The Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight

After releasing what some may consider a timeless classic, how does one attempt to make a comparable record one year later? While it’s not an easy task, Travis Scott made the attempt and surprisingly came close to achieving the level of perfection that Rodeo strived to be. Released in 2016, Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight is the second studio album by Travis Scott and his second attempt at making another great album.

The album starts off with “the ends”, which is a solid reintroduction into the world of Travis Scott. On “the ends”, Travis discusses growing up in Atlanta as a child and how it shaped him into the man he is today. The song also features André 3000 as he too discusses where he came from and how the murder of children was becoming an all too familiar topic for him growing up. These murders and crimes made André 3000 give up on religion and rather focus on surviving during his childhood. The next song is “way back” and continues the narrative of Travis Scott and his life growing up in Atlanta. As one may recall, Travis decided to leave his mother’s porch in order to pursue fame, however, fame isn’t as easy it seems for him. At only two songs in, Travis is tired of the fake people and traitors in his life and decides it’s best for them to be removed. He also notes that he has lost his freedom to be public because he knowingly would end up in a scandal.

The next song, “coordinate” is simply a song about embracing the lavish life he worked hard for and how he has learned to always aim for more even when he has everything that he truly needs in life. In this song, money flies in and out of Travis’s pockets all while he makes sure to match his outfit each day. While this is more of a less serious song, “coordinate” gives an introspective into his life now that he’s a hip-hop icon. “through the late night” is a highlight for Travis because it features his idol, Kid Cudi. The two further embrace the rich and famous lifestyle as they continuously sleep and party each and every day. However, Travis decides to rap a verse from Kid Cudi’s hit song “Day ‘N’ Nite” from 2008. This is notable because while Kid Cudi was fighting his mental health in this song, Travis is fighting the lifestyle he wound up in. Both men experience different forms of stress and both seek peace, but they are from two very different worlds. The feature of Kid Cudi and the reuse of his verse by Travis show how these two worlds can turn into a nightmare. With Kid Cudi dealing with mental health issues and Travis dealing with the problems of being a celebrity, they unknowingly created a monster that only seeks to sleep and party constantly.

After “through the late night”, “beibs in the trap” is another monster that Travis has created since becoming a celebrity a year prior. This time, the topic of hard drug use is the main theme of “beibs in the trap”. With NAV appearing as an apparent influencer, Travis descends into temptation by considering cocaine use. With partying taking over his life in “through the late night”, Travis must now deal with the monster of hard drug use. This is further explored in the next track “sdp interlude” which has Travis seemingly encourage smoking, drinking, and abusing pills. After the interlude, Travis runs into another monster in his life. “sweet sweet” is about a woman who he wishes to love and be with but she has other priorities in life most notably, drugs. Travis tries to reason with the woman and win her love, but in the end, she would prefer drugs over him. After this failed attempt at love, Travis decides to reflect on those who he cares for the most and those he can always rely on. 21 Savage joins and he too is thankful for those friends in his life who have become his family. Both rappers seem satisfied with their ride or die’s in their lives and wish to continue to have this loyalty forever.

A little over halfway through the album, Travis brings Kendrick Lamar out to tell a story about being in love. Travis represents the feeling of love with the physical feeling of goosebumps. Upon sporting goosebumps, he also chokes whenever she comes around. Continuing the topic of love and bringing features, “first take” is another love song that features Bryson Tiller. Both of these rappers have found love in a non-mutual environment. While Travis teases and plays with other women, Bryson Tiller is being used for his wealth and fame. Similarly, in the next song, Travis and friends are once again denied love after their best attempt to be loyal to their women. “pick up the phone” has Young Thug, Quavo, and Travis trying to call their loves and end up being ignored in return. This monster of love has taken over many tracks on the album, but, Travis decides to begin his journey toward salvation.

Following “pick up the phone”, “lose” is about Travis realizing that he has priorities in life and can’t be held back by his monsters because he has a life that he would rather live than lose. Travis realizes that he has things at stake and decides to leave his monsters behind in order to be free of his problems. Leaving hard drugs and alcohol behind in order to live a better and cleaner life full of potential to make more money, art, and memories. But after Travis cleanses his soul, he still has to deal with his rocky relationships which he tries to do on “guidance”. Travis fools around with more women as he attempts to kick his habit but unfortunately is unable to. The final track on the album is “wonderful” which is about two friends having fun in the city together. Travis finally decides to live the life he wants to live on the 14th and final song of the album. While he fought some of his monsters over the course of the album, some still remained as Travis still smokes marijuana and still has relationship issues.

Now, what if those monsters weren’t entirely real for Jacques Webster? What if Travis  Scott created these monsters, situations, and songs as an attempt to deflect himself away from them. Travis has been known to not be a user of hard drugs and has also been with Kylie Jenner since 2017 and has since had a daughter with her. Travis never had to deal with drugs and alcohol abuse because of his upbringing in Atlanta. As detailed early on in the album, growing up wasn’t easy for a child in Atlanta and Travis did everything he could to escape that lifestyle that he could’ve ended up in if it wasn’t smart and careful. Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight is an exploration of what could’ve happened to Travis if he didn’t play his cards right after Rodeo came out. Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight is simply just a worst case scenario for Travis, but, this scenario has gone platinum and debuted at number one upon release. While it is the second album in his catalog, it is not the narrative successor to Rodeo, as AstroWorld is considered to be. Regardless, Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight serves as a reminder that bad decisions plague the world and that one bad move can result in a life of misery, corruption, and torture because of one’s wrong choice.

The Rodeo

Music is a reflection of society, person, and time, however, sometimes an album comes out that transcends these three basic ideas. When an album surmounts these ideas they become legendary and almost mythic in thought. I felt this way in 2013 when Kanye West released Yeezus but it wasn’t until 2015 that I’d feel that way again.

Rodeo by Travis Scott is the album that overcame the three basic ideas and solidified itself as one of my favorite of all times, but why? With Rodeo being a trap record, it’s a little difficult to see it being impacting and emotional but yet Travis Scott beat these odds in only 16 songs. Rodeo is a timeless album with outstanding features and a deep narrative that makes it stand out more than any other trap album.

Travis Scott pours his heart and soul into Rodeo and creates a strong album out of it. Not many albums can easily make it into my top ten list but Rodeo certainly fits the bill. In order to understand Rodeo, we must discuss each song and what it attributes to the greater idea of the album.

Immediately, starting with “Pornography” the album kicks off into high gear with a voice-over by T.I. who describes the life of Jacques Webster and his journey to become Travis Scott and eventually leaving his mother’s porch. Travis Scott “is the leader of the stampede of lost souls” in this excerpt and instantly the tone of the album is set. Rodeo immediately embraces its trap and melodic sound with “Oh My Dis Side” which features frequent Travis Scott collaborator Quavo. This song comes straight out the gate with a combination of hype and dark tones that simply isn’t always done well on trap records. Travis Scott’s story about trying to leave his mother’s porch he resides at is deep, yet it’s shrouded by a positive and meaningful reflection of his past choices and his future outcomes because of these choices.

An emotional trap banger is essentially the start of this album and simply cannot be beaten. Travis Scott breaks musical norms within the first track and from there on out a masterpiece begins to form in Rodeo. Rodeo only gets better on the next song “3500” which happens to be one of the best songs of 2015. Travis Scott teams up with Future and 2 Chainz to deliver yet another hit on only the third song of the album. Every verse is meaningful and shows a new side of each rapper, a side that isn’t often explored. With “Wasted” and “90210” we further explore the psyche of La Flame and his journey to be where he’s at today, this idea is heavily reinforced on the sixth song “Pray 4 Love” which features The Weeknd.

Easily one of the greatest songs on Rodeo, “Pray 4 Love” explores the past of Travis Scott while boasting one of the greatest features by The Weeknd. “Pray 4 Love” is the epitome of feeling and emotion on Rodeo and from here on out Rodeo explores its hype side setting the feelings aside. “Nightcrawler” (which is my favorite song on Rodeo), is essentially nothing but hype with amazing features from Chief Keef and Swae Lee. The lifestyle and fame of La Flame is the center of “Nightcrawler” as Travis Scott parties his way through every verse and enjoys his lavish and well-earned lifestyle.

The next song on Rodeo features the one and only Kanye West. “Piss on Your Grave” is perhaps the angriest Travis Scott becomes on Rodeo and one can definitely tell this song was made with someone in mind. With Travis Scott leading the new generation of musicians on this song, their attack on corporate and executives is well justified as it’s time to let the kids run the game. Finally, the song that most know Travis Scott for, “Antidote”. The lead single from Rodeo is definitely a highlight of the album but sometimes still feels overplayed since it was seemingly an anthem for 2015.

Yet, Rodeo prevails and throws us right back into the moody and emotional phase with the final act of the album. “Impossible” is the fruition of the feelings that La Flame possesses. After “Impossible” comes one of the most unique pairings of all time; Travis Scott, Young Thug, and Justin Bieber. “Maria I’m Drunk” is a slow melodic song which boasts some of the most intriguing wordplays from Young Thug and a decent verse from Bieber. After the slow rhythm passes, Rodeo jumps into a more melodic and upbeat song with “Flying High” which is remarkably quite catchy after a while.

“I Can Tell” is the beginning of the end for Rodeo as Travis Scott begins to close out the album. As Travis Scott explores his past and realizes what brought him to where he is today. The album closes with “Apple Pie” which is the end of Travis Scott’s time on the porch. Travis Scott makes amends with his mother and informs her that he must go on alone to finally find what he was searching for all along; the Rodeo. With T.I. finishing out the album, we the listener are poised with the most important questions:

“Did he win? Will he survive the rodeo?”

And just like that Rodeo comes to a close and the journey of La Flame is complete. With Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight being a worthy successor to Rodeo and the eventual release of AstroWorld, Travis Scott has come a long way. From the porch, he’s gone on to debut at number one; selling 53,000 copies of Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight in the first week. I love Rodeo for what it stands for; Independence. The jumping off of the porch is the most essential part of Rodeo and is a nice parallel to life and having to eventually leave the past in the past and chase the future. Rodeo is the ultimate reflection of society, person, and time. Travis Scott made a masterpiece with Rodeo, and I for one cannot wait to see what we will experience in AstroWorld.