Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Travis Scott - Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight Review

Around this time last year, I decided to take a glance at Rodeo in my quest to understand Trap and its appeal. Turns out, against all odds, even the ones the album itself was counting, Rodeo was better than it had any right to be. You could realistically argue that it was the first Trap album I genuinely enjoyed, having passed over numerous Young Thug, Future, and any number of run-of-the-mill trend-hopper releases. An album with a balanced mix of catchy bangers, pristine production, and unique perspectives despite Travis Scott's general conventionalism, Rodeo saw what would happen if Trap was taken seriously and not as a means to stay relevant with constant, churned out releases. Flash forward a year and things have changed quite drastically. Scott, with fans and some critics in tow, darted from one artist to the next, as evident by the nauseating string of leaks we've seen over the past month, causing Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight's rollout to be one of the worst in recent memory. Spreading himself far too thin, Birds, for all the hype surrounding it, sputters due to a severe lack of polish, a retreat to old tropes, and an absence of noted tracks.

As was the case with Rodeo, regardless of its surprising quality, Travis Scott lacks a true identity. Few will deny he's a trend-hopper using the progressive ideas of Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and Young Thug to his benefit by forming a slick, southern version of the three combined. On Birds, he pushes these limits even further, grabbing the atmospheric production of GOOD Music, Kid Cudi himself, along with his assisted persona, and countless Thugger ad-libs. Speaking on that last one, Birds can be seen as the penultimate ad-lib record. There is a revolting amount of quips spewed between the lines, and only about half are Scott's own. The rest is split half between Thugger's "Yhea!'s," and the combination of every featured artist here. It's clear the Houston emcee is fearful of silence. Adding to that factor, out of the 14 songs here, only one lacks a guest. Ironically, it's Birds' worst, that being 'Sweet Sweet,' a bland and shoddy filler track.

Scott is no stranger to artist inclusion, and here he runs the gamut between Hip-Hop legends and relative unknowns. Their results are spotty, but also indicative of Scott himself. Andre 3000 rears his head on 'The Ends,' causing a vivid verse about the 1980 Atlanta child murders to be, by far, the most introspective aspect of Birds, while Kendrick Lamar incorporates elements of his past, in an uncomfortably parched vocal set, on 'Goosebumps.' Surprisingly, or not, these are the two worst verses from Three Stacks and Lamar in recent memory. It's just their quality is at an all-time high, and their competition on Birds an all-time low, that these two verses represent the best of the bunch here. Elsewhere, Kid Cudi appears on 'Way Back' and 'Through The Late Night' doing exactly what you'd expect Cudi to do, while Scott essentially pays homage to him. The latter track especially, and if you distance yourself enough, the album as a whole, can be seen as the closest successor to the Man On The Moon legacy. Other notable spots for different reasons go to Nav, Toronto emcee, who puts in great work on 'Biebs In The Trap,' even if he sounds an awful lot like Madeintoyko, and Bryson Tiller, on 'First Take,' for being the most generic Alternative R&B singer I've heard in my life.

As for Travis Scott himself, he's almost never a pivotal force here, something to be expected given his low lyrical expectations. His vocals have become more entangled with autotune, a detriment to the quality overall, while the lyrics and deliveries haven't seen much improvement. That leaves the bulk of Birds' success to lie on the guests, the hooks, and the production. All three range in inconsistencies, from enjoyable to dull, despite never reaching the heights of Rodeo. That's where the overall polish comes into play. Tracks like 'Oh My Dis Side' and '3500' were treated with care, using unique shifts and intriguing hooks to their benefit. On Birds, almost every song abides by the same format, causing much of the production to fizzle. Simply put; there's little to no nuance. There's really only three songs that try to deviate when almost every track on Rodeo attempted to accomplish the same feat. Those three, 'SDP Interlude,' 'Pick Up The Phone,' and 'Guidance,' each showcase something different from Scott's camp, and are vital distractions from the homologous bulk of the rest.

No song soars, with 'Pick Up The Phone,' as was the case on Young Thug's Jeffrey, being the best song here, Birds is seen as a significant, but somewhat expected letdown. It's not all detrimental though, as certain tracks, even if they abstain from being creative, succeed thanks to catchy hooks or committed feature work. The aforementioned 'Biebs In The Trap' is the only one to highlight both, even if it has nothing to do with Justin Bieber being in the hood. 'Lose' has an intoxicating back and forth chorus from Scott and Cassie, despite almost getting ruined by an overlapping reversed rhythm section. Lastly, 'Coordinate' lurches under the surface with Scott murmuring on about his skinny jeans. 'Coordinate' also works as the closest Rodeo replicate, although still lacking in wide-ranged appeal. And even though the decision may be off base and past prime, both songs featuring Kid Cudi aren't half bad. 'Way Back' chugs along after a slow start with a stronger, post-beat switch affair, and 'Through The Late Night' sees Kid Cudi rapping a full verse, dedicated at that, and that's always a welcoming sight. Still, even with moments here or there scrounging for worth, the majority of Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight is a largely uneventful affair that witnesses Travis Scott fall into the Trap formula of quantity over quality.

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