By Joey Thyne
Travis Scott rose to prominence after being signed by Kanye West to GOOD Music in 2012. This led to producing credits on “Cruel Summer” and “Yeezus,” on which his dark and abrasive influence is undeniable. After two mixtapes, his first album, “Rodeo,” came out last year, featuring the breakout single “Antidote.” Now, he has returned with “Birds in the Trap Sing Mcknight.”
What does music become when the need for artistic statement is alleviated? Similar to guilty-pleasure reality television or gluttonous blockbusters, trap music is an inherently hedonistic genre. By trade Travis Scott is an entertainer, making raucous bangers to incite live-show mosh pits and dorm-room sing-alongs.
First and foremost, he is a producer. The beats are gritty, sinister and over-the-top. He has been outspoken about his love of metal and punk music. This explains the visceral energy his music provides. Songs like “biebs in the trap” and “goosebumps” are thrilling to mindlessly jam out to.
The lyrics are a hodgepodge of random party imagery and an over-saturation of ad-libs (“Straight Up,” “It’s lit!”). Guest appearances by wordsmith behemoths like Andre 3000 and Kendrick Lamar feel out of place. It is worth mentioning that Scott was able to retrieve Kid Cudi out of whatever hole he had dug himself into following the unlistenable “Speeding Bullet to Heaven” to deliver a solid verse.
“BITTSM” is redundant in its in-your-face high energy. Relief is found in “first take” and “lose” which are the only songs with any semblance of subtlety. On “Rodeo” there was an effort to experiment and vary his sound with some intriguing results like “90210.” “BITTSM” sticks to the same formula of hook/bass drop/repeat. One could blame this on the confines of trap, but artists like Future have been able to innovate in terms of flow and melody within the genre.
If Scott isn’t able to entertain, what service is he bringing to the table? There are times when Travis seems totally apathetic, like on “coordinate,” bored by his own music. There are other times when the music is actively irritating, such as the caustic falsetto on “sweet sweet” and the cataclysmic beat of “guidance.” His distorted crooning becomes grating over time. His hard-rock tendencies also cause him to portray himself as moody or disturbed, with some preposterous outcomes like the sulky temperament of “the ends.”
The album ends on a high point. “pick up the phone” and “wonderful” are well-crafted songs with great production where Scott has fun and doesn’t take himself too seriously. However, the songs may succeed due to their features, Young Thug and the Weeknd respectively. This further proves Scott thrives in collaboration and when he leans more toward pop music.
“BITTSM” is what happens when a feature artist has to occupy nearly an hour. Countless times, he has proved himself as a skilled producer. He is awesome on a hook — “Champions” by Kanye is a perfect example. Maybe sometime in the future he can release a well-rounded project that is more than just a few good singles wading in filler, but right now an entire album by him is a chore to listen to.
Joey Thyne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @b_e_nelson.