Travi$ Scott showcases potential, not a homerun on debut Rodeo
Travi$ Scott • Rodeo • Epic • Release Date: September 4, 2015
As either a professional music critic or a lover of music, you’re not always going to LOVE every album – that’s just the nature of the beast. Some albums make themselves incredibly difficult to love or are difficult to listen to. Sometimes those difficult albums are exceptional works, but have themes that are depressing, uncomfortable, or dark. Stacy Barthe’s BEcoming was one of those exceptional albums, yet hard to listen to albums.
So, what’s the point of the rambling aforementioned paragraph? Well the point is that this music critic has encountered a confounding album that he doesn’t love. He – being yours truly – doesn’t hate the said album, but hears the flaws in addition to the potential. 23-year old Travi$ Scott just might be Houston, Texas’ next big thing in rap, yet even so, his debut Rodeo for all its promise has its lulls. With Kanye West’s influence all over it, Scott’s over self-indulgence in shallowness gets the best of him at times.
“Pornography” opens with a spoken word intro by T.I. Enigmatic to say the least, the opener seems to emulate ‘opening the can of worms’ that is pornography itself. If that’s not enough, Travi$ Scott’s hook continues the odd, yet captivating trip, characterized by singing and distorted and autotune drenched vocals. The second half of the song Scott raps, keeping things unpredictable and entertaining.
“Oh My Dis Side” featuring Quavo follows, clocking in at just under six minutes. Like the ambitious opener, Scott keeps his brand of rap interesting with its unpredictability. Divided into two distinct parts – “Oh My” and “Dis Side” – both are unique. On “Oh My,” Scott discusses his demons and shortcomings from the past (“I’ve been in and out the courthouse, jury tripping / I’ve been flipping, flipping syrup, sipping…”), while “Dis Side” seemingly depicts his ‘come up.’
“3500” featuring Future and 2 Chainz gives Rodeo arguably it’s most notable ‘hit’ at this point in the album. “3500” isn’t straightforward by any means, but there’s more potential for commercial flare, particularly given its two featured guests. So what’s the song about exactly? Well from the hook, it’s apparent that H-Town (aka Houston, Texas) is boring on Sundays, and “$3500” was spent on a coat. On Scott’s verse, he spits about drugs, women, and living it up. Similarly, Future and 2 Chainz are all about the shallower things. Shallow it may be, the production bangs and so does “3500” overall. H-TOWN!
“Wasted” featuring Juicy J finally gives Rodeo a song of standard duration. The legendary Pimp C appears posthumously, adding some extra personality: “It’s really going down in the god damn south / I’m trill, I’m country ‘til the end.” Like everything preceding it, “Wasted” is quirky, requiring additional listens to absorb all it has to offer. What is clear is that it sounds as inebriated as its title suggests.
“90210” featuring Kacy Hill maintains the modus operandi of Rodeo – confuse the H-E double hockey sticks out of the listener. “90210” begins so spacey and druggy, it makes the listener hallucinate. Okay, maybe it’s an embellishment, but it isn’t until the third verse that there’s more stability, with Scott overtly spitting. Indeed a work of art, this won’t be for everybody.
Bringing in alt-R&B standout The Weeknd on “Pray 4 Love” makes perfect sense for Scott – Two drug-loving “peas in a pod.” The vocal production surrounding The Weeknd’s vocals truly make them pop out of the production, one of the big pros of this track. Taking it a step further, The Weeknd steals the show on this slow jam, particularly on his verse. “Pray 4 Love” also benefits from having a smidgen more substance – the difficulty of stars to find real love.
“Nightcrawler” featuring Swae Lee and Chief Keef blends in with everything else – overindulgence in the moodiness and a lack of depth lyrically. While some of this is perfectly fine, Scott takes it to the excess. The again, the song is about excess and youthful irresponsibility. Still, did this need to last over five minutes? No. Again, it makes you drunk just listening.
“Piss On Your Grave” featuring Kanye West continues to drive Rodeo in an I don’t give a f- direction. Aggressive and unapologetic, “Piss On Your Grave” lasts shy of three minutes but packs one of the mightier punches of the album. If some of the rest of the album takes a while to sink in, “Piss On Your Grave” gets its point through ‘loud and clear’ the first listen.
“Antidote” is one of the better songs from Rodeo. That said, it is the ninth track on an effort who’s scattered unpredictable script has grown predictable. By the time you reach the ‘antidote,’ the effort has grown a bit exhausting. When separated from Rodeo however, the “Antidote” gives Scott a well-rounded hit. It’s not the second coming but definitely less bizarre than “90210” and more enthralling than “Nightcrawler.”
“Impossible” is forgettable – another instance of self-absorbedness. This track is so weighty it becomes a lethargic bore-fest. Maybe Scott is pouring his soul out on lines like “Nights like this, I wish I could do the impossible,” but literally it feels more like a lullaby and not a memorable one. In timely fashion, the one-two punch of “Maria I’m Drunk” (featuring Justin Bieber and Young Thug) and “Flying High” (featuring Toro y Moi) reinvigorate fading energy. Neither “I Can Tell” or “Apple Pie” break new ground.
Overall, Rodeo is an album that has its moments. It’s imperfect, but there are enough good moments to make it an interesting listen. The biggest problem with Rodeo is that it’s too long and ultimately, too self-indulgent. Sure Scott is young and wild, but a smidgen more depth would’ve truly went a long way with Rodeo.
Favorites: “3500,” “Pray 4 Love,” “Antidote,” “Mariah I’m Drunk,” and “Flying High”