Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

Travis Scott – Stop Trying to Be God

A title that amazingly I have not seen in any comments section anywhere…


Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Travis Scott embodies all the worst tropes of modern pop-rap. He’s an autotune-heavy style-biter who’s more content to let his more-famous friends and more-talented producers carry him than actually rap anything interesting. When he does deign to perform, he vacillates randomly between codeine’d out mumbling and ear-piercing screaming. That said, he’s extremely good at what he does, especially on his most recent album, the grandiose Astroworld. Of all the songs on that record, “Stop Trying to Be God” is the most extravagant by far, running longer than five-and-a-half minutes on the record and featuring contributions by Kid Cudi, Philip Bailey, James Blake, and (implausibly) Stevie Wonder (on harmonica, natch.) A song as overstuffed and pretentious as this plays to all of Scott’s strengths. His boasts may not make any sense, but they sound as incredible in their word salad as any progressive rocker’s declarations when placed against Scott, CuBeatz, JBeatzz and Mike Dean’s production, which feels spacious like a cathedral. The featured guests fill that space well. Stevie Wonder is the MVP — how could he not be, with his harmonica cutting through the track at every turn? — but everyone acquits themselves nicely. And for once Scott gets to position himself as ringleader of a grand spectacle, rather than marginalized on his own song.

Tim de Reuse: Woozy, half-awake, defeated, an inward talking-to after a long night of needlessly exhausting yourself — it’s got a mood going, certainly. Scott’s verses don’t do a great job of making the listener empathize with those afflicted with the ills of money and fame, unfortunately; the only truly poignant lines come from the little James Blake sub-song that someone spliced in. The real success is in the atmosphere, which links together its stylistic references with dream logic. Stevie Wonder’s harmonica is surreal enough to grant emotional heft to the final minute of foggy moaning.

Alfred Soto: His slurring more eloquent than Drake but no less noxious in pint glass portions, Travis Scott stretches on “Stop Trying…” and reaches. Credit the still impressive coloration of Stevie Wonder’s harmonica, an Aquemini-era Outkast album track whose surliness is earned.

Stephen Eisermann: The beat is littered with enough sound effects and harmonica that the song sounds almost otherworldly, but even in conjunction with the vocals from Stevie Wonder, James Blake, and Kid Cudi, this song is nothing more than an interesting-sounding piece of art, like a pretty painting with no moving context.

Iain Mew: A pedestrian haunted house/teacup ride combo, almost saved when they start trying to do something else and the ride trundles into a surreal subterranean mass. Ambition and scale can’t be enough on its own without more of an idea of purpose, but coupling it to the unexpected is at least something.

Ashley John: In June I was waiting in line for hot chicken in Nashville, standing in front of two separate but indiscernibly different groups of 20-something boys in the area for Bonnaroo. They were doing the back-and-forth of festival-going, trading lines like “the lineup is soooo sick” with “would be sick if someone brought out Travis.” Later in June I started a new job and sat at lunch with a few fellow new hires, and we started talking about recent releases. Someone brought up Travis Scott and how Astroworld was never coming. Another assumed the natural opposition with evidence via stitched-together social media posts. Travis Scott is perfect at this role: the type of musician you long after because the longing feels better than the fulfillment ever could. Astroworld borders on great, and “Stop Trying to Be God” is one of the best among it, but Travis Scott himself is better as a vessel for whatever we need him to be — a small-talk starter, a bridge over a lull in conversation, background beats to spur a head nod in summer office air conditioning.

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