For better or worse, Travis Scott has become an ambassador for Houston hip hop.
That idea may irritate a lot of local rap fans, but it's true. Scott's latest release debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 back in August, and his star has only risen with every passing day. He has become an inescapable presence in the rap game. But despite its title, ASTROWORLD contains very little reverence for Houston, as a city or a rap scene.
It's an enjoyable listen and I'm not arguing against it being a good album — albeit one that capitalizes on current trends and likely won't stand the test of time. My real beef is with its name, which directly links Scott to the Bayou City and serves to intrigue locals who otherwise might have ignored it altogether.
Houston fans will have a chance to see Scott live this Saturday for the one-day ASTROWORLD Festival at NRG Park. To date, no names other than Scott's have been released about the talent lineup, although according to organizers, that hasn't stopped people from buying tickets.
Today, NRG Park confirmed that they are fully anticipating the festival to happen, despite the lack of other names and the fact that on Monday Scott announced he was postponing four other dates on his tour, citing "production issues." An NRG Park representative said they are expecting the lineup to be released this Friday (just 24 hours before the festival gates are scheduled to open). Update 5:35 p.m. November 14, 2018: NRG Park said Wednesday that they "have no timeline on receiving any lineup information."
For those in the event planning industry, this level of surprise is apparently a norm when working with Travis Scott's team. In the event that any further details do emerge, we were told that NRG Park's Twitter feed will be the place to go.
Update 3:44 p.m. November 13, 2018: Trey Hicks of the Giant Noise public relations firm handling publicity for the ASTROWORLD Festival said the information we received about the lineup announcement this morning was incorrect. Instead, he said:
At this time, I can confirm that no announcement timeline has been set or announced publicly. For the most accurate and timely information on all Astroworld Festival news and happenings, fans should instead visit the following channels: WEBSITE: AstroworldFest.com FACEBOOK: @astroworldfest TWITTER: @astroworldfest INSTAGRAM: @astroworldfest
On ASTROWORLD, Scott makes a handful of lazy references to H-Town. He mentions wood grain, Frenchy's, Toyota Center, local area codes and, of course, the late DJ Screw. But these lyrics ring mostly hollow, owing in part to the record's exclusion of any other local legends. Bun B, Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Scarface and Trae are nowhere to be found, despite their longstanding ties to the community and culture.
Scott's auto-tuned vocals take center stage, occasionally stepping aside to showcase unique instrumentals and time-signature changes. But for as entertaining as I thought the album was, I was left with a singular thought when I finished listening to it for the first time: "What the hell did that have to do with Houston?"
Scott's brand of half-sung hip hop has taken over the airwaves, and I'm no hater. Good tunes are good tunes, after all, but his music's lineage is much closer to 21 Savage and Quavo than UGK and the SUC. That being the case, why rep Houston as if it was anything more than a jumping-off point? Even Kylie Jenner, Scott's partner, has hopped on the co-opting train.
Again, it isn't that ASTROWORLD is a bad album. In fact, I think it's a pretty damn good one. But it should have been called something else. Anything else. STARGAZING would have fit the album's psychedelic aesthetic perfectly, and guys like me wouldn't be left feeling like their city was being used as little more than a backdrop.
Then again, maybe the whole reason Scott named his album ASTROWORLD was to reference his dismantling of the typical Houston sound. After all, the trailer for the record depicted Scott gleefully walking through the wreckage of the once great amusement park. Maybe that was a metaphor that I'm only getting now.
Connor Fields contributed to this article.