Friday, August 3rd was a big day in the rap community for new music. Travis Scott dropped his highly anticipated album "ASTROWORLD" while Mac Miller released his 13-song album, "Swimming." These are two albums I've been looking forward to for a while so I couldn't wait to dive in and listen.
Named after Houston's former favorite amusement park, AstroWorld was open for 37 years but shut down due to mismanagement and lack of attendance, among other things. Scott sat down with GQ in 2017 and discussed the parks' importance to him. "They tore down AstroWorld to build more apartment space. That's what [my album]'s going to sound like, like taking an amusement park away from kids. We want it back. We want the building back. That's why I'm doing it. It took the fun out of the city."
In Scott's flashy new album, features are the name of the game. There are guest appearances from Drake, Frank Ocean, Tame Impala, Quavo, Pharrell, The Weeknd, Stevie Wonder and more layered throughout the 17-song project.
Highlights include "Carousel" with Ocean, who channels some "Biking" vibes on this song. The duo works together better than I anticipated. "Stop Trying to be God" is a melodic ballad bringing in Stevie Wonder to finish off the vocals. It starts off with a creepy, "Insidious" sounding beat which actually runs counter to what the rest of the song sounds like. "Wake Up" features The Weeknd performing his usual finesse style lyrics and as of now it's my favorite song on the album. "5% Tint," "Can't Say" and "Who? What!" are a few other tracks that I particularly enjoyed.
Astroworld had an insane amount of hype built around it, hype that usually sinks a project and leaves a vast feeling of disappointment (see A$AP Rocky's "Testing"). Somehow, Astroworld manages to live up to it. Although it's just my first listen, I can tell that this album will be in my rotation for the next few months, and I'm guessing that's the consensus from the general population of rap fans.
Mac Miller has long been one of my favorite artists, and I think one of the most underrated musicians in the game. His music has a personality to it that is way deeper than many surface level rappers out there. He's extremely versatile and can make emotional, introspective songs just as well as he can make a banger. This album seems to be filled with the former, which is where I believe his talent is best utilized.
"Swimming" comes months after the rapper's public breakup with popstar Ariana Grande, who recently became engaged to SNL star Pete Davidson. This album serves as a reflection over the heartbreaking period and although Mac says "I have literally never been more okay," the lyrics on the album delve deep into his psyche and how he's moving forward out of a relationship that he's been in for a large portion of his time in the limelight.
Although talk of relationships bottoming out is run-of-the-mill stuff in 2018 music, Mac does it with more nuance and attention to detail than many of his peers would ever think of. He doesn't pull punches with his subject matter in the slightest.
"Ladders" is a surprisingly upbeat song complete with trumpets and a very solid chorus. "Small Worlds," has one of the dreamiest, most relaxing sections you'll ever hear, which makes for my favorite song on the album. "What's the Use," brings in the talents of Snoop Dogg and Thundercat in a warm and light song. Although the album sounds warm at times, the lyrics delve deep into this turbulent period of his life.
"Self Care," "Conversation Pt. 1" and "Dunno" are a few of the darker sounder songs that would be more in line with what you'd be expecting from the album's topic. The flow between jubilant sounding beats and somber sounding ones gives the album a complexity that is reflective of the transitions that accompany a tough breakup. Miller does a fantastic job of taking a difficult time in his life and using it to reflect and make some great music in the process.