Travi$ Scott wows with new album

September 21, 2016 by Eric Hirsch, Staff Writer

Travi$ Scott sets himself apart by pairing his lyrical verses with mesmerizing instrumentals. Photo courtesy of Billboard.

Travi$ Scott sets himself apart by pairing his lyrical verses with mesmerizing instrumentals. Photo courtesy of Billboard.

Some albums — often the extraordinary ones — give you goosebumps every time. Travi$ Scott may have given the world such an album with Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight.

Since its release on Sept. 2, the album has taken sports team locker rooms across the nation by storm. The back tracks of the 14 songs feature a beautiful mix of dark, heavy, pulsating beats under innovative instrumentals. Scott loves to use Auto-Tune and echoes, and these effects give the songs their own identities.

Scott has said that the album is about his time growing up with his friends in Missouri City, Mo. Throughout the album, he expresses the idea that life and society place constrictions on everyone. Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight doesn’t evoke the same kind of emotional response as some more impassioned albums by other artists, but there is nonetheless a seriousness to its content.

Many rappers place greater importance on their lyrics than the beat. Scott may be one of the exceptions. It isn’t that Scott lacks ability as a musical poet, it’s just that the instrumentals on this album are nothing short of mesmerizing. One could enjoy any song on Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight by tuning out the lyrics and focusing on the music.

Scott opens up the album with “the ends,” which features vocals from Andre 3000. The introduction section not only sets the tone for the song, but also for the entirety of the album. Haunting, sustained chords sound underneath a heavily Auto-Tuned opening. After a minute, the song switches gears, and Scott begins the first verse while a piano adds some flavor. The instrumentals never stay constant, with Scott adding or subtracting throughout.

The second song, “way back,” follows a similar format, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that both songs have a similar lack of familiar format. There’s more Auto-Tune, more heavy bass chords and more of the unexpected. Like “the ends,” “way back” has a clear turning point about two minutes into the song. Part of what makes the piece so appealing to the ear is how the myriad elements work together to create the final sound.

Scott released two singles off the album, “pick up the phone,” which features Young Thug, and “wonderful.” The fact that neither of the two songs seems to stand out from the rest of Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight is a testament to the album’s depth. Perhaps it’s because most of the songs share similar qualities. But you cannot argue with a winning formula, and Travi$ Scott has been on fire since his release of “Antidote” in 2015.

Many of the songs on Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight have some instrumentals best described as futuristic and techno. This aspect of his music helps separate Scott from other contemporary rappers. That said, Scott has clearly been influenced by a number of rappers, including West and Kid Cudi, who appears on the album. If you are a fan of either artist, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight is definitely worth a listen. Other artists featured on the album include Cassie, Blac Youngsta, 21 Savage, Kendrick Lamar, Bryson Tiller, Quavo and The Weeknd. None of these artists are exactly mainstream, except maybe Kendrick and The Weeknd, but there’s lots of new talent here nonetheless.

If you could only listen to one song from the album, I would recommend “goosebumps.” It has a beat that will stick in your head for days topped off with a catchy hook. Who could argue with that? Simply stated, the song pops. But why limit that evaluation to just one song? The whole album pops. Travi$ Scott is the real deal. It sure seems like a lot of people agree, since the album has quickly risen to number one on the Billboard 200 chart. Check it out. If you’re a fan of rap and hip hop, you won’t regret it.

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