As a genre, hip-hop has found more and more ways to polarize fans and critics with the new ways rappers have been delivering their music. Heavy, overly produced bangers are becoming increasingly more popular in recent years and this is definitely dividing people, even myself. While artists such as Future and Kid Cudi have never fully impressed me, Travis Scott has always been interesting to me. While admittedly not a fan of his early stuff, Rodeo was far from a bad album and outside of his terrible Rihanna collaboration “Woo” earlier this year, his guest verses have always kept me entertained. I was eager to see how his sophomore album would be so I went in open minded.
While occasionally having somewhat of a weak presence, Scott definitely is giving his all here and delivering on what his fans have come to expect from him. To me, it was actually the guests on this project that were inconsistent to me. I would say more features work than do not here. Right from the opening track “the ends” we get a killer verse from Andre 3000 who has just been killing it this past month with his guest work. He gives a smart verse about his childhood and the dangers that the violence around him brought. It is easily the most thoughtful work from a feature, besides maybe The Weeknd on “wonderful” who is always great.
While his recent work has been terrible, Kid Cudi’s contributions to “through the late night” boosted the track’s quality, even if he was just recycling “Day N’ Nite.” Young Thug does some of his best work on “pick up the phone” as does Quavo who I have never really been impressed by. And, of course, Kendrick Lamar has a verse here on “goosebumps” which is definitely far out of his comfort zone. Kendrick plays with his vocals, hitting a high falsetto in the middle of his verse that is certainly interesting to say the least. While artists like 21 Savage and Bryson Tiller are still unimpressive to me, their contributions here do not ruin the songs they are on.
As for the lyrical content here, while nothing outside of Andre 3000’s verse is super complex or thought provoking, it is certainly above the typical turn up that Rae Sremmurd make. The back half of this record, especially dive deeper into Scott’s love life and his failure to maintain a successful relationship. “goosebumps” is a surprisingly cute song about Scott’s nerves kicking in when seeing someone, and while certainly a fun song, has more heart than people are giving it credit for. “sweet sweet” details a broken relationship with a girl who is essentially a drug addict. While the song does not take this story anywhere it is still a pretty good premise. The same goes for “lose” which sees Scott worried about losing all the wealth and fame he has worked to acquire over the years.
“pick up the phone” which is an easy favorite for me here, details Scott, as well as Young Thug and Quavo’s desire to stay faithful to a girl who is not reciprocating the feelings. It is one of the only songs on the record that is accompanied by fun and clean production, except for maybe “guidance” which is a sad excuse for a dancehall track.
The production is one of the biggest issues for me on Birds. Despite getting a huge list of various producers on each of the songs here, most of the songs have this really dark, eerie sound that does not always fit and gets old after a couple of listens. I do think this is a step in the right direction for Travis Scott, but this is far from perfect. I can see Scott coming out with some incredibly fun and memorable music, and he is clearly working hard to get there.
Best Tracks: the ends, through the late night, goosebumps, pick up the phone, lose, wonderful
Worst Track: guidance