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‘Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight’ album review

| Friday, September 9, 2016

birdsinthetrap_webJOSEPH HAN | The Observer

After the success of his debut album “Rodeo,” Travis Scott delivers grunge-trap and dark textures on his second studio album “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight.” Heavily criticized as under-developed, the 24-year-old Scott establishes his place in the hip-hop scene with “Birds.” Despite appearances by big names like The Weeknd, Young Thug, Cassie, Kid Cudi, Swizz Beatz, Bryson Tiller, André 3000 and Kendrick Lamar, Scott maintains the spotlight on this album. Scott is known for his delinquency and wild stage presence, and those mannerisms emerge out of the dark trap stew that he hosts in “Birds.”

In the first track “The Ends,” Scott abstains from his usual auto-tuned vocals in exchange for some solid rapping. On first listen, you may not even recognize that André 3000 is rapping. A smooth transition into “Way Back” follows. Overall, each track on “Birds” blends seamlessly into the next due to smart executive production by Scott himself — a dark, detuned synth extends throughout. “Way Back” transitions from an uptempo track into a “808s & Heartbreaks”-sounding track. It eventually grows into a metallic symphony with overdriven guitars and swelling violins.

Despite their variety, each contributor on the album manages to hit a traditional triplet flow or auto-tune rap similar to the sound that Future pioneered. Underground rapper Nav brings a generic rap sound to “Biebs in the Trap.” Fortunately, the catchy hook and Scott’s charisma pull out Nav’s half of the song from being a trap anthem, where Scott and Nav do not hold back from drug references. With Scott’s opening bar being “Nightmares, high life, sleepy, night night,” drugs become the only recurring theme in “Birds.” Although he lacks any sort of overarching message in his music, Scott communicates his drug-addict persona as something he struggles with.

In “Guidance” featuring Roy Woods and K. Forest, a poppy instrumental is juxtaposed with a heavy chorus including vocals by all three artists. This juxtaposition creates a dichotomy of conflicting emotion: You want to dance and simultaneously drown in your own misery — a staple of Scott’s sound. The 14-track album is an emotional roller coaster, a step up from Scott’s unorganized freshman album “Rodeo,” full of too-long tracks with dramatic changes halfway through. In “Birds,” Scott manifests dual musical ideas and switches between emotions seamlessly.

In “Goosebumps,” Scott sings and raps cockily over an ethereal dream-like instrumental, “Yeah, we gon’ do some things, some things you can’t relate / Yeah, ’cause we from a place, a place you cannot stay.” He creates and exudes superiority, asserting his place as an important figure in the hip-hop game. Kendrick comes in unexpectedly with flows from “Untitled Unmastered,” creating interesting textures.

Despite Scott’s limited thematic content, “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight” is a solid sophomore album. Scott creates a new environment for all featured artists and brings out a new side in each of them, yet the rookie stands out in a project crowded with seasoned elites.

 

Favorite Tracks: “The Ends,” “Biebs in the Trap”

If You Like: Young Thug/Jeffrey, Desiigner, PARTYNEXTDOOR

Label: Grand Hustle

4/5 Shamrocks

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