Travis has mentioned a lot of references to jealousy. His Facebook status is paranoid. Is this a solo Trav record? This is the longest we've heard a single voice. He said all his girls are on Plan B as if its an actual vitamin. Quavo has arrived. I didn’t miss him much but he’s delivering one of his better performances thus far. Better late than never, right?
11. "How U Feel"
Nostalgic sample. I know this. Is this… Mac DeMarco? From the Salad Daysalbum. It’s an interesting loop. One of the more offbeat production selections. I like the oddness, how it contrasts with Quavo’s flow. Bass is nasty. Southside has redeemed himself. I sorta wish this was a Migos song. Offset would burn it down. An anthem about feels and fills. “Crib in the trees,” how very Jungle Book of you Travis. Forest Gump reference. Did he say “Nigga Trunks”? I hope he did and I didn’t make that up. For an album this long they could’ve created some new ad-libs. Trav has had the same ad-libs for the last two albums. They should update them for every album, keep things fresh.
12. "Where U From"
Guitar plucks. I like this already. Cardo tag! I haven’t heard that tag enough this year. Very western vibe. Probably the first beat to match the album title and the cover. I see cacti and revolvers. Trav really came in like he kicked the saloon door in. The Quavo mom reference is still going strong. Cardo produced the perfect tune to act unruly with your homies, without making the cliche beat knocker. It’s such a casual banger. Quavo girls love cocaine, I imagine he’s like Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction and all his girls got noses like Mia Wallace. I need them to shoot a video just for this beat. The way Travis says, “Too much alcohol” is my favorite part of the entire song.
13. "Best Man"
We've reached the very end of the album, and we've got a Quavo hook. I like this. Quavo Wonder didn't sing enough on the album. I'd much rather hear him melodically sing than rap about pocket rockets. “Use to have dream of final four.” More trap life-rap life juxtaposition. I just can’t see Quavo doing the things I imagine Pusha T did. A little slow with the tempo. Could use a shot of adrenalin. “Count up bands with my best man” should be used at weddings. Flow Travis flow! Loving the speedy energy. Man, he lowkey showed out. He delivered a DMX reference. Go ahead and keep that same energy for the next album. He just sent a RIP to Ben Franklin. That’s a first. Very spacey production. I'm riding an elevator that continues to move higher and higher. Sparse drums and holy keys. I wish this second half could be my wedding song.
Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho doesn’t suffer from chemistry issues as Travis and Quavo sound like kindred spirits. Their tag team overlapped without disrupting the vibe, with each artist sticking to their strengths. However, the production sounds like it could have been used for a Travis mixtape, or for the next installment in QC’s compilation series. I wouldn’t label them throwaways, but no risks were taken over 13 tracks. This is a 'for the fans' album, built particularly for their audiences.
While I didn't expect otherwise, Travis and Quavo's lack of lyrical prowess does cause the album to drag. A case of a messenger just not being able to deliver a very appealing message. Their melodies are strong, but I didn't hear an immediate standout that can live alongside “Oh My Dis Side” and “Pick Up The Phone.”
Between the two, I'm more disappointed in Quavo, who I believe overextended himself this year. There’s a limit on how much we can handle from every artist until what made them the most interesting starts to become rather stale.
It's possible that additional listens will cause me to see the material in a different light, but Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho is closer to "it is what it is" than a special project between two of the most influential artists of the past half-decade. They made the album that was expected of them, but they didn’t produce the kind of music that matches their caliber of artist.
Despite being a noteworthy moment, this isn't music that will truly stick to your ribs. It’s more like a limited edition release that had the potential to be exceptional but found comfort in just being a great idea.
Early Favorites: “Motorcycle Patches,” “Saint Laurent Mask”
Early Not-So-Favorites: “Black & Chinese,” “Huncho Jack"
By Yoh, aka Huncho Jayoh, Jack Yohcho, aka @Yoh31