Screwston, Texas

Travi$ Scott Aims High With Owl Pharaoh Debut EP

There's a methodology about Travi$ Scott (neé Jacques Webster), the 21-year old Houston rapper who bolted to Los Angeles following a short stint at the University of Texas-San Antonio. It revolves around muddled synths and drums that sound buried below the earth, both of which he uses to tinker with his voice, delivery and flow. He may never be considered one of the greatest pure rappers in the history of the genre, but he dabbles far more in performance-rap than anything else.

A lot of Scott's appeal deals with that performance side, at times abstract, with hints of Kanye West's languid circa 808s & Heartbreaks period and tiny stretches of of Houston's syrupy G-funk, which bends more upon church organs and distorted vocals than anything else. It's what made Scott a commodity on Tumblr following his split from OG Che$$ and under the tutelage of Mike Dean, among others, and what makes his new Owl Pharaoh EP pretty damn hard to decipher.

Scott doesn't dig too much into his past, aside name-dropping "59" and "slabs" on the James Fauntleroy-fixated "Ride" and his Missouri City stomping grounds of "Meadow Creek" on the EP's opening track. His rhymes' grit and headiness don't stick immediately like his mentor Kanye's cocksure everyman appeal on The College Dropout, nor do they snidely objectify his newfound fame like Late Registration did.

However, it's Scott moving in his own way -- only allowing you in with a plethora of high-fashion name-drops, yanking Young Chop's syncopated bombast from Pusha T's "Blocka" and refitting it as "Blocka La Flame," and generally snapping off vague lyrics about life and his journey through the world.

Sonically, it's mostly Scott's show, a waltz around staccato screeches and drums with mumbling KiD CuDi-like reverb elsewhere. It's not abrasive or even harsh, but when it flows right, it just sounds different than anything else being crafted in the trap-style genre. "Dance On The Moon" cranks up the synths to near rock-gospel heights with shouting "heys" and Theophilus London's warbling voice delivering an addictive chorus, "let's get high and go dance on the moon."

Paul Wall appears on the back end, doubling up on more elixirs and uppers to push the trip up even further past the stars. That sentiment pushes further on the T.I.-assisted "Upper Echelon," which lets an air horn slingshot your ears into an avalanche of snares and Hulk-sized 808 drums. Scott knows merely tossing fly shit can casually work, and with a more-than-capable King of the South ready to empty out more shit-talk, he can do no wrong.

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell