Jessica Newberg ’20
When looking at the cover art for Houston-based rapper
r Travis Scott’s album Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight, Scott is depicted as a hybrid of what could be a bird and a fallen angel sitting in a hunched over position with white smoke rising from his mouth. This image can be interpreted as Scott’s fall from grace, in regards to losing touch with his southern roots. He discusses this theme in the song “Way Back” featuring Swizz Beats and Kid Cudi. This image can also be viewed as completely ridiculous, overly dramatic, and unrelated to what his album is really about. However, this attempt of justification, of trying to understand who he really is or what he is rapping about, is the entire complexity of Travis Scott. His albums contain songs that are riddled with intriguing imagery yet, their essence is never revealed nor given any form of context.
On his debut studio album, Rodeo, Scott developed the reputation as “a rapper who raps about nothing,” which was also present in his previous mixtapes, Owl Pharaoh, and Days Before Rodeo. In these projects, Scott managed to establish an aesthetic that is melodramatic, gothic, and of an artificial quality which he makes his own and turns into something worth hearing. Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, Scott’s sophomore studio album, is no exception to these themes, yet there are nuances within the record that prove that there is more to Scott than his reputation.
Birds is Scott’s most cohesive and straightforward album to date. In this, he has finally shed himself of his “up and coming artist” title. It is clear that Scott is in full control of the vibe he portrays, and does so by using his now, A-list credentials in the music industry, and his notoriously mellifluous vocals that are central to his fame.
A component to Scott’s artistic transition was his choice to rely heavily on big-name features.
The use of artists such as Kendrick Lamar in the song “Goosebumps,” helps to communicate the song’s message of missing and longing for a lover when they are not physically there.
Kendrick uses his ability to provide a change in tempo and a cadence that differs significantly from Scott’s but still synchronizes perfectly to the eerie and ghostly beat that is essential to this love song.
The lyrics in “Goosebumps,” like its main hook, “I get those goosebumps every time, yeah, you come around, yeah,” provides a perfect example of Scott’s change. In this, he is breaking away from his usual reference to heavy drug use, a chronic theme in Scott’s aesthetic, and instead puts his focus into something that is more relatable to his listeners.
Another example of Scott’s increasingly accessible lyrics is in “Through the Late Night,” featuring his long-time idol, Kid Cudi and samples his breakout hit, “Day N’ Night,” which Scott covers throughout the track. This song only skims the surface of Scott’s infamous manner by talking about long nights of partying, in a way that brings the listener in via its main hook; “Sleep through day, then we play all through the late night.” A concept that rids the track of Scott’s usually esoteric themes and replaces it with something that the majority of his listeners can connect with.
Other artists that are featured on this album include the Weeknd, Young Thug, Cassie, Bryson Tiller, and André 3000.
There are still songs on Birds that play back to older Scott, such as “Biebs in the Trap.” This song, although titled using an intentional misspelling of his name, does not actually feature Justin Bieber. Instead, it uses “Biebs” as an addition to the famed tradition of turning white celebrities’ names into a slang for cocaine.
Despite its arcane and confusing elements, it’s hard to hate on Birds. In this project, Travis Scott attempts to broaden his audience, but still manages to follow through with his usual way of distorting what is deemed “ordinary,” into something that is puzzling, unique and beautiful.