Published Sep 09, 2016If Travis Scott were a bird, he might be the Common grackle. Just as that particular species is known to steal food from other birds, Scott's penchant for cribbing ad-libs, lyrics and flows from his contemporaries has not gone undocumented.
So yes, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight features plenty of stylistic cues picked up from other artists — Scott even took the album title from Quavo's "Pick Up the Phone" verse — but that's only a part of why Birds has trouble taking flight. Though the metaphor surrounding his mindset has changed, Scott's hedonistic lyrics about sex and drugs remain awfully vapid for what's been billed as a trap masterpiece (the utterly banal "SDP Interlude" takes the cake).
A deeper guest list this time around does its part to capture the listener's attention. André 3000 and Kendrick Lamar dazzle with their intricate lyrics on "The Ends" and "Goosebumps," respectively, while Kid Cudi, Scott's musical idol, demonstrates how to truly convey a drug trip through song ("Through the Late Night"). 21 Savage turns in a formidable appearance over something other than Metro Boomin beats ("Outside") and Young Thug and Quavo both bring much needed character and energy to "Pick Up the Phone." The one thing all the guests have in common is their ability to outshine Scott on his own effort.
Scott's fixation on Toronto hip-hop can't be overlooked. Along with bringing the Weeknd and producer Frank Dukes back into the fold, he enlists rising star Nav to spill out the drugged-out hook of "Biebs in the Track" and remixes K. Forest's "Guidance" in overly simplified fashion by adding his own vocals and adlibs to a slightly sped-up version of the Brampton artist's song.
Scott's strength, of course, continues to lie in his ear for beats, with part of his appeal being his ability to make songs with less than rewarding subject matter still sound cool. There are a number of these moments, too: the beat-switch of "The Ends," the outro of "Way Back" complete with Brian May-inspired guitars, the flighty string arrangements of "Through the Late Night" and the icy textures of "Sweet Sweet."
If anything, Birds shows that Scott has proven himself a worthy curator, even if he still can't manage to fly half as high as his flock does. (Grand Hustle/Epic)