Brad Beatson wrote this from the inside of a sarcophagus.
Above is the video for Travi$ Scott’s “Uptown” featuring A$AP Ferg, released on December 1st. It’s the second he’s put out this year in which the titular song doesn’t drop until 2+ minutes into the video. The other, “Upper Echelon,” is posted after the jump. Both remain captivating throughout because Travis understands that great entertainment doesn’t require explaining everything to the viewer. It leaves it up to us to decide what the hell is going on. We don’t know and that’s okay. It finds a way to provoke without being about shock value.
There’s campy acting above and again, we don’t really know what’s going on. As interesting as Scott’s refusal to provide straightforward visuals is, his choice to combine tracks or reinvigorate them for these videos is even better. They remind me of the Yeezus Tour, where “Been Trill,” alongside Mike Dean, put a new spin on numerous Kanye instrumentals for the sake of live experience. It would be annoying if it didn’t work, but the result was akin to an extended jam session, and it made the show that much better.
Also noticeable in Kanye’s act were Travis’ mannerisms. There were the dance moves, also seen in white silhouette at the end of the “Uptown” video, and the jaguar pounces used to pump up the crowd. But Travis actually lunges into the crowd every chance he gets at his live show. He’s an uncontrollable energy, and like these videos, somewhat frightening but doesn’t permit a blink.
photo from MassAppeal.com
That is the exact moment I was introduced to Travis Scott, at Fool’s Gold Day Off on Labor Day. Thankfully I wasn’t that close, but I did witness Travis unsuspectingly dart from behind the Been Trill quadron and bound to that perch. What proceeded were numerous stage dives and a full on war. Travis proclaimed the right side crazier than the left, causing a physical rift where moshers ran full speed at each other in total glee. The only other show where I’ve experienced something like this came from Kanye’s other “mentor”: Tyler, The Creator.
Scott’s been in Ye’s shrouded circle since working on Cruel Summer. He produced the addictive “The Morning” and worked on a few others, including the smashes “Mercy” and “Cold.” He received his opportunity after having worked with Mike Dean in his hometown Houston. And it was after his work on Cruel Summer that Kanye first heard Owl Pharaoh.
As a reader of this site, a few obvious things are going to stick out that will make you question the free EP. There’s Travis’ clear influences from Wolf Haley, Future’s “Turn Up,” Chance The Rapper’s growl, Frank Ocean’s tape deck, and handfuls of A$AP slow-mo. But this doesn’t mean that Travis is unoriginal. The way he uses them leans closer to homage than outright larceny.
Scott is a curator committed to what sounds the absolute best. If he wants to substitute atmospheric synth for primal African drums, that’s what he’ll do. If this means he transitions from his “Stoner Thug” voice to straight up auto tune, he’ll do it. He’s absolutely fearless with his musical choices because he cares about what will sound right at that moment. In “Hell of a Night” he brings in a chipmunk soul sample that’s backed by drums, and sings “Our first kiss in the livin’ room, that’s a hella way to end the night.” Soon after, the samples gone, replaced with muted snare rolls and a piano line. Scott says in layered demonic “I left my girl in the South, but there’s gold in my mouth.” Then bam, a rattling bass line and the Stoner Thug cadence emerges. This all happens in the first 1:40 of the song. And it sounds gorgeous.
Having sat with the EP this past week, I’ve found myself unable to skip any tracks. La Flame’s project demands start to finish listening and guiltless repeat-all sessions. By the time I found out he assisted on the best beats from Yeezus (“New Slaves,” “Guilt Trip”) and Magna Carta … Holy Grail (“Somewhereinamerica,” “Crown” with WondaGurl who also produced “Uptown”), I had to shake my head and smile. At 21, he’s demonstrated exceptional abilities on screen, stage, and record. He’s proved that he’s worthy of our attention.