The question of “biting” has been a controversy in the world of hip-hop for quite some time. Taking pointers from influential artists in the game remains as common practice, but what matters most at the end of the day is the organic process of musical creation. This debate of legitimacy is a centerpiece of Travi$ Scott’s new album Rodeo and ever since the project leaked, fans have been theorizing whether the album is a legitimate representation of Scott’s artistry or merely a display of the popular sounds that dominate today’s urban landscape. When dissecting Rodeo with an unbiased perspective, the truth lies somewhere in between these two viewpoints. But however much you may want to discredit Scott’s debut studio LP as an imitation of what’s already been heard, Rodeo as a whole is an enjoyable collection which stands out sonically while also showcasing the wild spirted appeal of La Flame that has placed the Houston rapper in his current flourishing state.
The title of Rodeo proves to be quite a fitting representation of Travis Scott’s approach to this album as La Flame depicts the intoxicated yet always driven mentality that fuels his music with such powerful energy. The frantic ambition of Scott kicks off in an appropriately off-kilter manner on intro track “Pornography” which switches off between drug-influenced sexual encounters and full-fledged braggadocio over a quality tag team production effort from Sonny Digital & Metro Boomin. “Oh My/Dis Side” is a proper follow-up as La Flame is joined by Quavo (of Migos) and they team up for absurdly catchy effort, the first half being a melodically slurred banger which transitions into a soulful, reminiscent cut that contains a heavy dose of Drake (think “How Bout Now” sonically, lyrically Drake mentions his ‘6 Side’ quite often) influence. The Drizzy effect is also particularly present on the Allen Ritter/Mike Dean laced “Impossible” and while some listeners will critique the imitative moments, the music itself creates a euphoric sense of satisfaction for fans of Scott’s enthralling persona.
From a content perspective, the majority of Rodeo accurately depicts Travi$ Scott as a young, rebellious artist who has an affinity for his lavish lifestyle, one that never sleeps due to common nightlife activities aka lots of drugs and lots of sex. Tracks such as the single “3500” (ft. Future & 2Chainz), “Wasted” (ft. Juicy J), and “Nightcrawler” (ft. Swae Lee & Chief Keef) are all based on this theme and the heavy volume of guest appearances add their most potent stylistic flavor to each offering. And while we are on the subject of collaborations, Justin Bieber’s rap performance on “Maria I’m Drunk” proves to be a standout moment on the album, and that in itself will cause you to chug your drink and ponder life. All in all, Scott has never been the type of emcee to wow the audience with his pen game, but La Flame continues to show his knack for bringing the right people together to craft anthems that will ring off in any live setting.
Amidst all the bottles and lean filled double cups, Rodeo shines its brightest when Travi$ decides to take a more personal approach with his music. “90210” is a primary example of this as Travi$ starts the song with his best Kanye West circa 808’s & Heartbreak impression, but then opens up on the feel-good, piano-laden groove which kicks in with Scott providing honest lines such as “My granny called, she said “Travie, you work too hard, I’m worried you’ll forget about me, I’m falling in and out of cuffs, don’t worry, I’ma get it, granny.” Another track which excels in a similar (yet darker) lane is “Pray 4 Love” which features a hook and verse from The Weeknd, who has risen to worldwide prominence in 2015. Taking a cue from Abel’s work, La Flame realizes that his excessive behavior is self-destructive (“Pray for my liver when I’m off in this club, I pray that the demons go away, they hauntin’ us, Man I can’t take no more of this lifestyle we been livin”) but also uncompromising in the reality that he won’t stop as long as he continues to rise among hip-hop’s ranks.
Scott has a fire within his artistic make-up that refuses to go out, opting for risks and vices rather than succumbing to any industry disapproval or sacrificing his debauched character. This allows Rodeo to thrive as an interesting body of work filled with many high points, but as much as Scott’s cult fan-base may want to deny it; this album will also be viewed by many as a chameleon collection. From T.I.’s continuous narration (similar to Common’s role in Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon) to Scott’s familiar deliveries (Cudi, Drake, Kanye, and Swae Lee footprints are all present), Rodeo has multiple moments where Travi$ is not subtle in saying ‘I’m going to use this flow and morph it into my own sound.’
And while some may be disappointed in this fact considering Rodeo was such a highly anticipated album, the fact remains that Travis Scott made a vibrant project filled with energetic anthems, a plethora of guests who all stepped up to the plate, and an impressive sonic backbone built by some of today’s most talented producers (Allen Ritter, Mike Dean, Metro Boomin, Sonny Digital, WondaGurl, Frank Dukes, DJ Dahi and many more all contributed). Ultimately, Rodeo is a testament to Travi$ Scott’s successful artistic formula and while La Flame may not be for everybody, there is a large segment of rabid fans who will take pleasure in holding on for dear life during the ride of the Rodeo listening (and live) experience.
Repeatable: “90210”, “Oh My/Dis Side”, “OK Alright”
Skippable: “Never Catch Me”, “I Can Tell”