Travi$ Scott’s debut studio album, Rodeo, comes out this Friday. It’s pretty highly anticipated with production values through the roof. Features include Future, Young Thug, Justin Bieber, and Kanye West, among others. Mike Dean, Metro Boomin, DJ Dahi, and the 808 Mafia crew are just some of the producers. People wanted to be on this project.
At 14 songs and 66 minutes, Rodeo is an endeavor. The album’s lead single, “3500,” which runs 7:42, was a good indication of what was to come. There’s a lot of space in this album throughout which Scott meanders, creating several interesting moments in a sprawling work. Here’s what to look out for.
Travi$ Scott heavily distorts his own vocals throughout Rodeo. The guest artists, however, bring their own sound to their tracks. On “Pray 4 Love,” for example, the Weeknd is a loud, distinct voice, breaking up Scott’s murky sound. The guests also often bring a specificity and clarity that Scott otherwise lacks. On the same song, Scott raps, “Let me tell you… how I went around on the block,” but doesn’t end up doing so. The Weeknd, in contrast, closes out the song self-deprecatingly crooning, “Sorry, baby, I don’t play / And if I did, you know my kids would be ballin’ / And my daughter gon’ never meet a nigga like me.” Scott creates a vibe well, but the guests bring an additional songwriting element for which he doesn’t necessarily strive.
Elsewhere, Justin Bieber completely takes over “Maria, I’m Drunk.” Young Thug delivers a fairly standard vocal performance on the hook, warbling, “Call your friends, let’s get drunk.” Bieber, though, splits his time between rapping and singing. He turns “Maria” into a real person by addressing her directly. His vocals on lines like, “Let’s lose each other’s mind / Let’s make each other’s night / Take advantage of time / While we both intertwine,” are quite literally unmatchable.
“Piss on Your Grave”
Rodeo’s eighth track gets its own special spot. “Piss on Your Grave” was first rumored as another Kanye West/Paul McCartney collab, but Macca didn’t end up on the final cut, as it turns out. The track is built around a heavy, bluesy electric guitar riff, which already makes it stand out from the moodier cuts. The first lines, courtesy of West: “I use your face as a urinal, then do the same at your funeral / Piss on your grave (x5).” The song could really end there and it’d still be the best song on the album. It’s also the shortest cut, using its sub-three-minute runtime efficiently.
When Travi$ Scott released “Antidote” on his SoundCloud, he wrote: “THIS IS FOR THE REAL FANS!! THE REAL RAGERS!! THIS IS SOME VIBES FOR THE SUMMER….” “Antidote,” however, is one of the least vibe-driven songs on the record. It holds up as a legitimate single with a memorable hook. The song’s original description also said, “THIS ISNT ON RODEO….. IT’S COMING SOON,” though, so Scott may not be the best source on his own music.
Ever since 2013’s Owl Pharaoh, Scott has carved out his own aesthetic in rap. Kanye West has adopted many of its elements. Scott Auto-Tunes his vocals and stretches dark samples to create an echoing effect; he keeps his bass heavy. Even when his lyrics and hooks lack, you’re immersed in a song’s atmosphere. Rodeo is his fullest realization to date of “The Travi$ Scott Sound.”
Rodeo is a co-release from Epic Records and T.I.’s Grand Hustle. In a June interview with Billboard, the label head said, the album is “probably going to be one of the most talked about projects and probably one of the most highly revered solo albums probably since Kendrick [Lamar].” What he doesn’t reveal is he serves as Rodeo’s narrator. He pops in on the intro (“Pornography”), as well as the outro (“Apple Pie”), to contextualize the album’s story. T.I. begins:
Nine lightyears away, just outside of the Kepler Solar System, we find ourselves consumed and utterly mesmerized with the story of a young rebel against the system. Refusing to conform or to comply to the ways of authority, he chose the mood of “fuck this shit.”
There isn’t a particularly clear narrative throughout the album, but T.I.’s voice and contribution are welcomed. It might not be much of a treatise, but Scott’s interest in coolness and sound certainly lives up to his “fuck this shit” mantra.