Published Sep 04, 2015One of the more common knocks against Travis Scott in his young career is the "style over substance" approach taken on each of his own recorded projects, using instrumental production from the flashier end of the scale to serve as a distraction from lyrical work that doesn't stack up against that of his peers. Sometimes the move pays off; one doesn't need to look much further than the grand designs of undeniable bangers "Upper Echelon" and "Don't Play," along with choice elements in "Bandz" and both instalments of the "Quintana" series for examples.
Rodeo doesn't see Scott stray too far from this blueprint, reaching for even greater heights in the production realm by lining up rap's hottest producers to work on the 14-track affair. Jump cuts between Zaytoven's twinkling keys and a menacing synth from Metro Boomin are instantly recognizable within the lengthy prog-trap epic "3500," while the work of Allen Ritter, Wondagurl, DJ Dahi and Frank Dukes plays parts in beat switches on "Oh My/Dis Side," "90210" and "Maria/I'm Drunk." Easily discernible influence from Mike Dean and Kanye West successfully further the weirder side of the trap sound that Scott has come to be associated with.
Instrumentals alone can't elevate mid-level raps though, and though Scott's name isn't as prevalent in the production credits as it has been in the past, an increased focus on lyricism is absent here. Continuously using a rodeo as a metaphor for his whirlwind life of sex and drugs wears thin over the hour-plus runtime, hampered further by a lack of variety in delivery and shifting his recognizable ad-libs from AutoTuned to airy and reverberating.
A unique list of features provides a bit more variety, with both Future and 2 Chainz outshining their host on "3500" with grim self-awareness and humorous quotables, respectively. A bizarro pairing of Young Thug and Justin Bieber trade verses over warped pianos in the back half of "Maria/I'm Drunk," working better sonically than on paper. Even Scott's mentor West, while not turning in a particularly riveting verse, injects a good deal of character into "Piss On Your Grave" with his near-shouted vocals.
Still due for some lyrical improvement on his end, Scott shouldn't expect production strength alone to steady him on the bucking bronco that is rap music forever. (Epic)