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After five years, Travis Scott finds a new sound with ‘UTOPIA’

Travis Scott’s “UTOPIA” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the biggest of the year for a hip-hop album. (Frank Schwichtenberg/Wikimedia Commons)

One of hip-hop’s most desired albums has finally been released after a half-decade of waiting. On July 28, Travis Scott officially dropped “UTOPIA,” a 19-song project that has a different flair than fans of Scott are used to. 

Like his prior album, “ASTROWORLD,” there is a heavy feature list, including the likes of The Weeknd, Drake, 21 Savage, Playboi Carti, Beyonce, SZA and Bad Bunny. However, they don’t overpower the album — letting Scott take control of the music.

Right from the get-go, listeners are thrust into a new sound on “HYAENA.” Sampling “Proclamation,” a 1974 song from Gentle Giants, the intro track starts off with a psychedelic feel before going into a fantastic drum and 808s beat.

Those beats and synths were a familiar tune for fans of the early 2010s era of hip-hop.

Back in 2013, Ye, formerly Kanye West, switched gears in his musical style when he released “Yeezus,” which had an innovative, dark-house sound. Scott was a key contributor on that album and the impact of “Yeezus” can be seen throughout on “UTOPIA.”

On “MODERN JAM,” Scott samples an unused Ye beat from the album, giving the flow and raps a throwback feel to those who listened to the latter’s “I Am A God.” Just two songs later, Ye helped write “GOD’S COUNTRY,” which features some of his now-iconic screams.

Scott, who entered a media firestorm after one of his 2021 concerts in Houston left 10 dead and hundreds injured, spoke on the incident on “MY EYES.”

“I replay them nights, and right by my side / all I see is a sea of people that ride wit’ me / If they just knew what Scotty would do to jump off the stage and save him a child.”

It’s more than an album for his fans, though. It is an outlet for Scott to let his emotions off his chest. Songs like “DELRESTO (ECHOES),”“LOST FOREVER” and “TELEKINESIS” may not be perfectly harmonic, but Scott’s passion comes through.

However, some lyrics are focused around the idea of attaining personal utopia. In “TOPIA TWINS”, Scott mentions bringing women to his hotel room nightly to achieve what he depicts as a utopian lifestyle.

That lifestyle sparks a theme present throughout the album, including a funky performance of “LOOOVE” with Kid Cudi. Being loved and adored, especially for famous rappers, has always been something connected with reaching the industry’s pinnacle, something Scott finds utopia in. 

“They love me, love me, love me, yeah, they love me long time / They love me, they love me, love to show me love (love).”

“UTOPIA” is not a perfect album. “K-POP” — released as a single just days prior to the full album release — is a bizarre, Afropop synth track with three of the world’s most popular singers taking turns. Joining Scott is The Weeknd and Bad Bunny, arguably the two biggest hip-hop artists today. What seemed like an attempt to create the ultimate song fell short and didn’t fit the album’s flow whatsoever.

It is a long listen from start to finish, with the project tallying 73 minutes in total. Some of the best songs I have listened to this year get lost in the mix.

“FE!N” reminds me of a younger Scott in his trapping heyday. “I KNOW ?” is a more melodic song that is perfect for any mood and “CIRCUS MAXIMUS” (also the name of his full-length film released along with the album) is a complete throwback to Ye’s smash hit, “Black Skinhead.” 

“UTOPIA” is a step back from Scott’s earlier projects. While “ASTROWORLD” and “Rodeo” are, in my opinion, perfect albums, his latest work isn’t that far off. It will take time to adjust, but like new-sounding music, the album will grow on the listeners.

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Ethan Hurwitz
Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor
‎‎‎, Editor-in-Chief

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