Travis Scott's 2010s Run
One artist that had an immaculate run in the 2010s and, because of this run, became one of the biggest rap stars in the world is Travis Scott. His four solo albums in the 2010s were some of the most consistent and influential rap albums of the decade and the modern era.
Travis’s classics period began in 2014 with Days Before Rodeo, which showed Travis as proficient in creating a new vibe, with a lot of energy and uniqueness. The mixtape also gave us weird, spacey, Kid-Cudi-influenced songs like “Drugs You Should Try It.” Then there was “Skyfall” featuring Young Thug with production by Metro Boomin’, which is a classic (arguably, Travis’s first classic rap song). It was after Days that he was tapped by Rihanna to collaborate on her new single, “Bitch Better Have My Money.”
Travis followed this mixtape with his first studio album, Rodeo. This album brought him a great amount of critical acclaim. It had tons of bangers on it, including “3500,” “Nightcrawler,” “Piss on Your Grave” and one of the best party anthems in the trap rap genre: “Antidote.” This album also showed a more commercial side to Travis, with songs like “Maria I’m Drunk” featuring Justin Bieber and Young Thug, and “90210.” Then came the Houston, Tex., influence, on songs like “Impossible,” with its drugged-out, low-end beat, spaced out vocals and D.J. Screw influence.
Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, Scott’s 2016 album, was his most polarizing, as some critics saw it as a step down from Rodeo. I would argue that Travis took a massive risk on Birds and pushed his sound to its limits, creating his first album that was front-to-back listenable. The album’s sound bottoms out in the EQ and finds comfort in the distortion, as one does when taking a party to its limits. This was the pinnacle Travis album of this era. The “yeah!” and “it’s lit!” adlibs are sprinkled liberally and loudly throughout. He was the king of the party’s back room, along with The Weeknd, during this period and cocaine references are everywhere, as well as popping pills and smoking weed.
After a three-album run, an artist can create a lot of hype for their next project, and no Travis album had more hype than Astroworld. Even with critical hate, Birds undoubtedly made Travis one of the biggest rappers in the world. In the summer of 2018, all eyes were on Houston, to see what Travis would release on an album named after his city’s 20th-Century amusement park. It barely had a single. In a fashion made popular by Travis, it didn’t list features. And I think every rap fan remembers where they were when Drake’s first “Astro” came through to open “SICKO MODE,” Travis’s biggest song to date and easily one of the best rap songs of this generation. The album also included some great Southern influence, which had disappeared a little bit on Birds. “R.I.P. SCREW” is a unique and great homage to Houston, the sound of D.J. Screw and to the late-night vibes that Travis has been so influential in curating.
Of course, after Astroworld, came the tragedy of the Astroworld Festival, in which 10 people died in a crowd crush during a performance by Travis in his home city. Travis had become known for his wild live shows and was one of the best live performers on the circuit, during the 2010s. I had the chance to see him open for Kendrick on the DAMN. Tour and he put on an electric performance.
Travis ended the 2010s in a kind of exile, out of the public eye, as he dealt with the legalities of the Astroworld Festival. He returned in 2023 with Utopia and it wasn’t as good as his last albums, showing that his classics run was done. Utopia isn’t bad, but it lacks the originality of his other albums.
Travis is one of the greatest curators of the modern era. He has an ear for new things and trends. He creates moments and backs it up with strong albums. Any artist should be pleased with making a great album. It’s truly something special when an artist puts out four great albums in a row.