Travis Scott has had his share of doubters since his 2013 mixtape debut, Owl Pharaoh, which got Scott criticized for stealing the sounds of his favorite artists, Kanye West and Kid Cudi. He followed the project up with a prelude project to his album, and although he was met with similar remarks, this time pertaining to Atlanta rappers, it was clear he was forging his own sound with a uniquely dark aesthetic.
Rodeo expands upon this dark aesthetic Scott mastered on Days Before Rodeo, but also goes into new territory it was clear Scott had the potential to reach on his first release. Rodeo has it share of songs like ‘Wasted’ and ‘Pray 4 Love’ that would have sound at home on Days Before Rodeo because of their dark sound, but also songs like ‘Flying High (feat. Toro Y Moi)’ and ‘Apple Pie’ that sound like they could have been one of the alternative influenced cuts on Owl Pharaoh. This allows for a diverse sounding project, no song similar to another.
Scott has typically favored a heavy amount of features on his project and this does not change. Quavo enters new territory on the second half ‘Oh My Dis Side’ with his angelic singing while the first half would have worked better without him and an overall darker aesthetic. The Weeknd lays down huge vocals on ‘Pray 4 Love,’ which with the help of Scott’s signature use of vocal effects creates a massive, atmospheric cut. On ‘Nightcrawler,’ Scott brings together some of the game’s two best turnup rappers, Swae Lee and Chief Keef, for an epic and hypnotic banger and nightlife anthem, with each artist contributing their unique flair to record.
His long awaited collaboration with mentor and friend Kanye West is featured on Rodeo, called ‘Piss On Your Grave,’ which first appeared during the summer of 2014 at a club where Kanye was playing new songs. The psychedelic rock intro adds an interesting touch to the satanic, anger-filled rage fest between Scott and West. While the song does not sound like the rest of the project, it works because each song certainly has it’s own individual footprint.
‘Maria I’m Drunk,’ is one of the best songs on the album, but the ‘Maria’ half feels cut unnecessarily short because it has the most beautiful, yet atmospheric instrumental and vocals on the entire album. The second half, ‘Drunk,’ was leaked in an earlier iteration during the summer, but Travis has revamped the song with a hard rap verse from none other than Justin Bieber himself. While he certainly comes through, the original cut with just Travis and Thug has a chiller vibe that Bieber somewhat takes away. Changes made to the beat from the leaked version only increase its intoxicated vibe.
On ‘90210,’ Travis finds himself singing hazily yet drenched in autotune over a floating beat about a porn star in Hollywood, and Kacy Hill’s vocals only add to this. The beat change reveals a more introspective Scott rapping about his family over colorful production, making this one of the more original cuts. ‘Apple Pie,’ finds Scott with a similarly artful vibe, this time with guitars and faster piano chords, making it another song like nothing else. These songs prove Scott can make music largely different than any of his influences and peers, although when he does draw upon them, it is still a fresh endeavour.
‘I Can Tell,’ is another impressive cut, with booming bass and impressive vocal variation transforming from a soaring voice to into an aggressive yet fluid verse from Scott, showcasing his orally dexterous ability. “3500 (feat. Future & 2 Chainz)” and “Antidote” are the projects two singles, each absolute bangers in their own way, with “3500” taking on a more traditional, yet futuristic trap vibe while “Antidote” uses pitched-up vocals and a dark yet upbeat instrumental to create a club song that feels fitting to Scott’s aesthetic. Both fit into the project well while not sounding quite like any other song.
Travis is getting his most personal on this project since his debut mixtape, with subjects ranging from the struggle of trying to make it in the music industry from the bottom and relations with his parents. While he does delve into his personal life more than previous projects, overall, the project is filled with fun, turnup tracks that focus on his musical vision rather than meaningful lyricism. This is not to say his lyrics are bad; his lyrics and rapping ability have improved considerably each project, with Rodeo being no exception.
Rodeo is truly a unique blends of sounds ranging from dark and atmospheric to light and melodic showing Travis’ true talent as a musician. While Travis has not delivered a project full of substance, he has orchestrated one of 2015’s best rap albums and one of the best debut albums in recent memory. Travis is capable of bringing the best out of the game’s hottest producers and biggest artist’s and arranged it around himself to create a sonic masterpiece and memorable album.