If there’s one thing Travis Scott excels at, it’s sounding cool. There was the grungy glam sound he lent to Yeezus tracks “New Slaves” and “Guilt Trip,” his first introduction to many of us, and his defining moment in the Kanye West think tank spotlight. On 2014’s Days Before Rodeo, he managed the unlikely welding job of psychedelic rock to Metro Boomin, Young Thug, and Migos‘ New Atlanta, deftly showing those two boundary-pushing genres’ similarities, namely their penchant for druggy soundscapes and introspection balanced with hedonism.
Rodeo was his most ambitious attempt at alchemy, an hour-plus crammed full of ideas, quickly-transitioning songs, and funhouse mirror experiments with various genres. Friends of mine who’ve visited Las Vegas have told me that a whirlwind weekend trip is better than a weeklong one, that all of the soulless debauchery hits like a jolt of energy but wears off quickly, and that’s Travis Scott in a nutshell. There’s never much depth to sink your teeth into, but usually enough temporal distractions to make his music exciting and intoxicating for the first few listens. More accurately, considering his fealty to Ye and high fashion, Travis Scott is the embodiment of “Vegas on acid, seen through Yves St. Laurent glasses.”
His new Apple Music mixtape, Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight, offers a few of these colorfully weird moments, but not as many as its two predecessors. There’s the gorgeous coda to “Way Back,” in which whale song-esque backing vocals, a Mike Dean guitar solo, and twinkling synths make a call for women to bend it “way, way back for me” much more transcendent than it actually is. With its skillfulWashed Out sample, “SDP Interlude” achieves the project’s trippiest and most unorthodox moment, although it spends over two minutes repeating one line ad nauseam. There’s that brief moment at the beginning of “First Take” when Travis’ vocals levitate over a woozily minimal beat, its melancholic power erased as soon as he starts rapping and dropping “Lit!” ad-libs.