Travis Scott Borrows And Blends With Exquisite Taste On His Debut Album

Sep 11, 2015
Originally published on September 11, 2015 7:50 pm

Rapper and producer Travis Scott, 23, is one of the most polarizing and intriguing figures in hip-hop today. Born Jacques Webster and hailing from a suburb of Houston, Scott was first known for his relationship with two megastars: rapper T.I., whose label imprint puts out his music; and Kanye West, his mentor and a frequent collaborator.

Like West, Scott is a college dropout with a middle-class background who chose music over higher education. Scott has a lot in common with West when it comes to attitude, too. He's passionate — almost to a fault — and a recent spate of controversial outbursts and actions has earned him a reputation as an enfant terrible.

Scott is both a musician and a master thief. On his full-length debut, Rodeo, he appropriates the sounds and aesthetics of forebears like Kid Cudi — as well as contemporaries like Chief Keef — to create a dark, visceral sonic collage of his own.

Musically, Rodeo is sprawling: It blends the cinematic synths of Atlanta's trap scene, the aggressive percussion of Chicago's drill music and the AutoTuned sing-song rap of the city's bop music with the "more is better" maximalism for which West is known.

Lyrically, Rodeo is debaucherous, disaffected and rude, with an air of causeless youthful rebellion. This is attitude for attitude's sake — or, more precisely, because the words aren't there to convey deep meaning as much as to accompany the music's overall mood.

Travis Scott's musical collage is all about atmosphere. Some will dismiss Rodeo as derivative, but that's not Scott's concern. He knows that if you're going to be known as a thief, you should be known as one with impeccable taste.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

One of the most polarizing and intriguing figures in hip-hop right now is a 23-year-old rapper and producer who goes by the name Travis Scott. He grew up as Jacques Webster in a suburb of Houston. His mentor is Kanye West, and he's signed to the label imprint of hip-hop star T.I. His first official album is called "Rodeo," and NPR Music's Timmhotep Aku has our review.

TIMMHOTEP AKU, BYLINE: Like Kanye West, Travis Scott is a college dropout with a middle-class background who chose music over higher education. Scott has a lot in common with West when it comes to attitude too. He's passionate, almost to a fault, and a recent spate of controversial outbursts have earned him a reputation as an enfant terrible.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "902190")

TRAVIS SCOTT: (Singing) Jacques to La Flame, now you rolling on an Addy - 50 on her chain, another 50 on her caddy.

AKU: Travis Scott is both a musician and a master thief. On his full-length debut, "Rodeo," he appropriates the sounds and aesthetics of forebears like Kid Cudi and contemporaries like Chief Keef to create a dark, visceral sonic collage all his own.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANTIDOTE")

SCOTT: (Singing) Don't you open up that window. Don't you let out that antidote. Popping, popping's all we know. In the hills is all we know. Don't go through the front door. It's low key at the night show. So don't you open up that window.

AKU: Musically, "Rodeo" is sprawling. It blends the cinematic synths of Atlanta's trap scene, the aggressive percussion of Chicago's drill music and the auto-tuned singsong rap of the city's bop music with the more-is-better maximalism that Kanye West is known for.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "3500")

SCOTT: (Singing) Thirties in city moving slow, $3,500 for the coat. Only, only, only real, real keep you afloat. Only trill, trill, I know. Only, only, only trill, I know. Only, only, only trill, I know. Only trill, I know. Only, only, only trill, I know. Ladies order up the champagne, a whole lot of it. Painkillers - they got back pain. Now you got to love it.

AKU: Lyrically, "Rodeo" is debaucherous, disaffected and rude. This is attitude for attitude's sake or, more precisely, because the words aren't there to convey deep meaning as much as to accompany the music's overall mood.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARIA I'M DRUNK")

SCOTT: (Singing) Calling for Maria - lost without Maria. I dive in the marina. So trust me, Baby. Trust me. Trust me, Baby.

AKU: Travis Scott's musical collage is all about atmosphere. Sure, some will dismiss "Rodeo" as derivative, but that's not his concern. He knows that if you're going to be known as a thief, you should be known as a thief with impeccable taste.

CORNISH: Timmhotep Aku of NPR Music reviewed "Rodeo" by Travis Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.