Travi$ Scott, G.O.O.D music affiliate and Epic Records signee released debut album, “Rodeo”, follow up to two critically acclaimed mixtapes, on September 4th.
A barrage of criticism and album reviews subsequently revealed that on the whole, the album was considered a disappointment, with a few “bangers’ on there. So after the dust has settled, at least in the world of the internet, I decided to throw my kindle on the fire.
So who is Travi$ Scott? For me, he’s a curator. Much like the polarising figure, Kanye West, who just so happens to be a big advocate, mentor of sorts and colleague, for want of a better word, to Scott. Both artists have a penchant for this style of music making. They’re musical magpies, taking shiny objects from other artists, tweaking and teasing soundbites, flows, samples and lyrical content, just enough to stamp their own mark on it. Tapping into the footprints of sounds that other producers make and being selective with their implementation or mix with other sounds. Furthermore, Kid Cudi is openly discussed as a major influence, perhaps his cadence and old “rager” ways being the most evident translation. At times, on “Rodeo” you could easily mistakes Travi$’ melodic groans for Cudder’s. And all of this isn’t a bad thing, for me. For some, it’s really just “biting” that other person’s style or vibe and playing it off as your own.
I’m completely a fan as I think his lane is a great mix. It's dark and visceral, exemplified paradoxically, in outbursts during his performances of which you can find plenty evidence online, and at times introverted and honest with songs from his previous mixtape “Days Before Rodeo" like “Drugs you should try”, “Grey” and “Backyard”. Travi$ embodies the supreme re-appropriation of his spheres of influence, allowing him to create a new mosaic of sonic cohesion. Of course, as with most hip hop, you inject the tried and tested formula of girls, money and drugs into proceedings to garner mainstream attention. Perhaps, that’s why “Rodeo” feels flat in comparison to “Owl Pharaoh”, his album quality, debut mixtape.
The artwork for the album is pretty awesome, an action figure sculpted by Dan Chung, an interview with whom, can be found here, was then tastefully photographed by Kevin Amato. It’s a cool concept and probably the best part of the “Rodeo” experience. In fact, any visuals associated with Travi$ are pretty sublime. Again, he’s got the knack for curating an experience that renders well in video. “Antidote”, off the new album, featured on down, is no exception.
“Piss on your grave”, featuring Kanye West, is worthy of mention but, perhaps, for the wrong reasons. With some obnoxious, outlandish lyricism, suggesting both Kanye and Scotty will “..use your face as a urinal”. Pretty hilarious. But, pretty non sensical too. The track’s heavy, stark riff drives atop a rumbling bass level whilst Kanye rants in “Yeezus” fashion and Travi$ tacks his equal level of bombast onto his verses. But, something’s missing. It feels like a throwaway from some other project. It doesn't fit. Kanye screaming, “Me and La Flame, is you not entertained?” probably hit the nails on the head for the whole CD. Yes. I am entertained but I’m not really feeling much beyond that to allow for a deeper connection and the desire to hit play again. Grandiloquence is rife on the record, however, the production and sequencing pulls it out of it’s frippery on occasion.
The project does then call into question, ideas upon the objective quality of originality and beyond that, the subjectiveness of authenticity. It’s an idea that can’t be fully realised by humans on the whole, given the level of external factors that affect our thoughts and actions from birth. But the difference, the part you can affect, is that ingenuity or innovation that stems from originality, or the dilution of it in some cases. If you were to be wholly critical of “Rodeo”, and for that matter, much of music today, the lines are blurred. What is original? Is this original enough? Does it make you feel something? I think that’s the underlying issue. The record is channelling a certain idiosyncratic, fragmented vibe. But is that feeling and narrative vital? Is it purely demonstrating that we can all get drunk and “rage", have sordid, drug fuelled relationships and generally not give a fuck? That’s for you to decide.
My best conclusion is that the piece is a beautiful inefficacy. But of course, that’s subjective. Regardless, the concept of collaboration and curation is so strong on the record that I can’t help but be drawn to it, at least for a few listens. The skill of pulling people together to create something new, or hopefully new, is intriguing.