It seems like promotion for Travis Scott’s debut album, Rodeo has been everywhere this year; lead singles “3500” and “Antidote” have been straining subwoofer systems all summer, even if their radio potential is hampered by indulgent song lengths. If these grandiose singles effectively built up anticipation for Scott’s debut, then the two throwaway tracks he dropped featuring fellow prominent 2015 rap trendsetters, Future and Young Thug, were just fuel to the fire. Scott-mania boiled up a month before the album’s release when Scott was arrested on the main stage of Lollapalooza for allegedly inciting a riot by performing his song “Uptown”. While he’s been asserting that this new album will be the best thing he has released, Scott is known to be somewhat arrogant about his work. Fortunately, Rodeo delivers everything good about Scott’s previous mix tapes while pushing the ideas to their next evolutionary step.
Scott has never shied away from packing guests’ voices onto his tracks, but these sixteen tracks squeeze in twelve features, some of which don’t fit well with his style. Justin Bieber sounds very out of place on the drowsy, dissonant production of “Maria I’m Drunk”, but Young Thug’s wildly careening verse saves the song. The late album collaboration with chillwave producer, Toro y Moi, “Flying High” is a particularly unwise choice; it requires both artists to alter their styles, meeting somewhere in the middle where they won’t find many fans in either of their audiences.
Rodeo bears the signs of being a heavily curated debut, running along at a cinematic pace with unpredictable musical asides and constantly shifting elements. Scott has an unusual amount of control over his sound since he handles the majority of production and everything about these songs from the ad-libs to the larger than life production reads as a testament to Scott’s good taste. There’s no doubt that he has a distinctive style and lots of interesting ideas for songs, but it doesn’t seem like the young producer has refined his voice enough to carry an album on his own. There are only six songs that Scott performs alone and the one case in which they appear right after the other is the album’s biggest dragging point. Scott’s enthusiasm and maximalist production tendencies can make his albums feel topically and sonically monochromatic at times; short bursts may be the best way to enjoy Travis Scott’s music. Rodeo is a daunting project to listen to from beginning to end, but it works very well as a great collection of songs from one of rap’s most consistent new voices.