In a summer that’s seen some of the heavyweights of hip-hop drop new albums, the best vibe you’ll find is on Travis Scott’s new release, Astroworld. Drake’s Scorpion is fine, but too long, too indulgent. Kanye’s Ye has its moments, but is too sharp, too paranoid. But Astroworld, that’s the good stuff, the sit-back-and-let-it-wash-over-you stuff, the turn-up-your-stereo-speakers-too-loud stuff.
The album’s opening cut, “Stargazing,” is a masterclass is setting a mood. Its slow, melodic open settles you into a nice groove before the noise of a rollercoaster transitions you into the song's bombastic second half, one that’s going to have crowds going nuts in mosh pits for years to come.
Although Scott has built himself a solid career, one that sees him as a headliner at the Austin City Limits Festival later this year, rarely does he come up in discussions as “best rapper” or “best producer.” That isn’t likely to change with Astroworld, but with this album he does put himself at the front of the pack as rap’s best curator. With Kanye seemingly more interested in being provocative and DJ Khaled being pretty much exclusively dedicated to bangers with little depth, Scott may not have a ton of competition in that arena, but that doesn’t diminish his ability to have a vision and deliver on it.
Look at the guest list roster for Astroworld: Drake, The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, and Stevie Wonder, to name just a few. The label spared no expense on Astroworld, but it would have been all for naught if Scott and company couldn’t arrange the pieces in a pleasing way. But even on the most complex of tracks—consider “Stop Trying To Be God,” which weaves together the talents of James Blake and Kid Cudi with some harmonica courtesy of Wonder—seem completely natural, as if in fact all these individuals exist solely to make Scott look better.
Although it does feel a little long, Astroworld is an ultimately enjoyable listen, with plenty of nods to the city he was born, as fitting a record with that name. Whether he’s paying tribute to DJ Screw or Slim Thug, talking about packing the Toyota Center (where he used to be a ballboy for the Rockets), or just reminding that the death of Astroworld was a bummer, Scott isn’t shy about using this moment to give his hometown some shine. Giving the album the title he did was a bold decision, one he had to deliver on to avoid being savaged by the city. And with Astroworld, Scott gives almost as many thrills as the theme park did.