Label: Cactus Jack Records/Epic Records/Grand Hustle Records
Released: August 3
The intro of Travis Scott’s ASTROWORLD is deceiving. At first, “Stargazing” sets the scene for Travis to begin his project-spanning journey into the heart of Houston rap, as evidenced by the second line in the song, “Sippin’ on purp, feelin’ like the Barre Baby.” It's a reference to the late Big Moe, whose song “Barre Baby” cemented him as a regional legend not just in Houston, but Texas overall. Midway through the song, “Stargazing” switches from a steady ride in the clouds to a jarring moment of turbulence, without so much as a gradual uptick.
This is exactly how Travis wanted ASTROWORLD to operate. While extraordinarily cohesive, the record never feels settled. Few of the beats stay the same from beginning to end, and none of them ring off quite like “Sicko Mode,” Travis’ first No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. It’s a three-part journey, and prominently features Drake at both the front and back end of the track. But its center—with a trunk-rattling beat, a vocal sample that serves as a tribute to Houston legend Big Hawk, and a boundlessly confident Travis—functions as the heart of the song, and of the album itself.
ASTROWORLD is characteristically eclectic enough to reclaim the attention of his devoted fanbase, which has been impatiently waiting for a follow-up to 2015’s Rodeo. But it’s Travis’ deftly sprinkled hat-tips to his hometown that provide an entry point for new listeners from Texas, which owes its statewide musical longevity to the likes of UGK, DJ Screw, and members of Screw’s S.U.C., like Lil Keke. Travis’ dedication to threading his sources’ influence throughout ASTROWORLD manifests as subtle cues and odes within odes. His strength as an artistic orchestrator is undeniable when it comes to the features, which are perfectly selected, down to Sheck Wes’ single-word contribution to “No Bystanders.” Scott brought the best out of every single one of his collaborators on both the production and vocal fronts. ASTROWORLD exists to keep us at the edge of our seats, just like the roller coasters Travis used to ride at the now-shuttered Six Flags AstroWorld, which directly inspired this album. ASTROWORLD is the sound of a new Houston, and proof that Travis Scott has reached a new level of superstardom. —Kiana Fitzgerald