By Thomas Infante
Travis Scott is one of the most in-demand artists in rap music today. Since the release of his 2015 album “Rodeo,” he has enjoyed enormous success both with his original music and through his collaborations with other artists.
Scott is known for his distinctive singing and rapping style, as well as shouting catchphrases at the end of his sentences, like, “It’s lit!” His production often combines rousing trap percussion with redundantly melodic instrumentation. It’s catchy and fun, and fans have been awaiting a follow-up album that could match the energy of “Rodeo.”
Scott’s second studio album, “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight,” is primarily driven by some great performances from featured artists. The album starts off with the song “the ends,” which showcases Scott singing and rapping over a heavy percussion and a dark, muddy bass line. His singing is decent, while his rapping is alert and peppy, even if what he’s talking about isn’t very meaningful. Rapper André 3000 delivers a strong verse afterwards, keeping the song varied and lively until the end.
Some songs boast a much heavier emphasis on the featured artist, such as “through the late night” with rapper Kid Cudi. Scott previously cited Cudi as one of his favorite artists, stating in an interview with Complex on Friday, Sept. 7, “Cudi should be considered a top-tier artist… I think he fathered a lot of this style of music.”
The two artists are stylistically similar, both in their singing and overall tones of their production. On their track together, Cudi sings the chorus and a verse, in addition to a long, moaning vocal melody that is reminiscent of his early music. It’s the most memorable Cudi performance in years, so much so that Scott’s presence on this song seems underwhelming.
Scott finds a good balance with his featured singer The Weeknd on their collaboration “wonderful.” The two trade verses as they rap about going to the club and their lavish lifestyles. The beat is simplistic, but the variety in styles between their different vocals keeps the song from becoming too monotonous.
Another strong collaboration comes between Scott and Young Thug on “pick up the phone.” You can almost sing along to this song, since Young Thug sounds much more alert than he usually does when he’s rapping. His words are as close to coherent as they’ve ever been.
“Never will I cheat on you, never will I commit treason,” Young Thug raps on the chorus, as he pleads to his girlfriend who will not answer his late night phone calls. The beat revolves around a bouncy synth melody. The title of the album also comes from this song, when featured rapper Quavo (from Migos) says, “Birds in the trap sing Brian McKnight.” In an interview with Billboard on Sunday, Sept. 2, Scott said the album, in fact, has nothing to do with R&B singer McKnight.
Continuing with the trend of strange track titles is the song “beibs in the trap,” which prominently features rapper Nav, who uses Justin Bieber as a euphemism for cocaine.
“I just poured eight in a liter, I got a white bitch sniffing on Bieber,” raps Nav, who dedicates most of his time on the microphone to rapping about drugs and promiscuous women. Aside from the bizarre title, this song is largely forgettable, with no distinctive production or impressive lyricism to warrant a close listen.
There are several mediocre tracks on “McKnight,” like “sweet sweet” and “first take.” However, the good songs considerably outnumber the bad. “McKnight” is not an album that shows tremendous artistic growth or maturation in Scott’s music. It is an album that delivers music that is familiar enough as not to be risky, but different enough as not to be totally boring.
As his mentor Cudi has shown us, experimentation may not always turn out well, but it is better than being pigeonholed into one genre forever. Scott should eventually move beyond trap music, but in the meantime he’ll continue to be “lit.”