New Houston Rap: Travi$ Scott Rides in Another Rodeo

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MIXTAPE OF THE WEEK: Travi$ Scott, Days Before Rodeo

A year ago, Travi$ Scott emerged from Houston obscurity, Tumblr fanfare and the tutelage of Kanye West, T.I. and others to release his Owl Pharaoh EP. For much of the tape, Scott felt like he was doing more of a solid yet distorted impersonation of his influences rather than being himself. He raps in a mumble, the loudest things about him are a stage persona where he's been known to rap from the ceiling and his production -- abrasive, earth-shattering and heavily reliant on 808 drums, timely snares and distortion, his weapons of mass audio destruction.

Where Owl Pharaoh faltered was just that: Scott wanted so badly to carve out a loud, outsider feel to his creativity, as if we weren't going to understand him no matter how many times he yelped "straight up!" or attempted to beat us over the head with punched-in drum programming and frenetic pacing. You couldn't fit Scott in anywhere, despite creating an anthem like "Upper Echelon" that damn near blew a hole in Warehouse Live when he performed it earlier this year.

Tuesday, the rapper released his second project, Days Before Rodeo, which distances itself from Owl Pharaoh as fast as possible. There's a heavier emphasis on melody, Scott singing in abstracts and doing his best to play to the strengths of his costars such as Migos, Peewee Longway, Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan. Scott has found himself a motley crew of Atlanta artists most would dub weirdos -- Thug's vocal warble is best described as indecipherable -- and crafted a damn good mixtape with them.

Best Track: "Mamacita" feat. Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug
The best representation of Scott's constantly evolving production can be found within this cut's idle piano-key strike and frantic snare arrangement. Quan and Thugga have a chemistry that few can replicate, and Thug sounds as direct as ever, both here and on "Skyfall." Scott does offer a salute to Houston women in his rather off the rails verse. But these two are smoking California reefer in Colorado and Homie, with a bit of wit, combines Lil Wayne's own mother Cita into "mamacita."

A secondary best goes to "Drugs You Should Try It." It's as if Scott knew damn well his strong suit was crafting mood music in hazy acrobatics, and the lonely guitar melody here is addictive. Days Before Rodeo is Scott in his lane, even when combating the absolute kitchen-sink chaos that is "Sloppy Toppy," where a soul sample immediately gets purged and bathed in gothic 808s and repetitive one-note takes and Migos' triplet flow chewing up the scene.
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Chay$e; Purple Love EP
Any EP you crack open where the opening lines are digging into pretty heavy territory (namely abortion and consideration of living), you're going to want to figure out where the hell things went to get to that point. Chay$e, another one of those Houston talents you might miss if you blink, surmises plenty of thoughts and emotions in her 11-track project curated and produced by Houston-to-Atlanta producer Cameron Wallace.

There's tinges of EDM, syrupy Houston nostalgia (actually, lots of nostalgia) and pop ballads. Only a woman with a point to prove or an R&B singer with that "down on my knees" simpering a la Keith Sweat would dare sing on your voicemail wondering why you won't take her hand.

Best Song: "Drug$"
Maybe it's Wallace's use of those firework-like drums that made Kanye West's "Paranoid" a fun listen, but here Chayse utilizes them to turn every thought about sipping into a metaphor about love around vocal flips of Trick Daddy's "I'm a Thug" and Aaliyah's "I Don't Wanna Be Alone" near the closing refrain. This may be a drank head's favorite song in the world.
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More new rap on the next page.


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