You Don’t Have to Like Travis Scott’s Astroworld, but You Do Have to Respect it

58 minutes of run time, something like 26 years in the making, and enough expectation and budget to vaguely define an entire generation’s music tastes, Travis Scott’s Astroworld is here. But does it stack up?

The short of it goes like this: Yep.

And the long of it?

There is the expected of it all. It’s unbalanced with its absurd levels of energy, it’s hyper-edited, it’s very, very loud. That’s just who Travis Scott is. But in every way, he has become Travis Scott by being bold, innovative, and downright crazy. To it, with the expected frame of his sonic texture aside, the most expected thing about Astroworld is that it’s wild, unpredictable, and unexpected.

In fact, un- might just be the best way to describe it. Untraditional, unusual, unavoidable. Astroworld is, Travis Scott is, never really what we assume. He has, in relation to his peers, risen to the pinnacle of music quietly — at least in terms of his personal exploits. Even amongst an explosion of limelight appearance thanks to Kylie Jenner, he remains a soft-spoken, smiley, and seemingly humble creative. And like the best of history’s soft-spoken and seemingly humble creatives, he lets his art speak for him. That art is anything but soft-spoken and humble.

Like what we imagine Andy Warhol’s paintings would sound, the vibrant explosions of Astroworld accomplish one thing for certain — capturing the attention of its listeners. As the unofficial ruling power of the modern world’s most popular auditory aesthetics, Travis Scott delivers a whole lot of hype, experimentation, and inexactitude.

When we explain 2018 to future generations, the wave of surrealist, arrogant, hype-hop pop will be the epochal scale we use, and Astroworld, if by no other reason than popular demand, will likely be the standard. But as far as surrealist, arrogant, hype-hop pop is concerned, Astroworld is also deserving of its sure-to-be platinum labelling by sheer musicality and daring creativity.

If you find yourself a fan of Travis Scott and subsequently the wave of modern insanity in his wake, you’ll understand what we’re trying to say. But if you don’t like it — if you’re not into the mania of it all — do yourself a favor and adjust your perspective. You don’t have to like Astroworld, but you do have to respect it.

And here’s why:

Today’s scene isn’t only the most competitive of all time, but also the vastest and most varied. Artists are universal and the world’s most renowned need to speak and be creatively accessible to anyone with internet access. So, for an artist whose music is as zany and altogether insane as Travis Scott’s and for him to exist as perhaps the most defining of modern artists says a lot about what it is he’s doing.

Above all else, he’s inventing and Astroworld collects his career canon’s inventiveness, turns the energy level to ten, and grants the world a selectively unpolished sliver of he and his friends’ creativity. Scott being a long-time fan of collaborative work, some of the album’s most intriguing moments come by the hand of Frank Ocean (CAROUSEL), Drake in slow-cadence form (SICKO MODE), Swae Lee high-tones (R.I.P. SCREW), Juice Wrld (NO BYSTANDERS), The Weeknd on back-to-back tracks (SKELETONS & WAKE UP), 21 Savage (NC-17), Gunna and Nav (YOSEMITE), Don Toliver (CAN’T SAY), Quavo and Takeoff (WHO? WHAT?), and assumed but uncredited spots from Kid Cudi, James Blake, and Stevie Wonder (STOP TRYING TO BE GOD). But as stacked and unprecedented as that feature list is, it pales in comparison to the collective of featured producers.

In its form not only as a large-scale display of Scott’s personal prowess, but also a group effort from music as a whole, Astroworld shines. Whether it’s a further maturation of Scott’s sound or the further push of music as a whole adjusting towards it, he himself is the rightful star to the project. His mixture of high-fidelity vocal editing, underappreciated lyricism, and constant energy make him a force unlike many in the world (though more and more are always attempting to replicate the formula). In effect, his wide-ranging contributions grant Astroworld a constantly changing and interesting backdrop of consistency, driving the album in a dizzying amount of directions while opening the door for the impossibly long list of featuring artists.

Only Travis Scott, with his inventiveness, intrigue, and influence, could pull together a project of Astroworld’s immensity.

Only with the help of his collaborators could it have come together so simultaneously fluid and cross-sectional. But fluid, cross-sectional, and well-connected, second only to his list of wild, insane, and unexpected, rounds out the greater image of Travis Scott in the modern music scene. And being a quiet and humble artist of such creative reach, Astroworld becomes a self-portrait of his most personal and inner emotional explosion, allowing the world to interpret what it is that he has always been trying to say.

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