MusicThe Appraisal

Travis Scott’s Palette of Cuts on Utopia Makes Way for an Easy Album-of-the-Year Contender

Article by Ryan Lima

Utopia: an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. This definition is certainly more versed in a societal standard but has caught buzz in the hip-hop and rap community since 2020, when Travis Scott started to tease an album with that title. Despite his last project, Astroworld, being Grammy nominated and critically acclaimed, it dropped over five years ago and fans were curious. Some fans were even skeptical if Travis could surpass his creativity on his next project. Despite his solo work absence, Travis has kept himself afloat in the hip-hop community, popping in with various features with artists like Drake and Trippie Redd, whilst also dropping a two-pack EP to serve as an appetizer for his next body of work. But still, every bar had fans questioning if Utopia could amount to the success of Astroworld, and if Travis could truly encapsulate a utopic soundscape.

We quickly get an answer, as Travis opens the album with “Hyaena”, a track with pounding, aggressive drums that make way for him to flaunt his delivery and pen game. He does so flawlessly, opening the gates to the utopian society he envisions which includes a variety of different styles for all listeners to enjoy. 

Some of the dark cuts on this project certainly alter most people’s common perception of a utopia. “Thank God” has a dirty, congested bass to pair with a melodic twinkling that later switches to a heavy bass with an almost violin-type sample in the background. “God’s Country”, a track that leaked originally as a Kanye West cut, features an out-of-tune voice that really takes the spotlight, creating an eerie mood that continues to play onto what an eerie utopia would feel like. Similarly, “Lost Forever” attains a daunting instrumental with a back voice that haunts Travis’ main verse, and a beat switch to heavy drums & WestSide Gunn delivery to create a chilling experience.

Common to his style, fans also received rage cuts on the project. “Meltdown”, a Travis and Drake reunion from their 2018 classic “Sicko Mode”, also features a dark instrumental that combos with Drake whispering to create a heist-type of feel. The track switches into a fast-paced beat that encompasses the classic Travis rage that his nearly 70,000,000 monthly listeners on Spotify know him for. But unfamiliar to his rage sound was “Fe!n”, a track that tacks onto Playboi Carti’s Whole Lotta Red aesthetic, though Carti seems to reverse the roles here with a dark and deep voice pitch, contrasting to Travis’ high-pitched and energetic tone. The variation works really well here, as fans get the best of both artists for a blood-pumping 3-minute song.

“Modern Jam” (my personal favorite with Teezo Touchdown) is Trav’s take on a modernized 80s dance record. Though a simple instrumental with rhythmic drums, Travis flows with the beat and Teezo transcends the song’s trajectory by actually mimicking a Billy Joel kind of sound. An unlikely pair of Beyonce and Travis spurs on “Delresto (Echoes)”, a Renaissance cut with raindrop synths that would fit like a glove on a deluxe album from the queen.

Travis also didn’t shy away from some personal, ambient, melancholic cuts on this record either. “My Eyes”, sways like a Frank Ocean song and includes Travis reflecting on some of the troubles he’s experienced in life, along with the remorse he feels for not having much control over the tragedy of the Astroworld festival incident that killed eight people. Similarly, “I Know” is reminiscent of a childhood lullaby with a sprinkle of heavy 808s and a funky synth to allow Travis to make an instantly unforgettable flow and hook perfectly mixed and mastered.

But the standout track for this record has to be “Telekinesis”. It features limited bass and limited drums, both overshadowed by an ambient rift that heightens and restarts for all the verses and hooks. But the part where it reaches its peak is for SZA’s verse at the end, in which the reverb on her vocals is so soothing to the ear. It’s just one of those songs that really makes you want to float, especially in the nighttime – quite the utopic feeling.

Prior to Utopia’s release, many fans wondered how Travis would be able to reinvent himself after Astrowrold’s success. But his strive for a utopic listening experience was fulfilled with his often experimental and various subgenre mixings on this record. Regardless of how long Travis waits to release his next project, Utopia’s polish will allow it to age like fine wine until he decides to come back and shake up the hip-hop scene once again.

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