Travis Scott
Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight


3.5
great

Review

by davidwave4 USER (54 Reviews)
September 5th, 2016 | 70 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: La Flame manages just enough fire...

It’s hard to write about Travis Scott’s debut outing nowadays. At the time, Rodeo was easily the most overhyped and underwhelming project to bear Scott (and to a lesser degree Kanye West’s) name. When Pitchfork gave it a 6, it was hard for anyone to find fault in it. But in the last year, the sounds and sentiments of Scott’s piecemeal effort have become the reigning sounds in hip-hop, being co-opted by everyone from Lil Yachty to Rihanna. Somehow, one of rap music’s most high profile disappointments became the template for contemporary rap. So, almost exactly one year post-hence, Scott’s second studio effort somehow has even higher expectations appended to it. Scott’s C-level material was zeitgeist-shifting. It begs the question of how his A-level material would affect the game. Fortunately for biters like Tory Lanez and Lil Uzi Vert, Scott doesn’t do much to push the envelope on Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. However, he does again produce material that, while not necessarily A-level, will no doubt color the airwaves in the year(s) to come.

One of the biggest complaints leveled against Scott for the duration of his major label career is that he’s not really a presence. As a rapper, he’s equal parts Kanye and Drake, just as likely to get political as he is personal, vindictive as he is vulnerable. As a singer, he’s Kid Cudi on sizzurp. But these critiques and comparisons belie Scott’s greatest strength: his synthesis. Travis Scott is the DJ Khaled of trap rap, less a true creative force and more a master curator. Scott’s ability to pull in disparate influences and collaborators is (near) unmatched in popular rap right now (Khaled serving as his one chief competitor), and this ability is one of the banner reasons to listen to a Scott album. Birds In The Trap… only compounds this justification as Scott brings in a who’s who of popular and experimental music into the fold. Andre 3000, Kid Cudi, The Weeknd, James Blake (a reviewer favorite), and Young Thug are just some of the names that pop up here. The fact that so many cooks are in the kitchen would, under any other artist, lead to an incohesive mess of an album. Fortunately for us, that’s not the case. Birds is monolithic, almost to a fault.

The sonics here are uniformly dark and sinewy. The sonic cues that Scott’s been hammering away at for years now are firmly in place--overdriven bass and trap percussion, eclectic left-field samples, more AutoTune than a Bon Iver/Imogen Heap collab record--and he uses them all pretty effectively. The producers list here tells you pretty much everything you need to know about how good the production is here. There’s the aforementioned James Blake, who contributes to “the ends,” there’s Dot Da Genius, who contributes to the Kid Cudi-featuring and interpolating “through the late night,” and Cashmere Cat and Boi-1da also make appearances here. And thanks to them and many more (the record's real MVP is Wondagurl, who supplies three of the record's best instrumentals), the record sounds great.

The lyrics, however, fall woefully short. Scott, as mentioned before, is less a “rapper” and more an aesthete in rapper’s clothing. Like contemporaries Drake and, to a lesser extent, Kanye, Scott’s strengths come in the construction of sounds and atmosphere, not in narrative and lyricism. Scott’s vocal contributions range from passively pleasant to jawdroppingly and hilariously bad, and the frequent vacillation lends the album a great deal of unnecessary tension. Songs like “sweet sweet” that boast absolutely bonkers (in the best possible way) instrumentals (again, thanks Wondagurl) are betrayed by bad lines like “Cause you're sweet, what's your status? Might hit your address, if I'm on a mattress.” Many of the album’s highlights, like “sdp interlude” and “through the late night” benefit from either an A1 feature (like Cudi on “late night” or Kendrick on “goosebumps”) or from Scott’s minimal lyricism.

Giving Scott credit where it’s due, he’s more than enjoyable when he focuses on a concrete and simple chorus or vocal line. “sdp interlude” is the best example of this. The song is pretty much all chorus, and it benefits from the mantra-like quality of the lyrics. It’s the “James Blake” principle, wherein AutoTune and repetition lend the song a beautific quality. This feature of Scott’s album can largely be forgiven because of his other positive features though. The ability to pull in compelling sonics and worthwhile collaborators helps to negate the problems with his presence and lyrics. This is more true here than it was on Rodeo, where far too often the sonic ideas served to showcase, not sublimate, Scott’s lyrical fumblings.

More and more, Travis Scott’s projects resemble the projects of other cloud-rap and alt-rap acts. Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight is what a Yung Lean project needs to be. The primary enjoyment here isn’t from Scott himself, but in the forces that he can amass and in the wacked out sounds he can produce. Listening to Scott for any kind of lyrical insight is missing the point. However, here there are at least enough sonic flashes and supporting players to save the album. That makes Birds… more than just a worth Rodeo follow-up. It makes it a replacement, which is exactly what Scott needed to make.



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user ratings (315)
3.1
good
other reviews of this album
FriendBackEast (2)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Scoot
September 6th 2016


19529 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

through the late night/biebs in the trap might be my favorite 1 2 punch in rap this year



pretty sweet album

Digging: Great Grandpa - Four of Arrows

Sinternet
September 6th 2016


20876 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah rules hard



good review

Digging: Andy Stott - It Should Be Us

silentstar
September 6th 2016


2526 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good + consistent album but i do prefer the more ~artistic~ side of Rodeo



really wish sdp was made into an actual song - beat was ace in there

LotusFlower
September 6th 2016


12000 Comments


if anything on this is like the last half of antidote then im game.

iloveyouall
September 6th 2016


6319 Comments


thanks for waiting a day or two to review this

LotusFlower
September 6th 2016


12000 Comments


This is a finely written review, I do like your descriptions and the opening paragraph's closing lines were great.

iloveyouall
September 6th 2016


6319 Comments


i was kinda hoping for sprfanof5sos to pump out a review in post-broken english 2-minutes after it was released, so i could witness the uproarious clamour of the illiterate sputnik masses

oltnabrick
September 6th 2016


37950 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Days Before Rodeo is still the best

Digging: Bladee - Working On Dying

Sinternet
September 6th 2016


20876 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

that rocks yea but idk i'd put rodeo above it

oltnabrick
September 6th 2016


37950 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

who tf

iloveyouall
September 6th 2016


6319 Comments


days before rodeo >>> rodeo

iloveyouall
September 6th 2016


6319 Comments


except for nightcrawler

TobiasFunke
September 6th 2016


25 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

This is so incredibly boring IMO. I don't need incredible wordplay for a great hip hop album, but I need some real talent, and Scott just doesn't have much.



Far, far worse, though, is that an album entirely based on production sounds so samey and monotonous. I listened to the entire album the whole way through and could barely tell when one track began and another ended. Also, the guest performers are so much better lyrically, they are the only thing that really marks one song being different from another.





Spec
September 6th 2016


35779 Comments


I still think Travis Scott is the last name I would expect for a hip hop artist.

oltnabrick
September 6th 2016


37950 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

wat about Travi$ Scott

Spec
September 6th 2016


35779 Comments


omg

FourthDyke
September 6th 2016


498 Comments


andy stott

FourthDyke
September 6th 2016


498 Comments


no relation

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
September 6th 2016


3099 Comments


I'm still unsure of how I feel about your sometimes excessive analysis of context and trends regarding music industries, as well as the way you adopt so many comparisons to other artists (which I understand is your particular style of scrutiny), but some of the descriptions, as well your expression, are so impressive, well done! Will check because review and album title are great.

Digging: Keaton Henson - Six Lethargies

anarchistfish
September 6th 2016


27898 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

way back and goosebumps are fire. beats are all good, no fluff like on rodeo

Digging: Knocked Loose - A Different Shade of Blue



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