This right here is my new modern jam
I’m on fire, new burning man
Getting closer to the rapper’s long-awaited fourth album Travis Scott, “Utopia”, given its colossal scale: 19 songs in almost 74 minutes, 19 guests at the microphone and even more producers. Among many to mention, also Bon Iver, Drake, Kanye West, James Blakefutures, Pharrell WilliamsGuy Manuel de Homem Cristo dei Daft Punk, beyoncé AND metro boom. With over 63 million monthly listeners on Spotify, Travis Scott is one of the most popular artists, and the fact that “Utopia” comes out five years after “Astroworld,” which went 22 platinum worldwide, only adds to the popularity.hype.
In November 2021, Travis Scott was thrust into the spotlight due to the disaster of his “Astroworld Festival” where an uncontrollable stampede resulted in ten deaths and hundreds of injuries. He slowed down his activities, fully resuming his activities from May 2023, with a preview of the launch of the single “K-Pop” with bad rabbit AND Weekend, respectively, the first and third artists with the most listeners per month on Spotify; practical project in vitro from hits around the world based on trap and reggaeton (obviously). In July he plans to perform at the Pyramids of Giza, then the event disappears and he restarts: “Utopia” is ready, it will go on sale by the end of the month, accompanied by the film “Circus Maximus”, intended for theaters in the United States.
International critics remained lukewarm because the album mimics splendor Kanye West to the extent that he can act as an imitation or because in the line-up a personal contribution, that is, his rhymes to the microphone, does not correspond to this or that other rapper of the past. These criticisms can be shared with criticisms of the paucity of the lyrics, without losing sight of the richness of the sounds that the album showcases in the cut list, but is digestible anyway.
The beginning is entrusted to “Hyena”, with an expanded selection gentle giant “Proclamation” (1974) at the start, is stadium hip-hop that few can offer, complete with a psychedelic-cosmic coda (a more fluid version of Lil Yachty from “Let’s start here“). “Modern Jam” will appeal even to those who love sound Ottantiano, recontextualized here with unsettling echoes and menacing distortions, following the model of “I’m GodKanye West, but also recalling some creative rethinking based on Pusha T. And again “My eyes” – a poem for autotune which only in closing is mounted on beat more often a trap. Even more curious is the tribal rhythm of “Siren”, based on the sampling of the Zambian (!) amanaz, set on sample New England vocals, representatives of rock instead of more adult-oriented rock progressive. “Circus Maximus” is majestic and square, but at the same time split by cries and enriched by grandiose synthesizers. Parasail, con Yung Lin and Dave Chappelle, emo rap melted into a puddle psychedelia.
Many of the biggest collaborations, commercially at least, are instead half or completely disappointing: “Meltdown” with Drake isn’t worth half of “Sicko Mode”; “Fe!n” with Playboy Carti is a deafening trap looking for identity in a bunch of vocal filters; the aforementioned “K-Pop”, to please everyone, comes out colorless, a mixture of trendy sounds. Better “Delresto (Echoes)” with Beyoncé, a mixture of jungle sounds and clanging robots.
“Utopia” contains a remarkable number of different soundscapes, collected in a collective work, in which Travis Scott is not always the main character, but rather an excellent curator, as he already was in “Astroworld”. The producer’s effort is truly impressive, but the line-up is so long that everything falls apart, weakening in the last third and longer parts (why do “Skitzo” and “Telekinesis” last so long?). Taken together, this is Hip Hop Album of the Year, an extensive work that will appeal to those looking for (relatively) experimental elements and crossovers without neglecting some hitsbut like Nolan’s Tenet, which Travis Scott collaborated on, it’s worth more for the deployment of funds than for the depth of the message, which is very modest indeed.