Want to get close to Travis Scott? Try a Travis Scott condom. 5 American dollars per prophylactic, plus $ 4.62 in shipping, will get a single on intimate terms with the Texas rapper — or at least with his branding. The year 2016 might prove to be the a single wherein rap merch and pop-up shops reach a saturation point right after standing in so several lines for shirts, hoodies, jackets, and even a zine, there’s some thing a small quaint about basically going to a net retailer to acquire a devotional item. But Scott transcends merch fatigue due to the fact he’s fundamentally working on a different level from most artists. Along with Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert, he’s one particular of the leaders of a new wave of stars who do not limit themselves merely to getting rappers, or even musicians. They’re that also, of course. But what makes Scott and his peers so compelling is that they are in the end supreme arbiters of cool — by any medium necessary.
Earlier this month, Scott released his second studio album, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, drawing its title from Quavo’s guest verse on “Pick Up the Telephone.” In the context of the song, Quavo’s line is a fantastical non-sequitur that sounds effortlessly cool by elevating it to the name of an album, Scott doubles-down on that ephemeral novelty. It is a fine example of one of his signature moves, which thrive on unexpected juxtapositions. On his final album, he traded lines with Justin Bieber and Young Thug on a jarring, thrilling culture clash known as “Maria I am Drunk.” The title of Birds functions similarly, pairing the “high” signifier of Brian McKnight with the “low” image of “the trap,” prizing surreal contrasts more than precise which means. He is not mocking trap music or adult-modern R&B — he’s twisting them both into his own exclusive vision.
Scott’s function tends to lack sturdy thematic throughlines, aside from the constant backdrop of drugged-out excess, but the bizarre imagery of his latest album title — represented in the cover art by a crestfallen Scott smoking in a leather coat with massive, raven-like wings — sums up his method in a way that his lyrics rarely achieve. He can be a mythical quasi-bird creature, maybe an action-movie hero, possibly an anguished ’90s R&B singer — or far better yet, none of the above. He works by collecting and rearranging influences: The inventive fingerprints of Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and numerous trap rappers and producers are impossible to miss in his music. But Birds is not about challenging himself or his listeners to come up with new concepts. He just wants us to fuck with his art.
Where final year’s Rodeo was a bloated notion album about Southern California and the highs of fame, the new album finds a lot more restraint on a standard musical level. Gone are the excessive intros and outros — only a single track on Birds exceeds 5 minutes. Nevertheless, the conciseness of these songs doesn’t signal that Scott is adhering to any tightly focused pop restraints. “Coordinate” and “Outside” are dark, moody stompers with no clear hooks or melody. With the exception of mid-album highlights “Sweet Sweet” and “Pick Up the Telephone,” he spends most of Birds creating mosh-pit motivators. These songs are all about unleashing fashionable chaos, from a performer who’d rather see Supreme caps flying in the air than inspire crowd singalongs.
Birds debuted at No. 1, a milestone that Scott surely appreciated. (Final year, soon after Rodeo missed the mark, he told a reporter, “We wanted that No. 1 so poor. This an L.”) Actually, though, the album is just a single part of Scott’s creative output. In the final handful of months, he’s contributed to DJ Snake’s album Encore, helped create Rihanna’s Anti, and made headlines for taking command of the upcoming G.O.O.D. Music collection, Cruel Winter. One of the very best qualities about Birds is just how significantly Scott amplifies others’ voices — be it Quavo’s immaculate verse on “Pick up the Telephone,” 21 Savage’s blank-faced appearance on “Outside,” or the Weeknd’s coarse falsetto on “Wonderful.” Usually that reliance on other individuals is observed as a slight on Scott’s personal talents, as even though he ought to be ashamed of needing other people to make fantastic music. But popular music is a collaborative art kind, and Scott’s method is equivalent to the way a lot of pop giants work in 2016. The quantity of producers and songwriters on Frank Ocean’s Blonde, Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo doesn’t dilute those singular artists’ visions — it enhances them. If you happen to be good enough that everybody desires to work with you, why would not you?
Scott’s way of functioning fits completely with modern trends in style, where high/low pairings — like, say, $ 30 Zara pants with actual Margiela shoes — are everywhere. That blurring of the lines amongst conventional taste categories is mirrored in a musical generation that has seen many stars rise up out of their bedrooms with completely formed designs that didn’t need to have to be designed in an costly studio. The fact that Scott wears his influences so plainly on his sleeve feels like less of a concern for a generation that is utilised to sounds and fashions flipping and turning more than in near-instants. For fans who have curated private Tumblrs and Instagrams to fit their own perfectionist streaks, Scott’s persona follows familiar ideals.
A single of the values that rap’s older guard stresses above all is originality, but Scott seems to scoff at this idea — and his fans clearly agree. When he interpolates Kid Cudi’s 2009 hit “Day N Nite” on a Birds track that attributes Kid Cudi, he’s both celebrating 1 of his largest influences and sending a snarky laugh in the direction of any person who may well query his integrity. The insular lark fits Scott’s personal mission statement as put forth in “Sweet Sweet”: “Shout my town / Shout my tropes.” He knows the clichés attached to his name, but he refuses to be concerned about such minor issues, and that is precisely what makes it so entertaining to be a Travis Scott fan.