It should be no surprise that Astroworld, Travis Scott’s 2018 album/multimedia onslaught of festivals, tours, merchandise, and even a city holiday, is nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2019 Grammy Awards.
After putting the album on hold in 2016 in favor of Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight, Travis returned to his opus in 2018, using the extra time to tinker with his sound, develop his ideas, and refine his curative instincts — and it shows. Released in August, by the end of the year, it had become hip-hop’s consensus pick for biggest album of the year. From sales to cultural impact, Astroworld was everywhere — including the top of Uproxx’s year-end list of the 50 Best Albums of 2018.
While the album lives on the foundation of the murky, melodic trap sound Travis mixed up on his first few releases, it also makes his evolution as an artist clear as day, plumbing deeper emotional content than he had before and tapping more innovative collaborators from fast-rising Soundcloud stars like Gunna and Juice Wrld to inventive producers like Murda Beatz and breakout producer of 2018, Tay Keith. By tapping into his Houston rap roots and combining them with the forward-facing trap-soul aesthetic he mined on Birds and Rodeo, Travis displayed something like genuine growth on Astroworld, not just finding the pulse of the modern rap zeitgeist, but redirecting it toward his own sensibilities.
To illustrate his growth over the course of his three studio albums, two mixtapes, and collaborative album with Quavo, we’ve put together a playlist of some of Travis’ best tracks from his catalog that exemplify how he went from aspiring genius at the beginning of his career to the master curator he is on Astroworld.
Released as the first single for Astroworld over a year before the album even got an official release, this gooey Murda Beatz-produced rager that still bangs as hard as the day it came out.
Do you still get goosebumps every time you hear this woozy banger from Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight? You’re not alone; Cardo, Cubeatz, and Yung Exclusive’s eerie beat still draw a reaction for this record-setting head nodder.
“Biebs In The Trap”
If the space aliens from Men In Black threw the high-school kegger from 10 Things I Hate About You, it’d probably sound a lot like this. Nav’s beat is way better than Nav’s verse, but Travis’ verse is a hypnotic singalong.
For a song that’s only been in rotation a few months, this Drake-assisted banger is already in danger of being woefully overplayed and yet… you will sing along to Drake’s adventures in responsible Xanny and possibly break a bone in your foot jumping up and down when that beat switches.
Travis, Wondagurl, and Eestbound really outdid themselves on this tinny jam from Rodeo. It was so well-received at the time of its release, it wound up landing on the album, even though it was supposed to only be a throwaway.
“Pick Up The Phone”
Travis Scott and Young Thug are a match made in druggy, stoner heaven. With a beat somewhere between tropical and trap produced by Frank Dukes and Vinylz, this bluesy joint landed on both rappers’ projects in 2016.
“Drugs You Should Try”
Finding life on Days Before Rodeo, FKi 1st and Charlie Handsome perfectly marry the country twang that permeates Houston’s cowboy culture with a slippery, not-quite-trap beat with plenty of space for Travis to hum his way through a distorted, reversed hook about a falling in love while under the influence.
“Through The Late Night”
Okay, so, take what I said about Young Thug and Travis and double it for Travis and Cudi. Since Cudi may be the nearest antecedent for the style that made Travis so beloved, putting these two together is like dropping a modern engine in a classic muscle car.
You may notice a bit of a theme developing. Travis is at his best when matched up with other genre-bending creators. In this case, almost no one is as innovative as Frank Ocean.
As a prime example of that capacity to warp the edges of musical categorization, here’s Travis flipping The 1975 with longtime collaborators Allen Ritter and Vinylz, then throwing a Big Sean verse into the mix.
“Stop Trying To Be God”
Probably one of Travis’ most impressive accomplishments to date is getting Stevie Wonder on a track where Travis possibly admonishes his number one mentor Kanye West with a moody, melancholy bridge from trap James Blake.
“Days Before Rodeo: The Prayer”
On this Days Before Rodeo lead-off, the beat imagines a Freddy Krueger theme song by way of Deebo from Friday. Keep in mind, this was the first time many folks ever heard of Travis Scott. One, two, Travis is coming for you. How’s that for an intro?
With chilly, synthesized vocals and a ghostly DJ Dahi-produced beat, Travis perfectly captures the loneliness of chasing a dream through the Hollywood Hills.
Stream all the songs above — minus the ones from Days Before Rodeo, which is only available on Soundcloud — in our Spotify playlist below, and check out the full list of this year’s Grammy nominees here.