Wednesday 16 August 2023

Review of 'UTOPIA' by Travis Scott

The guestlist is impressive and the production is fun, but it’s still not enough to conceal the fact that Travis Scott is an utterly unexciting rapper.

I felt like such a nerd when I recognised the opening vocal sample from Gentle Giant’s ‘Proclamation’. Who knew Travis Scott was a fan of 70s prog rock? Adding this sample seemed like a bold move until I remembered Kanye had already done something similar when he sampled King Crimson in ‘Power’. There are a few other moments that feel very reminiscent of past Kanye albums – ‘MODERN JAM’ and ‘CIRCUS MAXIMUS’ both have abrasive beats that sounds very Yeezus-influenced. It’s not that surprising considering that Kanye pretty much launched Travis Scott’s career. And Travis Scott did play a part in producing Yeezus.  

But here’s the problem – as much as he wants to be, Travis Scott is no Kanye West. Utopia may have the fun production to match some of Kanye’s best works and it’s as star studded as Donda, but at the centre of it all is some fairly hollow rapping. Was it ignorant of me to expect him to address the Astroworld Tour crowd crush? Possibly, considering Travis is all about the bangers. But even if heavy personal topics aren’t his thing, couldn’t he have still come up with at least a few funny or mean bars? There’s absolutely nothing memorable here – just dumb lines like ‘twin bitches hopping off a jetski’.  

All in all, he has about as much presence as DJ Khaled does on a DJ Khaled album. The plus side is that he’s a much better composer and arranger than DJ Khaled. Pretty much every beat on this album slaps. The detuned synths on ‘FE!N’ sound like something that would score a sci-fi Dracula movie. And ‘LOST FOREVER’ may well have the nastiest beat switch I’ve ever heard. Meanwhile, no guest feels misplaced or underutilised on this album. That verse from Teezo Touchdown is so unique. And I had no idea Drake could sound aggressive. All in all, Travis definitely pulls some interesting performances out of each guest, even if he can’t do the same for himself.

The beats and guest performances do give this album replay value. But ultimately Travis Scott's forgettable performances stop this from feeling like a great album by providing a few lulls.