Monday, September 7, 2015

Travi$ Scott - Rodeo Review

Time will tell but as the months progress Kanye’s 6th album, Yeezus, may be proving to be one of his most influential. A true pioneer of Hip-Hop, West orchestrated his way through school, graduated with explosive Pop Rap, fell into Auto-tune depression, and perfected all of them together. And then, there’s Yeezus. Experimental, unnatural, disjointed, a work of candid abstract art more divisively accepted than consciously agreed on. Now, come 2015, take West’s most out there work, throw in a dash of Kid Cudi’s Man On The Moon series, and birth it out of the Southern swamps and you have Rodeo, the debut studio album by Travi$ Scott. It’s a blossoming sub-genre that hasn’t been invented yet, Experimental enough sonically to be dubbed with the moniker but lyrically vapid to withstand mainstream appeal. Scott, amongst others like Kanye, Drake, and Young Thug, abstain from norms, yolo-ing their way through the music industry. His credit to that title? ‘3500,’ the lead single drenched in Southern Trap that nearly breaches the 8-minute mark. Somehow, someway, Scott was able to forge mindless Trap Rap that even I’d enjoy, further testament to the fact that crisp production, catchy choruses, and flows for days can reward listeners on a critical level. 

Rodeo starts with a cosmic tale of escapism, a poor man’s attempt at recreating Kid Cudi’s already worthless form of cohesion. It maintains the space-theme Southern rappers, like Big K.R.I.T., do to seem globally outcasted like Outkast, only coming off as corny and not honest. This, sprinkled throughout Rodeo, is the worst part of it, a needless addition to Scott’s already giant sphere of influences. That sphere another massive limitation, with Scott acting as Hip-Hop’s best imitator without a shred of originality spanning the 14 tracks, using his own influences, like West, Juicy J and Future, as facilitators honing their sound than one’s helping Scott to create his own. If one was curious how all post-2010 popular Hip-Hop would sound like mashed together look nowhere else than Rodeo, where the over-infatuation with influences positions Scott as a faceless emcee. There’s ad-lib biting from Cudi and A$AP Rocky on ‘Nightcrawler’ and ‘Wasted’ respectively, Drill, Trap, and Trill echo throughout every track, and with lyrics impressionably meaningless Scott gives himself no lane to be original. The pull others have on Rodeo is suffocating. 

Apart from a few forgettable tracks here and there, that’s all that’s bad with the LP. Remarkably, Scott’s mastery of the impersonation means Rodeo is one of the best Southern Trap records of the year. With production given by TM88, Zaytoven, and DJ Dahi, amongst a bevy of others, the sonic quality of the album could not be higher. It is, after all, the main driving force. The opener, ‘Pornography,’ is a great summation of the album as a whole, with a gutted, pounding bass thumping behind vicious synths and jarring drums. The track constantly contorts its limbs, adding pianos, warping Scott’s voice, and flipping things errantly on its head halfway through. Follow-up ‘Oh My Dis Side’ is a genius two-parter, with each half of the title constituting the repeating choruses. More than that though, another bass-led pump leads the first half as it effortlessly transitions into the second half before winding down in autotune drizzle. Not everything is Trap focused though, Rodeo offers a relatively varied selection of sounds. ‘Flying High’ is all high-end, with bright to brighter beat switches equivalent to Tyler, The Creator’s ‘Keep Da O’s,’ bringing Toro y Moi in with piercing synths and soft pianos, and ‘90210’ features soothing female vocals and pitter-patter drums over stuttered samples. 

As for Scott, much of the lyrics can be surmised by looking at basic trends. Drinking, smoking, women, and reflecting on a changed life, litter the tracklist. There is a surprising lack of braggadocios rap here, as self-infliction seems to take over. Other than that, there’s not much to elaborate on, for what carries Scott (measurably speaking as overall he’s not great) is his voice and flow. He carries himself well over each beat, slipping sparingly, a definite plus in his constant comparison's to Young Thug. His auto-tune, heavily Future-influenced, singing is unremarkable but it gets the job done. On songs like ‘Nightcrawler’ and ‘Maria I’m Drunk’ though it gets tedious and obtuse, thankfully for the latter it switches up when Thugger arrives. And I can’t get away from this review without mentioning ‘Piss On Your Grave.’ What a track. It’s highly reminiscent of ‘Send It Up’ and ‘Black Skinhead’ with Kanye wailing absurdities so in-your-face that Scott’s spot on this track is entirely forgettable. It’s clear it was a West track prior to landing on Rodeo. Also, while it doesn’t evolve disappointedly, ‘Impossible’ evokes a dastardly hangover, woozy and distant. 

I’m still a bit shocked I enjoy Rodeo as much as I do. Whereas singular artists in the Trap scene provide their own context for which they excel in, they often lack in other areas. Scott, with his all-encompassing view, provides quality from each aspect, heightening the appeal with easily-quotable choruses (like ‘Antidote’) and two handfuls of senseless bangers. The album is a bit top heavy, with the two closing tracks, ‘I Can Tell’ and ‘Apple Pie,’ failing to leave much of an impact with the former’s forgettable palate and the latter’s driveling efforts at being conscious a la Big Sean. I do feel, with the immense presence and stature of the features, that Rodeo escapes Scott himself, veering closely to Cruel Summer in that the sum doesn’t represent the centerpiece. While Young Thug has a voice so peculiar you can’t help but notice and Future drew out indistinguishable auto-tune to note-worthy level, Scott falls somewhere between, which is unimpressionable to say the least. It isn’t a stretch to say that every track featuring an artist leaves Scott defeated, even by a Justin Bieber rap verse. Overall though Rodeo is Trap Rap bliss, with bangers that numb the mind and deep cuts that swell with textures.

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