Release Date: Sep 2, 2016
Record label: Epic
Out of all of Kanye West’s recent notable understudies, Travis Scott is quickly becoming the outright fan favorite. Last year’s Rodeo got hit with some mediocre reviews from critics but irrespectively garnered him a lot of traction with his increasingly cult-like fan base who are visibly obsessed with the braid waving, stage diving 24-year-old. He even snagged himself a seat at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with none other than “Antidote” – what most would have considered to be the song of last summer.
First presented in 2014, Vetements is among the buzziest new fashion lines. Created by the Margiela and Louis Vuitton-trained designer Demna Gvasalia, the line takes inspiration from the common; its name is even just French for “clothing.” Non-luxury materials often highlight Gvasalia’s runway shows, which take ordinary items and brands and fit them to haute couture with extreme, unnatural silhouettes. Among Gvasalia’s admirers is Kanye West, and with his taste goes the rest of contemporary hip-hop.
Titled after one of Quavo's lines from the chirpy summertime 2016 hit co-billed to Travis Scott and Young Thug, this fitfully hypnotizing follow-up arrived after numerous delays, toward the end of the year's third quarter. "Pick Up the Phone" functioned as the lead single off Thug's JEFFERY, and it sensibly reappears here, buried in the latter half, de-emphasized yet not quite a tacked-on bonus. It's easily the track with the most pop appeal on Scott's second full-length.
If Travis Scott were a bird, he might be the Common grackle. Just as that particular species is known to steal food from other birds, Scott's penchant for cribbing ad-libs, lyrics and flows from his contemporaries has not gone undocumented. So yes, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight features plenty of stylistic cues picked up from other artists — Scott even took the album title from Quavo's "Pick Up the Phone" verse — but that's only a part of why Birds has trouble taking flight.
Whether or not Travis Scott’s Rodeo was your cup of tea (or pint of lean more accurately), the craftsmanship that went into the record was undeniable. Instrumentals were massive, moody, and orchestral and on many tracks they even underwent several permutations. Scott, despite never being the most engaging MC, had a few quality verses and more importantly shined on hook duty, while the revolving door of A-listers (Kanye West, Future, 2 Chainz, Justin Bieber, etc.) picked up the rapping slack.
Since his perceived lifting of Future’s “straight up” ad-lib during the beginnings of a career marred by accusations of artistic theft, it’s proved impossible to ingest Travis Scott’s work without consideration of its context. The reappropriation of a fan’s artwork on Days Before Rodeo’s cover was questionable at least, the similarities between “Antidote” and hitmaker-of-the-moment Swae Lee’s melodic croon baffling at most. And yet, forgivable incidents they eventually became, as his output seemingly outweighed the sins.
Travis Scott is usually the kind of artist traveling on a solo dolo journey as opposed to being part of a tribe. However, his quest to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump with his new album, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, is one that finds the prodigious creative dwelling in the shadows with a solid team behind him. That’s not to say that he plays second fiddle to his list of co-stars, which includes a mix of some of rap’s most reputable lyricists and buzzworthy talent.