Known trap-rap/producing artist Travi$ Scott got his start none-too-surprisingly thanks to Kanye West and Kid Cudi. Not only are these two artists his major influences, but they’re also similar in sound, with Travi$’s voice almost seeming like a birth child of the two. Big Sean and Chance the Rapper might be gunning for the title of Kanye West’s protégé, but with Travi$’s second studio album, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, it may seem like they have some competition. So much so in fact, that it almost sounds like Kanye himself on the beginning of this record. While it’s true that Scott was indeed a very large figure in the production of tracks like “Guilt Trip” and “New Slaves” off of Yeezus, or even “FML” from The Life of Pablo, Kanye’s sound is as much Kanye himself as it is Scott’s. If anything, it was always Kanye, Cudi, and T-Pain’s, until the next generation had the cup runneth over.
Nonetheless, it is still eerie how much Scott’s voice and production have in common with Kanye’s in particular on opening track “the ends.” It’s a killer opening, including yet another André 3000 feature in 2016. It’s a bit toned down and not as emotive or spit-fire as André usually is, but if you know me, I’ll never complain about getting more André 3000 features. If you didn’t catch that it was 3 stacks himself, it was probably because like Kanye West and Frank Ocean, and countless others, for some reason people don’t include their features on the tracklist anymore. Why? I don’t know maybe it’s a power move. Maybe they’re trying to say “it’s all a Travi$ Scott” album, like how Kanye thinks of features as sounds in his collection rather than names on a track. Sure, it’s surprising and exciting to hear people like André 3000 appear out of nowhere like on Frank Ocean’s “Solo (Reprise)” or here on “the ends,” but I prefer that credit is given where credit is due.
Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight does a funny thing after “the ends” that I rarely see a lot of records do. The second track “way back,” my favorite song on the record, absolutely delivers, and then all the hype dies as the record just tanks from then on out. I’ve honestly never seen such a drop in a record before. How can the first two tracks be so on point and then plummet so goddamn fast? I was honestly very excited for the record after “way back”–the hype was real–and then all worthwhile aspects of the record vanished. It was like when “Hotline Bling” came out and everyone got excited for an album of material that would sound like “Hotline Bling” but instead got VIEWS, his saddest and most devoid of any enjoyment record-to-date. That’s what Travi$ Scott did to me on Birds.
And it doesn’t just fall short on melodies or production. The largest downfall of Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, besides the album’s title, is in the lyrics. Like I said of Young Thug (a.k.a. No, My Name is Jeffery) or Future’s DS 2, it’s almost as if people just ignore what these people are saying. I honestly don’t even know how some of it slides by without the audience slamming them for misogyny or even just plain stupidity.
While it’s mainly the latter present here on Birds, some of the lyrical content is so out-of-left-field that there’s no rhyme or reason for it to be said at all. Whether it’s just rhymes like “s’il vous plaît” on “through the late night” (a.k.a. Travi$ Scott’s remix of “Day ‘N’ Nite” w/ Kid Cudi) implemented like nursery rhymes for adults, or lines like “and I’m swimmin’ out that bitch/Michael Phelps with the medals,” where references are made for seemingly no reason or relation to the song’s material. It’s a trend that’s common not just on Birds but with a lot of trap and rap releases today.
What these rappers think are references are actually just mentions. Travis has shown that he can make decent references before, like on “beibs in the trap” when he says “she snortin’ three lines like Adidas,” but Birds is full of more “mentions” and idiotic filler than it is actually interesting lyrical material. I mean, there’s a line where he says he’s trying to reach his accountant from the mountains but there isn’t any service. He even says “stroke my cactus” on “through the late night.” Like, what are you even talking about? You couldn’t think of anything better than “cactus”?
I wish it wasn’t like this. I wish I didn’t hear every trap banger of a record like Jeffery or Ds2 or Lil Boat and see so much potential go to waste. It might seem like a fool’s errand to get bothered by the lyrics of these artists, and people might tell me that the lyrical material isn’t what this music is about, but I don’t see why it can’t be. Just because you’re supposed to be hammered at the club and it’s hype or “turnt up” doesn’t mean the words that the artists are saying have to come from the mind of a drugged-up misogynist toddler. While I hoped that Travi$ could have been the one to break the curse, Birds in the Trap ends up being yet another record to write-off.
Proposed Travi$ Scott’s Birds in the Trap (EP) Tracklisting:
1) the ends (feat. André 3000)
2) way back (feat. Swizz Beatz & Kid Cudi)
3) through the late night (feat. Kid Cudi)
4) goosebumps (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
5) pick up the phone (feat. Young Thug & Quavo)