It was his Complex Interview that intrigued me, a Houston born rebel that went from homeless in New York to dining on Dorito tacos in the kingdom of Yeezus. He lied to his parents about being enrolled in the University of Texas, using the money for books to fund his dreams of being an artist. His starvation for success tugged at my own desires; Travi$ Scott was ready to throw away security to reach the sanctuary. Signed to Kanye as a producer and T.I. as a rapper, a prodigious double threat underneath two prestigious umbrellas. J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Childish Gambino, the industry is full of experts in both the production and rapping realms, but he’s the first that I can remember that acquired deals for both skills. My hopes were high, before pressing play, I had an expectation of elite rapping and incredible production. Owl Pharaoh was supposed to be the sound of tomorrow.
I felt cat fished, baited by big names and the allure of his backstory. The sound didn’t match my imagined predictions. He lacked lyrical prowess, every verse felt shallow, one dimensional. I’m from Atlanta, home of the senseless braggadocio, but his boasting felt plain in comparison to his more familiar contemporaries. The production is where there was a glimmer of hope, the soundscapes are dipped in ominous ideas, dark tones, hell bound basslines, and voice manipulation. Like walking through a haunted house with the zombies and ghosts having sex instead of being frightening. Influences are worn on his sleeve, Travi$ resurrected the spirits of Kid Cudi’s Man on The Moon and Kanye’s 808’s and Heartbreak into a new vessel. Despite the positives, his debut is more lackluster than grandeur, my ears weren’t ready for this level of disappointment. While my excitement was turning into dissatisfaction the world seem to be embracing the Owl Pharaoh. The acclaim surrounding his name climbed to new heights.
A year later, the internet was in full-fledged mayhem for the release of Days Before Rodeo. Young Thug’s two features intrigued me, "Mamacita" and "Skyfall." As a whole, the album left me with a slightly better impression than its predecessor. Travi$ is still the epitome of average rap-wise, his subject matter centers around drugs and sexual escapades, but the production is exceptional. Every beat is a shining example of the growth of his powerful sound. He has an ear for placements, every feature is thrown into a sonic environment where their talents shine brightest. For example, "Sloppy Toppy" is the Migos at their most entertaining, their energy is intoxicating.
Days Before Rodeo didn't win me over completely, but it helped me understand what so many others seemed to find in him. His ambiance and aesthetic are qualities that people gravitate toward. He’s this symbol of rebellion, a druggy outcast that conquered the world in a sea of dark sounds. The only color that surrounds him is his diamond grill and chains. And sure, he doesn’t verbalize that story like Nas, but the production though! The beats, the beats, the beats, that was always the first thing out the mouths of Travi$’ fans. His beats are unique, unlike anyone in his age bracket, and I tended to agree, but I came across some interesting tweets from one of my favorite music journalist, Noz:
To my surprise, Travi$ didn’t actually handle the bulk of Days Before Rodeo’s production. Looking further back, on Owl Pharaoh only two songs were produced by him without outside assistance. Now he wears the title producer, and he receives a mountain of praise for the work he does behind the boards, but in talking to people, most don't seem to realize that the man they're praising actually didn't produce much of the work they seem to love him for producing. It reminds me of group projects back in high school, the one that writes his name the biggest usually did the least amount of work.
Co-production is very odd concept to me. I always saw instrumentals as intimate creation, taking nothing and creating a sound based on your personal, creative perspective. Producers create a signature based on a style, attributes that our ears register. With co-production, as a listener we aren’t aware of who supplied what, it’s a team effort. Kanye is notorious for having a team of creatives all inputting ideas and helping build the beat, but Kanye didn’t start utilizing others until the later part of his career. Ye earned his strips as a producer, his capabilities are documented throughout his career. Travi$ is building a career through collaborations, leaning on others strengths to enhance his own talents. Talents that I’m still struggling to pinpoint. If we take away his production, what is left?
Well, live performances. His skills rocking a stage seem to be the most undeniable thing about Scott.
In the same Complex interview, when asked about dropping out of college he said, “If I’m going to class, I’m going to have to sit here and look at this professor that’s teaching me shit I’m not trying to hear. I want to be a fucking rapper bro. I’m trying to ice out my chain. I’m trying to rock crowds and have kids spazz. That’s what I wanted to do. Entertain.” And that’s exactly what he does. He’s a firecracker, stage diving, water flinging, absolutely adrenalized. The energy he exudes is addictive, and the crowd absorbs what he transmits and returns it tenfold. He’s a rock star, an entertainer that will give you your money’s worth. Fans want more than rapper hands and sagging pants, you have to thrill them, leave a lasting impression, and Scott does this with ease, performing is his natural habitat.
I see Travi$ Scott as the rapper version of Scott Vener, a well-known music curator/music supervisor. His ear for music is what made the music on shows like HBO’s Entourage and How to Make It In America incredible. The same way he scores scenes is what Travi$ does with his music. Travi$ seems to have a golden ear, able to construct the best combinations with producers and artists. He saw what Metro Boomin, FKi, DJ Dahi and others were creating. He saw the promise in the potential of Young Thug, Peewee Longway and PND. He isn’t strangled by his shortcomings, he’s a rock star with a vision. You can tell by his music videos that he has a director’s eye for details, it’s a trait that pours into his music. I would love to hear him curate a compilation, similar to DJ Khaled but with less repetitive shouting. I’ll be attending his tour stop with Thugger and Metro Boomin, just to get a look at the legendary live performance, but I’m not expecting to leave a fan. His music lacks substance, which is sad, he rather brag about how his life is a pool of pussy instead of turning all the anguish into art. So help me understand, what is it that you like about Travi$ Scott? I’m trying to see what’s so special. Because I don’t understand the worldwide attraction. What did Kanye and T.I. see? Why are people so engaged? Am I missing something?
This must be what parents feel like when they hear their kids playing "Lifestyle."
[By Yoh, aka Days Before Yohdeo, aka @Yoh31.]