'ASTROWORLD' Is Houston's Long-Overdue Return to the Spotlight

The latest album from Travis Scott sounds exactly like the city he was birthed in.

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Complex Original

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Travis Scott is the son of Houston, Texas. He has biological parents who brought him into this world, sure, but it was the city he was born and raised in that ushered him into the life he’s now living. With the release of his latest album, ASTROWORLD, Travis has been vocal about two things: 1) the influence of the real-life, now-nonexistent Six Flags AstroWorld on his adolescence; and 2) the fact that ASTROWORLD is an ode to Houston.


“THIS IS FOR HOUSTON TEXAS,” he tweeted the night of the album drop. “MO CITY MY HOME.”

In a 2017 interview with GQ, Travis gave his perspective on the importance and relevance of his city. “I feel like Houston is one of the leading things in music culture,” he said. “Everyone loves the Houston culture.”

A scan of the tracklist shows Travis is focused on bringing Houston back to the forefront of music. “5% Tint” takes its name from a memorable line in Slim Thug’s verse on Mike Jones’ watershed moment of a single “Still Tippin’” (“Five-percent tint so you can’t see up in my window”). “R.I.P. Screw” takes its title from a phrase that holds Texas together; I’m a Texas native, so believe me when I say that’s not an exaggeration. It’s a direct mention of the most influential figure in Houston rap, the late DJ Screw, who passed decades ago but continues to shape the sound of the city, the state of Texas, and hip-hop writ large, if we’re keeping it funky.

Listening to the music itself yields yet another Houston hat tip. On “Can’t Say,” producers WondaGurl and Frank Dukes sample Trae tha Truth’s single “Swang,” a song named for a Texas pastime: driving, better known as swanging. That track is also a dedication to deceased Houston rappers (it was made as a tribute to Fat Pat, and featured Pimp C and Big Hawk, who died after its release) who made the city’s subgenre what it is today.

By following the path of his predecessors, Travis is bringing Texas back into the mainstream. He’s breathing new life into regional classics and simultaneously picking up local fans who might not have previously understood him as a contemporary Houston artist. After all, he’s known for high-energy, aggressive sounds—the opposite of the city’s typically laid-back foundation.

But it’s not just about Houston. Dallas rapper Big Tuck is one of the first voices we hear on ASTROWORLD. He drops off an encouraging voicemail at the beginning of “Carousel,” saying, “ASTROWORLD is now in session, ya understand? I’m the dean of this here—I got this.” After this proclamation, the song starts properly, revealing a sample of Tuck’s Texas anthem “Not a Stain on Me.” If you haven’t heard it, the easiest way to describe it is as a party-starter that floats off of a loop of voices (belonging to the Beastie Boys) hyping up Tuck and, by extension, whoever’s listening. It’s a song that’s played at every function, nightclub, and house party throughout the state, almost as if required by law.

When I reached Big Tuck on the phone to talk about his appearance on ASTROWORLD, he said things came together pretty quickly. “Sunday, I got a tweet and it was Travis Scott,” Tuck explained. “He was like, ‘Yo!’ I’m like, ‘Wassup?’ He was like, ‘What’s your number?’ and he called, telling me what he wanted me to do. I’m like, ‘Cool. Let’s do it.’ He asked me to do a drop just to make it ASTROWORLD. I did it, sent it to him, and it is what it is.”

The Tuck feature bridges a gap between two cities that haven’t always had love for one another. “It goes way back to the penitentiary, basically,” Tuck said. “That’s where all of the beef was. Dallas and Houston, a feud had been going on for a long time. As far as the music scene now, it’s all love between Dallas and Houston music.”

Speaking of beef, Houston has had its moments of intracity dissonance. On "R.I.P. Screw," Travis raps, “Had the Southside fade, now let the braids hang.” These were the go-to hairstyles for each side of a very separated Houston: The fade indicated Southside roots, while the braids were repped by the Northside. Slim Thug and ESG, who represent the North and South, respectively, even went so far as to title their we-shall-overcome-the-rivalry song “Braids & Fades” as a means of acknowledging the regional importance of this seemingly benign choice of hairstyle.

The Texas-centric moments on ASTROWORLD are Travis at his most authentic. His long-hyped record would have sounded completely different without the Lone Star State embedded in its most personal tracks. With this album, Travis is proving that no matter how individual your sound becomes, there’s always a way to incorporate the timeless elements of your history and pay homage. ASTROWORLD has made it abundantly clear that Travis stans for Texas culture. And we in turn stan for a young legend who knows where he came from.

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