After about a month’s delay, Travis Scott finally debuted his highly anticipated sophomore album “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight.” Scott’s previous projects have included two mixtapes and the critically acclaimed “Rodeo,” which propelled Scott into stardom on the current hip-hop scene. On “Birds,” Scott continues in his style of “southern trap.” Although, “Birds” does not necessarily distinguish itself immediately, featuring the same vocoding and auto-tune that Travis’ vocals experienced on “Rodeo,” fans expecting a sequel to “Rodeo” may be disappointed. As seen with the cover art, depicting a winged-Travis Scott covered in shadow, “Birds” seems to be set up as an even gloomier album than “Rodeo,” which already has a dark tone in its own right.
Nevertheless, over the course of the album, “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight” eventually comes into its own. “Rodeo” was known for the many hits such as “Nightcrawler” and “Antidote,” which are maximalist, feature-heavy songs. On the other hand, “Birds” seems to take a macro approach. Accordingly, often it is hard to determine where one song ends and the next one begins. Travis neglects to cite most guest features on the album; it’s often hard to distinguish who the guest is. This speaks to how well the features are integrated into the album, as the album features such stars as André 3000, Cudi, Kendrick Lamar, Bryson Tiller, Young Thug and The Weeknd, among others.
In fact, Travis seems to resurrect Kid Cudi from his latest musical disasters, which include possibly the worst album of 2015 (“Speeding Bullet to Heaven”). Cudi appears on the songs “way back” and “through the late night,” which are both highlights of the album. His influence, however, is felt throughout the album, which has vague “Man on the Moon” undertones to it.
As a trap album, the beats are key. Travis and his production team (which includes the great Mike Dean), for the most part, successfully create sweeping melodies that add to the eerie tone. Towards the middle of the album, however, the beats become almost too similar. This homogeneity and the slowness of the beats, lead to a boring middle section of the album. That is not to say that the songs are in anyway of lesser quality, rather the album as a whole suffers. In much the same way, the lyrics also become too repetitive. There are some strong verses on “Birds in the Trap” from both Travis and his guests; however, most of them can’t compare to the more lyrically complex “Rodeo.”
“Birds” loosely reflects Travis’ early life in Houston before becoming a rapper. The darkness stems from his feeling of being trapped. The album holds true to this theme up until the 11th track, “pick up the phone,” which is a collaboration between Scott and Young Thug and also features Quavo of Migos. “Pick up the phone” was released as a single earlier this year, and is actually a very strong song with a great performance by Young Thug. However, in the context of the album, the song just does not fit. It disrupts the flow with its upbeat tone and catches the listener off guard. It really stands out as the album resumes its normal pacing with the next song “lose.” The album does close strong with the song “wonderful” which features beautiful vocals from the Weeknd. “wonderful” succeeds where “pick up the phone fails.” The high-pitched beat with low undertones keeps the essence — the eerie tone — while the lyrics essentially celebrate Travis’ escape from the trap, which makes sense in the narrative to appear at the close of the album.
The album has a runtime of 54 minutes, made up of 14 tracks including 13 songs and one interlude. A few highlights include the more energetic “way back,” which may be the best track on the album, “through the late night,” the popular “Goosebumps” which features a standout lyrical moment from Kendrick Lamar, and “wonderful.”
Overall score: 7/10