Rodeo: 5 Years Later
Beliebers and hip-hop enthusiasts do not often find music to bond over, yet a 2015 trap masterpiece found ways to shock both groups. Justin Bieber on Maria I’m Drunk is just one of numerous A-list superstars featured on the record. Old school hip-hop heads, pop lovers, and modern rap devotees alike find their avenues of interest. A debut album for the ages, Travis Scott’s Rodeo tells a complex tale of humble Houston beginnings to reckless Los Angeles fame.
After two successful mixtapes, Scott was ready to cement himself as one of the fixtures of the newly mainstream trap scene. Trap, a subgenre of hip hop that found its roots in Atlanta, features heavy 808 drums and synthesizers. Scott declared himself the ambassador of Houston with Rodeo’s release. Thanks to features from hip hop legends Kanye West, Young Thug, and Future as well as production from Mike Dean, Wondagurl, and Metro Boomin, he had the recipe for a rap gem in his hand. TI’s narration throughout the album tells the quest of a young man hoping to find his place among the chaos that comes with newfound fame.
Signature trap sounds of the past five years have been shaped by the aggressive 808s and distorted vocals of Rodeo. Scott’s audacity and willingness to experiment with various pitches and layers of autotune adds an element of unpredictability which much of modern hip hop lacks. Songs like Ok, Alright and Oh My Dis Side that feature signature beat switches are great examples of Scott’s ability to hold the listener’s attention for six or seven minutes at a time. You will not find yourself falling into a trance of generic beats or uninteresting lyrics because Scott juxtaposes his experience of struggle in Houston to his indulgent lifestyle in L.A., most notably in the track 90210.
An extravagant chronicle of Travis’ battling allegiances 90210 is often regarded as the greatest trap song in existence. In the track, which opens with an ominous intro from Kacy Hill, we get to experience the best rapping of Scott’s career. The first half of a song is a drawn out, distorted story of substances and cash that define the life of a star. However, at the three minute mark, Travis abandons all doubt as he asserts that he has earned his lavish lifestyle. He cites that the true indicator of success is his ability to spoil his mother; his success is not just his, but a breakthrough for his friends, his family, and the city of Houston. 90210 is the pinnacle of trap, blending elements of a variety of genres to create the ultimate success story. However, surrounding 90210 are a handful of songs that detract from the excellence of Rodeo.
As Travis Scott’s debut album, Rodeo not only serves as a display of his skills, but also a claim to legitimacy as a fixture of modern hip-hop. Certain songs: Wasted, Never Catch Me, and Piss On Your Grave, with Kanye West, lack quality and fail to further Scott’s story as effectively as other tracks. Travis’ need to prove himself as a legitimate superstar manifests as unnecessary features resulting in forgettable lyrical content. Name brand in hip hop is real and a big name feature always stands out on a track list, however the awesome qualities of a feature from an artist like Kanye West is lost when it serves solely to establish credibility. Travis’ desire to prove himself shines brighter than his skill and talent as an artist, making the album listen more as a way of seeking approval than a work of art at times. Travis Scott’s Rodeo, despite its fluctuating quality, is a benchmark of what hip hop will look like for years to come; its energy and competitive nature has inspired a generation of artists to perfect their sound. Scott’s allegiance to his city contrasted with his love for the lavish Los Angeles life makes Rodeo a remarkable story for the ages.