Over two years after its initial tease, Travis Scott has finally heeded the calls to release his long-awaited, much-hyped third studio album.
Since first announcing Astroworld on Vine (it's been that long!) in May 2016, the Houston rapper, new father, and connoisseur of jeans both skinny and comically large has released two projects: Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight and the collaborative Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho with Quavo. While neither quite burst through as a critical or commercial smash, both have served to keep eyes and ears on Travis in preparation for what has become an expected opus, Astroworld, named after Houston's now-defunct Six Flags theme park.
The hype is high. The most recent single, "Watch," featuring Kanye West and Lil Uzi Vert, was disappointing (it's okay—he's an "album artist"). The artwork, shot by famed photographer David LaChapelle, is controversial. The golden Travis heads are adorning esteemed locales across the United States.
It's almost time to strap in and head to Astroworld, but first, we have a few questions.
To answer these questions, we sought out the musical expertise of Drew Millard, a freelance writer the weekend editor for The Outline; Wanna Thompson, a Toronto-based freelance music writer; and Brendan Varan, managing editor here at DJBooth.
1. Is Travis Scott a superstar?
Serious question: What does Travis Scott actually do? Like, I get that when he first dropped he was rapping and producing and then he signed with Kanye and so then suddenly he got to be Kanye Jr., but now, he’s just kinda there. Despite being a talented enough producer to have multiple Kanye beats under his belt, he barely had any production credits on his previous record Huncho Jack, and any time he steps up to the mic these days all you get is mumbly growl-singing. It sounds cool, sure, but anybody with cool beats and an engineer with a working knowledge of Pro Tools plugins can sound cool. Travis Scott is a superstar, yes, but he’s one that’s essentially propped up by the record industry because they’ve spent so much money developing him they need a return on their investment. That said Huncho Jack slapped. —Drew Millard
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Undoubtedly. When I first caught wind of Travis Scott, I went on a music binge and consumed everything he had ever released in one sitting. He brings something special to hip-hop, and I'm far from the only person who hears "it." Last year, I saw Travis perform on Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. Tour and multiple people in my section told me they just came to see Travis perform. I also left the show with two broken high heels. Do I regret it? No. —Wanna Thompson
If Travis Scott wasn't already a superstar solely based on his musical output, festival headlining, endorsements for local mom-and-pop establishments like Nike and Apple, court-side residence at Houston's Toyota Center, and fashion iconicism (Astroworld merch out now!), then knocking boots with the soon-to-be "youngest self-made billionaire ever" and the second-most famous member of America's most famous family to the tune of a child sealed it. Straight up. —Brendan Varan
2. Are expectations too high for Astroworld?
I’m interested in what’s meant by “expectations” for this record. Will it make someone — unfortunately, probably not the people who actually made the thing, Scott included — a shit-ton of money? Yes. Will it have a sheen of professional competency and touches of creative flair that will warrant repeat listens by casual rap fans? Well, it is an explicitly commercial rap album by a popular artist, so yes. Will it sound cool while you’re smoking weed? Also yes. —Drew Millard
Hell yeah. After Birds..., I’m expecting nothing but mayhem, chaos, and perfection. Maybe I am expecting too much. But I truly believe Scott can deliver. I’ve been waiting for this album ALL year; I need to throw my own little release party. —Wanna Thompson
See Also: Drake, Views. —Brendan Varan
3. Does Travis Scott already have a classic album to his name?
Travis Scott and Quavo got Ralph Steadman, Mike Dean, Cardo, and Yung Lean to all contribute to an album that contained a line referencing Dan Marino being in Ace Ventura, so yes, absolutely. —Drew Millard
Yes, and anyone who says differently is a liar. I know Days Before Rodeo is just a mixtape but it's a classic body of work. We could even put Birds... up there. —Wanna Thompson
As much as I personally loved Rodeo and Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight—I still don't believe the latter received the flowers it deserved—neither can soundly be labeled a "classic." There's a certain level of quality and impact a classic album must measure up to, and all of Travis' projects so far fall short. My apologies to the 60 or so 15-year-olds lined up outside of Supreme right now who think Scott is signed to G.O.O.D. Music and already consider Astroworld a classic. —Brendan Varan