When Travis Scott spoke about the title of his record ASTROWORLD for the first time, he told GQ about the closed-down theme park, Six Flags AstroWorld, located in his hometown of Houston, Texas. “They tore down AstroWorld to build more apartment space,” he said. “That’s what it’s going to sound like, like taking an amusement park away from kids. We want it back. We want the building back. That’s why I’m doing it. It took the fun out of the city.” It’s been in the making since 2016 with fans and collaborators in the scene promising top-of-the-line features and the expectation of pure artistry in the rap genre. They were right.
Out now, ASTROWORLD succeeds the release of his 2017 collaborative album Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho with Quavo and his previous solo album Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight from 2016. Featuring 17 tracks with a star-studded featured cast, Travis Scott tells his story through his twisted, passionate lens that’s been shaped by his tumultuous lifestyle in the spotlight over the course of the past few years.
Travis Scott introduces ASTROWORLD with “STARGAZING,” which immediately catches our attention with a typical, yet loveable formula for a rap hit that’s riddled with autotune. A little more than halfway in, the music cuts and a whole new production enters the arena characterized by trappy percussion filled with hi-hats and a hot bassline. Scott switches up his vocal style once the new beat comes in, and we hear his much-anticipated flow in its purest form. Next up, “CAROUSEL” is a perfect follow-up to the previous track, maintaining that same trap-inspired vibe, but introduces Frank Ocean with a whole new vibe through — yes, you guessed it — autotune.
The highly anticipated track with Drake truly lives up to the hype. Theatrical at its core, “SICKO MODE” possesses an unmatched element of surprise. I don’t know what I was expecting when the song started, but it certainly wasn’t what came in at the one-minute mark. As Drake introduces himself on the track, suddenly the music cuts (like we heard before on “STARGAZING”) and in comes a scorching hot new beat. Much like the excitement of experiencing a high-energy DJ set with impressively quick mixing, “SICKO MODE” contains a number of unexpected switch-ups. Even beyond the production, Drake and Travis Scott work together with electrifying synergy. Oh, and that iconic “Pop That” sample? My god, it’s incredible. “SICKO MODE” literally gives us three different songs in one jaw-dropping package.
This album offers even more than we initially expected — like on “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD,” we’ve got Travis Scott, James Blake, Kid Cudi, and Stevie Wonder on one track. This one is downright sophisticated due to the humming vocals in the background and Stevie Wonder’s harmonica, setting a refined stage for Travis Scott and Kid Cudi’s heavily autotuned verses. The song climaxes with a harmonica solo from Stevie plus heavenly harmonizing voices that sound as if they were sung in a massive, empty cathedral. Switching the vibe up a bit, “NO BYSTANDERS” is a true rap anthem. We’ve got Juice WRLD and Sheck Wes on support along with Scott’s addictive flow, contributing to the madness that’s embodied by the track’s anthemic “Fuck the club up” chant.
Enter The Weeknd on “SKELETONS.” He appears on two tracks from this record, and his unforgettable voice is a superb fit. Though his voice is slathered in reverb and autotune, his appearance on this song makes a generous contribution to its dreamy soundscape, which was actually produced by Tame Impala (of course). “WAKE UP” changes pace by opening with an ultra-raw acoustic guitar, introducing The Weeknd yet again, but this time with a voice we all know and love. “I don’t wanna wake up / I want you spread out on the sheets,” he sings with a hip-hop-meets-R&B passion. While Scott’s been rapping about his sexual encounters for basically the entirety of this album so far, this one’s more steamy than the rest, yet somehow nails a romantic touch (depending on what you’re down for).
Scott gets up close and personal on “ASTROTHUNDER,” delivering a heartfelt performance that contains some of his most honest lyricism yet: “Seem like the life I feel’s a little distant, yeah / Seems like the life I need / Seems like the life I need’s a little distant, yeah.” Though it’s short-lived, this two-minute track is a much-needed break from the chaotic tendencies that run rampant on ASTROWORLD, giving way to an utterly beautiful production from John Mayer, Thundercat, and Frank Dukes. “WHO? WHAT!” is marked by subtly glitchy production and features from Quavo and Takeoff that alternate in collaboration with Scott. I kind of wish this track lasted longer than it did; there’s so many sublime elements that wrap this song up into a supreme package.
The remaining three tracks on the album don’t include features as Travis Scott orchestrates the climax of his most impressive project to date. Fan-favorite “BUTTERFLY EFFECT” is among the three tracks, and its presence near the end of the album truly puts the entire record into perspective considering we’ve been bumping this track for over a year now — what’s more, it’s already been certified RIAA Double Platinum. Though the title “HOUSTONFORNICATION” doesn’t possess the same ring as the term it’s parodying, the song itself is a satisfying ode to his hometown. In fact, much of the album contains references to his life in Houston along with his shout-out to the city via Twitter right when the album dropped.
Finally, we bid adieu to ASTROWORLD with “COFFEE BEAN.” We’re immediately met with an ultra-cool hip-hop beat beneath Scott’s reverb-heavy vocals that describe the controversial nature of his relationship with Kylie Jenner. “I know they told you I’d be bad for you,” he utters as he dives deep into his unshakeable feelings for the mother of his child. On top of the eye-opening lyricism, there’s a gorgeous, muted guitar that strums away until Scott finally closes the curtain.
Bold, innovative, and utterly game-changing, ASTROWORLD is the record this industry needed but doesn’t deserve. From the star-studded production and features to the impeccable lyricism throughout, Travis Scott has inspired a new wave for rap and has achieved a new benchmark for the industry standard. Listen to ASTROWORLD below.
Travis Scott’s exclusive merchandise line for ASTROWORLD is on sale now — see more here.