If an album sold 537,000 copies in its debut week on the charts, it must have done something right.
“ASTROWORLD,” rapper Travis Scott’s third album, did exactly that following its Aug. 3 release. Scott, 26, whose real name is Jacques Webster, landed the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart following its first week. The album held on to the top spot for another week despite competition from another rap release: Nicki Minaj’s “Queen.”
Minaj’s “Queen” sold 185,000 copies in its first week, which led to a volatile reaction from the female rapper.
She tweeted on Aug. 19, “I put my blood sweat & tears in writing a dope album only for Travis Scott to have Kylie Jenner post a tour pass telling ppl to come see her & Stormi.”
Minaj seemed to infer that there were behind-the-scenes factors at play that allowed “ASTROWORLD” to be on the top of the charts. Her tweet also referenced an Instagram post made by Scott’s girlfriend, reality star and socialite Kylie Jenner, that included the dates to his upcoming tour with a caption that said she and their daughter, Stormi, would be joining the rapper on his tour. Minaj has claimed this to be a marketing tactic, considering Jenner’s fame.
Both artists’ albums were highly anticipated, as it had been four years since Minaj’s last project, “The Pinkprint,” and two years since Scott’s “Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight.” Minaj, a powerhouse female rapper known for her fast verses filled with curses and disses was up against Scott’s experimental release for the trap subgenre. While neither project is classified as a traditional concept album, both titles represent something important about its artist.
“ASTROWORLD” gets its name from the former Six Flags AstroWorld park in Scott’s hometown of Houston, which permanently closed in 2005.
In a 2017 interview with GQ, Travis explained the project’s name and relevance, saying, “They tore down AstroWorld to build more apartment space. That’s what it’s going to sound like, like taking an amusement park away from kids. We want it back. We want the building back. That’s why I’m doing it. It took the fun out of the city.”
“ASTROWORLD” embodies the idea of an amusement park well. As each track flows into the next, the combination of beat changes and contrast between Scott’s rap verses and the verses of featured artists reminds you of the different sights and sounds of an amusement park. Whether it’s the sound of the bumper cars, a carousel, a roller coaster or the various noises that come from prize machines, they’re all different. When they come together they give a sound to the park and in “ASTROWORLD”’s case, they give a sound to Scott’s former Houston site.
A track that resembles this best is “Stop Trying To Be God,” which features artists James Blake, Kid Cudi and Stevie Wonder.
Cudi is the only artist in that mix that falls into the same genre as Scott while Blake, a British songwriter is considered soul and bass. Wonder, a Motown legend, is closer to the genres of Funk, Rhythm and Blues and Jazz. Blake’s soulful voice follows two verses of Scott’s raps and Wonder’s signature harmonica is featured throughout the track. Group those three names together, and you would be called a fool. On this track, it works perfectly.
Minaj’s “Queen,” on the other hand, doesn’t reference a former amusement park or a closed franchise of Dairy Queen. Instead, it refers to the artist behind it.
Minaj’s brash rap style typically targets her competitors in the industry and the artists who make music similar to hers. She has an elegant way of dissing her competitors while also maintaining a fast and steady flow that doesn’t miss a beat. Her brash style sends a clear message; I’m the best, step back.
Minaj holds herself in high regard, calling herself the “Queen” in this case, and no track makes this clearer than “Majesty,” which features Labrinth and Eminem. Labrinth opens the track with “whatever you say, Mrs. Majesty, whatever you want, you can have from me,” while Minaj raps later in the song, “‘Cause I’m too powerful and you not powerful.”
She has had notable feuds throughout her career with artists like fellow rappers Remy Ma and Cardi B. The verse “They done went to witch doctors to bury the Barbie, but I double back, kill b—-es, bury the body” in the track “Ganja Burns” has been interpreted by some to be about Cardi B as body sounds like “bardi,” a direct reference to Cardi’s name.
“ASTROWORLD” represents Travis Scott’s love and appreciation for where he came from, and “Queen” symbolizes the high caliber at which Nicki Minaj sees herself. Both projects display the strengths of the rappers, but “ASTROWORLD” edges out.
The effortless flow of track to track works out in Scott’s favor as it allows the listener to travel smoothly through the album without the interruption of silence. Scott’s music stands out for its experimental sound and “ASTROWORLD” delivers this gloriously.
“ASTROWORLD” – 4.5 stars “Queen” – 2.5 stars
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