Label: Grand Hustle, Epic
Released: Sept. 2

“Find your balance,” Travis Scott intones on the fourth, and depending on the day, best track on his sophomore album. It’s advice the G.O.O.D. Music-raised master curator in training feels comfortable imparting to his rowdy constituents now that he’s finally found his own. The song is “Through the Late Night,” and it features Scott at long last rapping alongside his professed idol, Kid Cudi. After years of making his desire to collaborate plain, it’s hard not to fist pump for La Flame when he opens his verse with an homage to Cudi’s seminal breakout hit “Day n Nite.” It’s a triumph on an album that contains many, as Travis Scott finally delivered the real full-length crowd pleaser we knew he could.

No offense to Rodeo (still a great, wild ride that contains his best song to date), but it’s clear opening for the Weeknd and Rihanna while crafting Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight gave Travis a Kanye, Graduation-esque epiphany. The songwriting here is more precise and fine tuned, resulting in bangers that go bigger; there’s no doubt he’ll be refining his Rodeo Tour moshing for stadiums. More importantly, he’s reclaimed his ability to command attention solo. Sure, he gets out of the way to let André 3000 and Kendrick Lamar do their thing (as anyone should), and cherry-picks the best of the youth (21 Savage and especially NAV) for added sauce, but some of the album’s best songs—“Way Back,” “Sweet Sweet,” “Lose”—are done dolo. And in terms of production, only Kanye West himself could coordinate this many cooks in the kitchen to create such a unified, seamless sequence. Just try listening to one of the first four songs without having to play them all together.

During his set at Made in America shortly after the album dropped, Travis, who had been assigned only the festival’s second biggest space, commanded the crowd to turn up because he “ain’t no opening act.” With Birds, the protégé has definitively proven he’s main stage material. —Frazier Tharpe