Fans of Travi$ Scott were becoming impatient; after promising that his sophomore album would be released on several unfounded dates which stretched as far back as April, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight was finally released as an Apple Music exclusive in early September.
Expectations were high following his debut project, Rodeo, and as a La Flame fan myself (that was already annoyed at him for cancelling his show at Leeds Festival in order to finish this album), I deserved nothing but greatness to compensate.
“Less gourmet and more Heinz tomato soup.”
My first impressions of the album were positive; that it was a fun trap record with a heap of energy. After digesting it for a couple months, I realised that my opinion was clouded by my personal anticipation of the project, and what was served was less gourmet and more Heinz tomato soup.
Looking at Birds retrospectively, none of the songs on the tracklist delivers anything as original or exciting as Rodeo had, which still holds up as a canonical collection of experimental and powerful songs, that demonstrated the array of possibilities that the trap genre has to offer. Here on Birds, we have tracks such as ‘Coordinate’ and ‘Beibs in the Trap’, whose saturated hi-hat patterns and auto-tuned vocals don’t generate any interest or replayability.
“‘Way Back’ sees Travi$ being vaguely introspective of his fame and success mixed with some references to drug use and braggadocio”
Despite this, there are some of the 14 tracks that I have returned to, such as the opening two tracks ‘The Ends’ and ‘Way Back’. The former providing a sinister introduction to Birds, as echoing reverbs bounce Travi$’ vocals. Then the enigma that is Andre 3000 gives an equally dark account of the 1979-1981 child murders in Atlanta that he experienced. ‘Way Back’ sees Travi$ being vaguely introspective of his fame and success mixed with some references to drug use and braggadocio; nothing too unsurprising or off-putting.
What brought this track to life, however, is the instrumental change before the second verse, as it transitions seamlessly from some cluttered synths, drums and samples of Kanye, to a powerful ensemble of layered melodic auto-tune vocals, guitar riffs and twittering electric sounds.
What emerges is a ballad-like production, reminiscent of ‘Skyfall’ on the Days before Rodeo mixtape, as well as ‘90210’ and ‘I Can Tell’ on Rodeo.
“But the song at its core is nothing more than a party banger that wouldn’t get played at most pres.”
So I thought that maybe the album could provide a political and social narrative found sparsely in trap music, accompanied by some commanding production that was expected from a Travi$ Scott record.
However, this trend doesn’t repeat and the songs feel as though they were filler tracks for Rodeo that didn’t make the cut. Most of these become notable not because of Travi$’ input or the production, but through their guest features.
21 Savage’s verse on ‘Outside’ delivers a racing flow that matches the muffled horror-movie synths perfectly, and Young Thug, Quavo and The Weeknd help propel ‘Pick Up the Phone’ and ‘Wonderful’ into a mainstream light. However, Kendrick Lamar’s performance on ‘Goosebumps’ sounds like a discarded verse from his To Pimp a Butterfly or Untitled Unmastered records.
Kid Cudi’s appearance on ‘Through the Late Night’ is both a big moment for Travi$ and his fans as he constantly cites Cudi as his favourite musician, but the song at its core is nothing more than a party banger that wouldn’t get played at most pres.
Some of Birds tracks are just Travi$’ interpretation of popular trends in hip-hop, which aren’t as good as their counterparts. ‘First Take’ is an uncompelling version of modern R&B, with his own vocals accompanied by Bryson Tiller singing over an airy love instrumental.
The 13th track ‘Guidance’ is his take on dancehall, popularised recently by Drake and Rihanna, but it wouldn’t dominate the charts as much as his contemporaries have. This song almost seems that it shouldn’t be on the album, as the beat samples K. Forest’s track of the same name with almost no change to the instrumental – the only addition is that of Travi$’ voice. It feels like a cover done by some unknown singer in front of a webcam.
Sadly, I only find myself listening to a few of the songs on Birds repertoire again, most of the time I’m pressing the skip button. I was also disappointed to find that as Kanye’s production protégé, Scott’s hand wasn’t found in the album’s instrumentals either, only being credited on ‘Wonderful’.
Ultimately, Travi$ provides a mediocre trap record with no captivating or outstanding features or inventiveness. This isn’t saying that Birds is bad, but it sits on the shelf with many other average records and doesn’t add anything new or distinctive.