With the release of Astroworld, his followup to 2016’s Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight, Travis Scott has put an end to two years of speculation about the album. However, in typical Travis fashion, he’s left an element of mystery hanging over it, as its listings on streaming services and on the tracklist he posted online keep the features a tantalizing secret.
Of course, it wasn’t long before listeners could figure out for themselves, and social media has been abuzz with the delighted discoveries of both casual fans and hardcore “Ragers” alike. While some of the features were hinted at ahead of the album, like the appearance of GOOD Music rookie Sheck Wes and Toronto MC/producer Nav, others like Frank Ocean and James Blake have come as utter shockers. One, Stevie Wonder, is not only unexpected, but truly special as Stevie’s only ever made one other special guest appearance like this for a rapper — Stevie appeared in his harmonica-playing mode on Drake‘s 2011 album Take Care on the song “Doing It Wrong” (which was later sampled on Drake’s More Life “Jorja Interlude”). Ironically, Drake also makes an “uncredited appearance on Astroworld, bringing that particular chain of coincidence full circle and fully establishing Travis Scott as one of rap’s upper echelon artists.
Below is a breakdown of the features that popped up on Astroworld to play musical foils to the chameleonic Travis.
“Carousel” Feat. Frank Ocean
The first big surprise on the album, “Carousel” features an unexpected appearance from the elusive singer, who drops in to deliver a typically melodic chorus highlighted by atypical boastfulness from Frank, as he brags of having “blue bands” on hand and getting his “cash from drive thru.”
“Sicko Mode” Feat. Drake
“Sicko Mode” does a few interesting things, engaging Travis’ penchant for switching up beats and subjects mid-song. This one chops the end off Drake’s first verse seemingly midway through for a beat switch that gives Travis a chance to flex, but then the beat swaps out yet again, bringing Drake another opportunity to swagger over a percussive beat reminiscent of the one he killed on Blocboy JB’s “Look Alive.”
“R.I.P. Screw” Feat. Swae Lee
Swae Lee actually makes two appearances on Astroworld, with the first being a cameo on the “Sicko Mode” chorus. However, he takes center stage on “R.I.P. Screw,” paying home to the Houston hip-hop legend who created the slurred, “chopped-and-screwed” sound that became all the rage in rap due to extensive use through the 2000s and experienced a resurgence after Houston fans like Drake and ASAP Rocky renewed interest in the technique with extensive homages of their own.
“Stop Trying To Be God” Feat. James Blake, Kid Cudi & Stevie Wonder
Although Travis has increasingly raised his profile with his production work, guest verses, and celebrity liaisons over the past few years, this song is a stark reminder to stay down-to-Earth and not lose oneself. However, that doesn’t mean Travis can’t flex a little star power, recruiting top-tier musical inspirations like James Blake and Kid Cudi for a connection with the legendary Stevie Wonder.
“No Bystanders” Feat. Juice Wrld & Sheck Wes
While other tracks on Astroworld find Travis serving up collaborations with A-list artists, “No Bystanders” shows he’s not too big to share his platform with rising stars as well. While Juice Wrld and Sheck Wes each have monstrous singles of their own in the form of “Lucid Dreams” and “Mo Bamba,” the look from Travis can only have positive effects on their respective career trajectories.
“Skeletons” Feat. Pharrell Williams & The Weeknd
Travis’ prior collaborations with these two have occasionally come up short, so it’s unexpected to see him connect the two, but it’s the sort of innovation that provides just enough balance that it truly works out for the first time. Both collaborators do more crooning on the bridge and outro, letting Travis hold the creative reigns and the result is a masterpiece.
“Wake Up” Feat. The Weeknd
The Weeknd pops back up to do what he does best: Provide soulful but raunchy chorus vocals, with lines like, “I don’t wanna wake up / I want you spread out on the sheets.” The mellow beat from Frank Dukes, Wallis Lane, and Sevn Thomas makes this bedroom anthem a surefire Quiet Storm mix staple for college dorm date nights for the rest of year.
“NC-17” Feat. 21 Savage
I’ll be honest: I do not know how 21 Savage keeps improving, but I’m so glad he does. He just finds ways to sit in pockets in the beat like the Iron Throne, while maintaining the cutthroat sensibility of a third-in-line-of-succession aspirant. He very nearly steals the eerie beat right out from under Travis.
“Yosemite” Feat. Gunna & Nav
Travis gives another leg-up on “Yosemite,” this time to Atlanta up-and-comer Gunna, who’s having one hell of a year as far as co-signs go. He makes the most of it too, turning in a verse so catchy, it turns into a hook shortly after Travis offers a short verse and a bridge of his own. A lot of people are going to be looking into Gunna’s catalog after this, and they won’t be disappointed.
“Can’t Say” Feat. Don Toliver
Don Toliver is another newcomer who pays his dues here, trading bars with Travis on the sing-song chorus, then delivering an ice-cold verse that demonstrates the elastic quality of his mushy flow and firmly establishes his player credentials with lines that sound like he should be holding a mic in one hand and a pimp goblet in the other: “I hit in morning, oh yeah she yawning / I met you in the club, b*tch, you know this sh*t mean nothing.”
“Who? What!” Feat. Quavo & Takeoff
It’s almost weird to only hear two-thirds of Migos at once, but with Offset off on daddy duty, his brothers admirably pick up the slack, particularly Takeoff, who’s become something of a folk hero for his guest appearances lately.
Travis Scott’s Astroworld is out now on Epic. Buy it here.