It’s rare to find a mixtape that feels like a cohesive and poetic journey into a specific moment and emotion – especially one with features by Migos, Big Sean, and Young Thug. But this is exactly what Travi$ Scott has done with “Days Before Rodeo”. The uncommon song structures, dark lyrics and lavish production from Metro Boomin, Lex Luger, Mike Dean and more create a soundscape akin to a Houston-influenced Yeezus, topped off with a healthy dose Atlanta drug culture. Scott has roots in the south but, as is becoming common in the interconnected rap world, deftly moves between regional sounds and influences. What ties it all together is the sonic haze of a drug hangover, looking back at a trippy night with a mix of nostalgia and heartbreak.
The first song, “The Prayer,” acts as an invocation set over an ominous piano riff, describing “running around the globe, goose chasing” and displays Travi$’s ability to jump in Kanye-style flows with ease. After setting the tone, “Mamacita” helps the album find it’s stride. Featuring the polarizing yet undeniably influential duo of Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug, this song feels like the set up to a trap Western film. The sound of the long-echoing steel guitar echos Pusha T’s “Nosetalgia
” and the effect of foreboding is the same. Thugger’s verse is punctuated and tricky, mumbling back and forth on the beat as only he can.
The cinematic elements of the mixtape continue to develop with “Quintana”, which dives into the drama of finessing the plug and takes it to a new level. The theme then moves from copping drugs to taking them with “Drugs You Should Try It”. Travi$’s distorted voice proclaims that “I’ve been down and lost for days, I found you along the way…” This is a love song only a deeply inebriated person can create. The slow snaps on the beat punctuate the tragic vibe of the song, making this highly listenable.
Big Sean makes an appearance on “Don’t Play,” supported by Travi$ autotuned on the hook. Sean goes in, making an impressive effort to top his “All Me” verse:
You forgot where I came from?
I’m from where you ain’t from
Where you can’t come, where it ain’t none
Where these bitches is bitches and they ain’t nuns
Where they hate from
But as soon as you blow they act like they been down since day one
The emotional peak of the album is “Skyfall”, where we see Young Thug’s melodic abilities shine on both the hook and his verse. The Metro Boomin beat is low and dark, relying on Thugger and Travi$ to carry the harmonies. Lyrics like “The drugs I keep callin’, They keep pickin’ up for me” it’s clear there is pain here. Travi$ has mentioned this song is about an older rapper falling off, relating this to a junkie who can’t get high anymore. The result is a song that is truly made to chill and smoke with, providing the perfect soundtrack to introspective moments.
Travis delivers quality tracks for the rest of the album. Basement Freestyle gives him a chance to brag how he made it out the basement, and “Backyard” gives off the same feeling as a summer cookout with friends and fam. The Migos collaboration “Sloppy Toppy” sounds more Migos than Travi$, but adds a welcome playfullness to the tape. The soul sample at the beginning sounds like the start of a Just Blaze produced Dipset song, but then it goes straight to a ATL strip club beat, complete with a Quavo verse lauding orally talented ladies. For Migos fans, this is a perfect combo. This one might replace “Fight Night” as the go-to Migos anthem on the radio right now.
“Days Before Rodeo” proves Travi$ Scott isn’t just a typical rapper – he is creating a specific sound and brand, just like cohorts Young Thug and Migos. His choice to work so closely with Metro Boomin on many tracks is a smart one- it leave this mixtape feeling more like a movie soundtrack than a collection of tracks. If you can weave your way through the drawn our raps and distorted vocals, the end result is an thought-provoking and emotional journey that is well worth taking.