Offbeat Beats: Owl Pharaoh, Travi$ Scott
Owl Pharaoh, Travi$ Scott: or maybe we really should have seen Travis Scott coming.
Offbeat Beats is a series that tries to bring to you and explore a variety of interesting and unique albums that you may not have heard of.
Following several reworks and and a year’s delay, Jacques Webster’s (stage name Travis Scott, formerly stylized Travi$ Scott) debut mixtape Owl Pharaoh dropped somewhat under the radar in 2013. Generally positively reviewed but not widely known of, what the underrated and under-appreciated mixtape did do was offer a taste, a glimpse, of the obviously immense talent of Travis Scott over the course of 14 tracks. Following his recent rise to fame in the wake of his latest album Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, which debuted at number one on the billboard top 100, this seems as good of a time as any to look back on and shed some light at the half-buried debut of someone who might just become a quintessential part of the next generation of rappers.
Born and raised in Houston, Travis Scott started out in the industry as a Hip-Hop producer, dropping out of UT San-Antonio to pursue production full time. After bouncing around various cities, a chance meeting with T.I. in LA set him up with GOOD Music - Kanye West’s record label - and the rest, as they say, is history. Having been brought on to work of Cruel Winter and Yeezus, the mixtape morphed from an indie attempted breakout project to a star-studded and reworked roll-out-the-red-carpet for someone clearly heading for superstardom. From it’s cast list to its musical inspirations to its lofty ambitions, Owl Pharaoh is quite the debut tape. Wide ranging and high reaching, Travis Scott and the enormous army of supporting talent assembled something just bursting at the seems with talent, ideas, personality, originality. It’s not a cohesive, more narrative driven piece, but that’s not the point; as a producer and a rapper and a artist as a whole there aren’t many full-stops in your affirmation as an artist as clear as this album.
Owl Pharaoh blurs so many lines, throws so many different ideas at you, that the album’s mesmerizing in the way that it shifts and flows and never lets itself be pinned down. It’s in some ways like a Kanye album, how it just hurls ego and hubris at you in equal measures; it’s in some ways like a Man on the Moon / 808s and Heartbreak era album, with its sense of melody and use of vocal manipulations; it’s almost in some ways like a mid-2000s album from London, with it’s pounding dancehall-inspired bass lines and liberal use of patois. It’s the sort of album that backs-to-backs ‘Hell of a Night’ which turns from a Fleet Foxes sample cum auto-tuned-vocal ballad into a pounding twisted dance track, with ‘Blocka La Flame’ a remix and rework of Pusha T single ‘Blocka’. There’s something to be said about albums and artists like this, self-control and self-belief drenched who aren't afraid to take risks on songs and even more risks on wider projects. ‘Dance On the Moon’ is a pounding, cult classic, banger; ‘Drive’ is a narrative-driven, contemplative, introspective exploration of life tied to haunting synth-driven James Fauntleroy hook. Travis Scott shows off so many different ideas, and the artistic desire to try all of them, that him and the project are equally striking. So why not roll out the red carpet, maybe he really is one of the next big things.