Transit.

Recently, I began working the city.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried driving in the city, but it’s ass.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried driving in Portland, or the state of Oregon for that matter, but it’s ass and a half.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried driving in a city, namely Portland, in a thicc Chevy Trailblazer named Bessie, but it’s one kicking-and-screaming SOB; you just get to play the radio.

It’s like your stout grandma going to the grocery store and navigating the aisles with a wobbly wheel on her shopping cart. It’s loud, she’s in the way, and nobody else in the fucking store knows what they’re doing. They’re either too distracted by the shit in the aisles, looking at their cell phone, or polite to the point it completely ruins everything, waving people on who have absolutely no right of way.

If that analogy opened up some sore wounds, I apologize, but the abridged version: driving anywhere in the state of Oregon fucking sucks. Driving in Portland sucks. Driving an SUV in Portland REALLY sucks, then you pay for parking. You’re basically giving the city head, and then thanking them for it. Gross.

Now, while I was in New York, I felt like I was visiting two cities: the “Overworld” and the “Underworld”. Up top you have the stores, the landmarks, the skylines and the big lights. But down below, in the “Underworld” was the real fun. It was a rat race of people, an entire colony of ants droning and buzzing from place to place. It was dog eat dog - you had better move quick and with purpose, or get swallowed by the metal jaws of death. Each subway ride was a portal to another dimension, denizens popping up like meerkats from borough to borough and entering a distinct ecosystem. On the trains themselves, the air is thick with a looming tension. Everyone minds their own business, but some showboat shouting their plans to tear down the system or reinvent the wheel will come along, and you’ll get to see some of the most eccentric, bewildered individuals in society. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, who you know or where you’re going. On the subway, everyone is equal.

And guess what? Nobody fucking drives.

But, I felt connected to the city. As if I was a measly red blood cell - important, sure, but part of something bigger - traveling through the arteries of opportunity and back home to rest my head through weary veins. Each staircase felt like a moment of rebirth, climbing towards a glowing light into a new adventure.

But, I was also a tourist, so quite literally everywhere I popped up was new. My only mandatory the whole trip to NY was “don’t look like a tourist”, and my only tangible strategy was speed-walking.

Portland isn’t nearly as busy as NY. But, the humble morning commute is a wonderful routine. I love my Bessie too, but she isn't a morning car. Her axels are rusty and her engine sputters occasionally. Taking the light rail is a transitional moment, literally and figuratively, as I escape for a moment the quiet residential roads of Beaverton and enter the quiet, unapologetically weird city of Portland. When I’m behind my wheel, the morning commute is point A to point B. But when you step off that rail and begin your descent into the city on foot, you feel an entire spectrum of possibility unravel before you.

Take the train. You won’t regret it.

Helvetica.

Oh, Helvetica.

If you haven’t noticed, my entire website is in Helvetica. If you don’t care - congratulations, you’re normal. If you do care, chances are you might be an “ad geek”, and your friends probably also love to hear all about how frustrating your new client is, or your creative differences with your copywriter over the new campaign #hashtag, or how augmented reality is the apparent future of everything.

Finally, if you don’t know what Helvetica is, you are probably using Arial, in which case I am sorry for you.

Typography isn’t just a study, but a lens through which your perception of the world changes. All it took was a humble 12-hour crash course this weekend to know enough about fonts to where I accidentally called my girlfriend “Avenir” in bed.

Just kidding. I don’t have a girlfriend. Remember, I am writing a blog on typefaces.

There was no particular reason I chose Helvetica. It seemed fitting: clean, inoffensive, and simple. It’s an excellent yin to the yang within a book of work that at times can be dirty, offensive, and relatively abstract. As a writer, I can justify this overly plain choice of typeface. I’m not a designer. I’m a writer, a word guy. I’ll leave the aesthetics to the designers and the art directors. This is my way of comforting myself through gritted teeth, a pep-talk to psyche myself out of the persistent state of self-loathing that afflicts so many writers. Am I hack?, he asks himself, as he writes a blog post about typefaces, convincing himself that his work in advertising might actually save the world.

Maybe it’s a fetish. Perhaps it’s the seduction of a dystopian world, an internal hype-beast fantasy, a land where Virgil Abloh is declared Supreme Leader, as entire city scapes are adorned with “BUILDING”, newborns are stamped with “INFANT”, and everything is painted Off-White in a planet that is the lovechild between Lois Lowry and Steve Jobs.

If you couldn’t tell from the passage above, it’s been a slow day at the office to say the least.

No, the beauty of Helvetica is that it isn’t about what the letters are wearing. Frankly, Helvetica is as nude as it gets. I’m not here to distract you with fancy serifs or ligatures. I grew up believing in the underdog, that there’s more to anything that meets the eye. My hope is that when you check in on my blog, or my site, you are invited in to a deceivingly simple, clean place; But upon further digging, you discover a world of color and illustration, an experience painted not by the appearance of my letters themselves, but by the stories in which their various arrangements tell.

Bold Stars: 5 default fonts that are quality max. out of 5

Astrology.

I’m a Libra.

Could I tell you what the fuck this means? Maybe a little. Kinda, sorta. Something about balance I guess, considering the sign is a scale. At least, that’s what the handy dandy horoscope app on my phone tells me.

I guess this is the twenty-first century way of speaking to the cosmos. Your personal fate, sealed away between Snapchat and Words With Friends.

Weeks ago, if someone asked me what “Libra” meant, I woulda told you something along the lines of a genetically mutated lion and zebra. Realistically, that would be super kick-ass. Like wow, imagine being in the wild and some striped fucker is galloping toward you, and it’s a lion’s head on a horse’s body. I would shit myself so hard, the scent might be enough to deter the predator, and any other unfortunate beast within a thirteen mile radius.

Then I remembered: It’s called a liger.

I don’t know where people who are really into astrology find the time for it. Like, these people have seriously adopted a sixth sense of detecting your entire inner being before you can even mispronounce your sign to them. You’ll tell them about how much you dislike people who have super complicated coffee orders, and they’ll reply “Wow, such a Gemini thing to say”.

But this person isn’t your friend, this is the someone you just met on the elevator. You don’t even know if they fucking work here. As a matter of fact, they smell kind of weird, and now you’re stuck with them until floor thirteen.

But by Jupiter’s cock, they really know you’re a sorry ass Gemini.

It’s easy to poke fun at the silliness of astrology. There’s no scientific basis, and only those things deserve merit, right? And people are so self-centered. God, we should all go on Twitter and put in our two cents on how self-absorbed those people are. Plus, who’s really dumb enough to let someone else tell them to live their life? I prefer to blog about my individuality during commercial breaks, between looking up advice on male fashion, listening to trending music, and taking BuzzFeed personality quizzes. Occasionally, I’ll peek up at the commercials telling me what I have to buy, on the TV that Best Buy told me I needed to buy. Go figure.

No, astrology isn’t ignorant. It’s actually quite curious. The signs used to carry a lot more weight, but I think that to lump zodiac experts into the same category as serial killers or Jake Gyllenhaal is wrong. How we perceive ourselves is incredibly important when it comes to communication. There’s a lot of insight you can gather from people’s signs and how they exercise them. You see, it’s not really about the signs, it’s about the community that forms around them, and how they forge their lifestyles. This leads to discussions like: How deterministic are people? How do they shape their rewards and motivations based on their self-perception? Is it wrong to categorize people into zodiac traits, as in “do the ends justify the means?”. I mean, hell, if it takes a push notification to start someone’s day and it isn’t hurting anyone, the…

Wait. There’s not just ONE sign? What does your “rising” sign mean? Moon sign? Earth, Wind & Fire?

Fuck this. I’m out.

Bold Stars: 3 minutes you wasted reading this when you could have read your horoscope out of 5

Junk Drawers.

Junk drawers. Everyone has them. You know somewhere in your room, you have a nice little treasure chest of random Ziploc bags, crumbs, maybe sauce packets if you live life on the edge, and a coupon.

But the word junk. What does junk mean?

Look it up in a dictionary. The words you’ll see are “discarded”, “abandoned”, “useless or of little value”.

I’m here to defend your junk drawer.

That random Ziploc bag? What’s gonna hold all those quarters you’re about to take to the bank and cash in on. Yeah, that plastic bag is actually worth $23.17.

Sauce packets? I wish I had a holster for sauce packets. Honestly, I should probably go on Amazon and invest in one of those Tabasco keychains right now. Wouldn’t be the most frivolous thing I’ve bought from that retail void. In the meantime, I’ll settle for the sauce in my junk drawer. You know one day you’ll peel open a Taco Bell burrito at your desk before an all-nighter only to remember you forgot to ask for Fire packets. Never fear, there’s still 5 left from your visit last week, conveniently to your right. Hoarder my ass.

That Bed Bath and Beyond coupon? First, they never expire, and second there is always a reason to go to Bed Bath and Beyond. Shop for your room, your kitchen, your lover, or even just go for the hell of it. So what the coupon came out before the internet, it’s still 20% off.

The crumbs? Can’t say much there. Maybe it’s a reminder to clean your room, or that you need to buy more Goldfish.

So no, the junk drawer is not junk. It should be called the opportunity drawer. I mean, do the math above, you could have at least $60 in savings alone, in one errand run.

If it’s anything worth doing, it can probably be made better with something in your junk drawer.

Bold Stars: 5 Fire (literally & figuratively) sauce packets out of 5

Swearing.

I fucking love swearing.

O swearing, the forbidden fruit of human language. From an early age, I was indoctrinated into a belief system that labelled swear words as lazy and sinful. Then one day, I was presented with an option: Take the blue pill and continue to censor myself, living a comfortable albeit bland and fruitless existence. Or, the more tantalizing option, take the red pill and shoot the gap between existences into a whole new realm of spicy and invigorating language.

Swearing is reactive. But that’s the essence of why saying swear words fucking rocks. It’s raw human expression, a knee-jerk exclamation of sadness or happiness or something in between. It’s unfiltered and unapologetic, and while I wouldn’t necessarily endorse swearing within earshot of your Grandma or employer, I believe we are entering a “profanity enlightenment” of sorts, where our progressive and collective celebrations of individuality have led to an insurgency through swearing.

Swearing is a beautiful thing. Think of the various augmentations which cuss words undertake as their form is altered, or when they are paired with words which may appear subtle but can have a fucking massive impact on the expression.

  • “Hey, motherfucker!” Tim said as he approached his college buddy versus Hey motherfucker!” Tim said as he approached the guy who married his college sweetheart.

  • "Son of a bitch” being the disbelief in winning the lottery versus "Son of a BITCH” being the disbelief in losing your winning lottery ticket.

  • "That’s the shit” versus ”That’s shit”.

Swear words are labelled offensive. But, that’s tradition, and since when were we concerned with the stuffy formalities of the same dinosaurs that created some of the most heinous and forbidden words of all time? To swear on something is a serious thing, and swearing is seriously awesome. It’s the spice of sentences, exhilarating in small doses and adding new depth to otherwise bland and boiled statements.

I could sit here and tell you that blogging is a wonderful cathartic exercise where I have the freedom to express myself and assert my opinions, with the hopes of influencing your perceptions of the world.

That’s overtly textbook and an essay I would write for an upper-division English class.

I could sit here and tell you I really enjoy blogging because I like speaking my mind and winning over others.

That’s small-talk and bleh.

I could sit here and tell you I fucking love blogging because it’s my space where nobody can say shit about this being right, or that being wrong. Here, it’s just me bitching/ranting/exploring SOMETHING, and in the process putting my voice out there for others to enjoy however they may choose. Maybe people agree, maybe they don’t, that isn’t what fucking matters. what matters is they can follow with me through my twisted thought process and get something out of it - a thought, a chuckle, an insight. And that’s cool as shit.

That’s honest. That’s how I talk to my friends, and I enjoy making friends. I hope you consider yourself my friend, even if we haven’t met, simply because you are here and made it that far.

Now get the fuck out of here!

Bold Stars: 4 letter words out of 5

Twitter.

I was pissed during #280gate.

Everyone wishes for more hours in a day, but I believe the grass is always greener on the other side, and if you give a mouse a cookie - they will ask for a glass of milk.

How many times must people be reminded the quantity does not drive quality? You don’t see a Lamborghini every day. If you did, then so what? It’s a Lamborghini. Imagine if Lamborghini adjusted the prices of all their super cars so double the amount of people could afford them?

It just wouldn’t be a Lambo anymore. At least, not in the sense it used to be. And that’s exactly how I felt about the jump of 140 to 280 characters.

I’ve decided to preface this take with the controversial amendment to the Twitter constitution because Twitter frightens me. It is so fucking powerful and has become such an integral driver (not element) of our society. The memes still exist. The cute dog photos still exist. The bots, all those exist and have always existed. Now, they are just here in greater quantities.

What hasn’t always existed is the exposure of injustices and corruption that transpire each and every day, in every corner of the planet. We have never had a leader of the free world use a social media platform to communicate directly to his constituents and attempt to create, reform, or enact policies…

in 280 characters or less. Seriously, is that not fucking insane?

Twitter excites me. It is a purveyor creativity. The Old Guard will chastise the shrinking attention spans of future minds, citing their inability to commit time to anything of importance. They will lament our requirements for participation trophies and our hedonistic entitlement to instant gratification.

I say baloney.

I say the global economy is changing. We are a people forging new connections in every corner of the planet, every day. The Twitter bird is the most bad-ass motherfucking carrier pigeon of all time, facilitating the exchange of ideas and opinions everywhere. The result? Twitter has become more than the sum of its parts. Twitter is a sovereign power with its own culture, economy, and law. (I admire the creators for taking a relatively detached approach to influencing content and allowing the Twitter-verse to engage in its own messy beautiful discourse).

The bird is still evolving.

The literate Tweeters of today are forerunners of a changing societal landscape. They will be responsible for more people, more lives. Their voices will be more plentiful, but they will also have the potential to be louder than ever before, sparring with politicians and other monarchs while simultaneously dictating the culture of tomorrow.

If everyone wrote an essay about how they felt, nobody would finish them all. Back in the day, we only read the compositions of powerful people. Twitter is an arena where, no matter how many fans you have, you enter the duel armed with the same weapon: 280 characters. You must learn how to be wise with those words if you want to hit the jugular and deemed victorious. That’s why the professionals of tomorrow will take social media to new and unprecedented heights. We adopted this new frontier, whereas they were born in it.

Twitter is the grassroots movement of the future. It’s every protest, every mourning, every debate and vote and mobilization of action moving forward.

And it can still be a place for glorious, dank memes. That’s beauty.

So to our Aunts and Uncles who still forward chain-mail, to you I say: kindly fuck off. If some kid in Arkansas can make me laugh harder in 6 seconds than Adam Sandler in 2 hours, or I can get my daily dose of news in 280 characters and not 2 hours of guys like Matt Lauer, I’ll take it.

Our attention spans aren’t shrinking, they’re changing. We aren’t becoming dumber, we are becoming craftier.

Bold Stars: 5 RTs and I feel validation out of 5

22.

Preface: I am by no means a Taylor Swift fan.

She’s about as Wonder bread as it gets when it comes to pop music. Listen, as her offensive mutation of hip-pop-Yee-Haw mashes with the most toxic victim mentality in the industry, culminating in yodels the whole family can jam along with on the way to Chick-Fil-A.

But I’d be lying if I claimed that on October 16, 2018, I wasn’t blasting the ever-loving shit out of “22'“, the culturally celebrated single off her fourth studio album Red.

You see, this was a special morning. If you couldn’t tell by now, you lack a considerable degree of intuition. It was my birthday. Now, it’s been around a month since my birthday.

22 - the age - is as sad as Taylor Swift’s fourth studio album, Red.

21 is the final exit on the highway of growing the fuck up. It begins at 13, as repressed memories of Aunts pinching my cheeks at Thanksgiving slurring “you’re a teenager now!” flood my head. But shit were they right - I didn’t feel that badass since I got the double-digit clout of turning 10.

Oh, but I thought being a teenager was cool. The fruits of these hormone-fueled labors couldn’t be harvested until 16. It’s like being a squire that finally gets promoted from being Lancelot’s bitch. At 16, you can finally ride your own valiant steed into the adventurous world of house parties and mall trips. You don’t have to wait much longer for the next exciting installment - the raunchier, Unrated, “only-available-by-request” sequel that is 18.

Nobody ever stops and thinks how fucking weird it is a bunch of barely legal teenagers post “finally legal!” as their Instagram captions when they turn. It’s basically broadcasting they’re about to smash whoever they want and nobody can stop them - unless you really think they’re referring to voting, owning a gun, or whatever else 18 gets you.

21. Does it need explanation? I would love to tell you how it felt when I turned 21, but I can’t remember. What I do remember is a bender so long, it might have cost 21 years. Go ahead. Toss that fake-ID that comes with the premium 16th birthday package in the trash, with the rest of T Swift’s albums.

Now that I’m 22 what do I have to look forward to? The next milestone is 25, and the only thing cool about 25 is hopefully being somewhat established maybe? Oh yeah, car rentals. That’s right. At 28 you’re basically 30, and at 30 you’re really 30. At 35 you’re a failure if you don’t have kids, 40 you’re in a crisis, and when 50 finally shows up, the bad shit I’m doing now is probably (read: definitely) catching up to me. 60 I’ll want to retire, 70 I’ll want to die, and at 80 I might still be bitching on this blog.

Is this a quarter life crisis? An existential dread sweeps over me at this very moment. I accept the realization that I’ve already gathered the fun keys to the kingdom. If I had a dollar for every time some sophomore moron has told me I’m “OLD” in the past month alone, my pension would already be full and I’d retire the fuck out of here.

On the morning of October 16, 2018, 22 was a joyous ballad and a celebration of new beginnings. Now, it is a haunting eulogy mourning the beginning of the end.

Bold Stars: 0 times Taylor Swift should have won a Grammy out of 5

Stress.

Heaviness. Weariness. Dreariness.

Stress is the sinking ship where no option remains but to jump overboard. The thrashing waves swallow the vessel whole, and the hopes of returning to familiar shores vanishes with every sinking moment. There is nothing left but to tread water and retain hope, but the pit in your stomach knows that Scylla herself awaits in the murky reef below.

Stress is a walk to work, but you keep your head hung low, staring at the cinder blocks that have become your latest pair of sneakers. Sadly, this is no dress code violation, for it as an unwritten rule in this dismal reality that cement is the new suede. You drag your feet as the stone grinds on stone, not picking up your feet so much as forcing them forward with friction and a draining determination of will. It would be easier to just stop and stand there, but this dreadful trek towards the challenger of the day must continue.

Stress is peering down into a cup of black coffee and witnessing the void, an empty space where hope left long ago. Where once you smelled the aromas of java beans and blessed your tongue with the bold flavor of a warm morning’s brew, you only taste the burnt backwash of fonder times. The damp cup of roasted water now only serves as a means to an end, as you throw back gallons of the unholy elixir just to achieve that buzz that’ll get you through the day. You’ve made a deal with the Devil, and that Devil is Dunkin.

Stress is the labyrinth where each turn brings you to seven more. You hear the hooves of the Minotaur in the distance flying closer, and the sounds of crashing of stone walls as fate barrels toward you.

Stress is when by the time you’ve figured out where to start, you figured out when to start. And it was 3 days ago.

Stress manifests itself in monsters and manifestos, beasts and briefs, adversaries and assignments. Stress is the weight of one-hundred stones being placed upon your chest, and your only possible response is “one more”. The continuous weight and pressure builds like a sneeze in your sinuses that never disappears - always on edge, but failing to launch nonetheless.

Stress is yearning for the time when writing could be done for leisure and free time wasn’t costly.

Stress is this entry.

Bold Stars: 0 hours of sleep out of X

Autumn.

Autumn is truly the greatest season.

The summer begins to draw to a close. The excitement of sunshine and vacation has been replaced with weary feelings of exhaustion and fatigue, with a yearning to return to the business of yesteryear.

There is no more satisfying seasonal sensation than walking down an empty road, feeling a crisp breeze roll gently through your hair, as you notice a single leaf strewn before you on the sidewalk, no longer donning green but an illustrious red or familiar orange. Soon, the leaves will dance across the road like a watercolors on a canvas painting the portrait of the season. Eventually the sounds of crunching will creep from beneath your feet and travel into the cool autumn air. Autumn is here.

Autumn is finding the perfect pumpkin in the patch. Autumn is biting into the most crispy and juicy apple. Autumn is evening strolls as the days become shorter and shorter, the jackets heavier and heavier. Autumn is the hundreds of grins who greet you on All Hallow’s Eve, as strangers across the country express utter selflessness and generosity by blessing strangers and their children with sweets and kind words at their doors. Autumn is “I can’t believe you’re in the fifth grade!” and “I can’t believe you’re in high school!” and “I can’t believe you’re going to college now!”. Autumn is a time for new beginnings and good-byes, as we celebrate our children embarking on their next journey and recognizing the dead who left us too soon - watching as millions check their egos at the door and get to pretend they have become their childhood fantasies for just one night.

The summer sun becomes nothing but a hazy glow on the horizon. The leaves of yesterday fall as trees become bare, for in order to welcome new we must bid farewell to the old.

Autumn is here.

Bold Stars: 5 king-sized candy bars out of 5

ASTROWORLD.

Oh my, I've been gone for a long time.

Since we last spoke, I've had the opportunity to visit a place that was cherished by the kids, only to be taken from them. It's dark, bizarre, and an absolute thrill to wander. You easily find yourself lost here, caught in a gaze at the otherworldly attractions which envelope you in an apocalyptic wasteland of excess. This place is not just a park, but a breathing entity that presents a challenge those who enter. You cannot come to this place and leave all the same. Chances are, you will leave and it will follow you, seducing you into scheduling a revisit. And then another. 

Of course, I'm speaking of ASTROWORLD, the third studio album by Travis Scott. It is an album that coalesces the meteoric rise of La Flame, rap's biggest rock star, with Houston's former beloved amusement park that was demolished in 2005. The result is an experience that rivals that of a roller coaster, complete with unexpected turns, beautiful sights, the anxieties of a slow build-ups and the euphoric, adrenaline spiking drops which follow. This album truly sounds like the deconstruction of an amusement park and the nostalgia Jacques Webster associates with it. Let's take a walk.

STARGAZING

Travis Scott is master at creating introductions to projects. He is the king of setting the vibe, whether it's T.I.'s narration during "Pornography" on Rodeo, the haunting organs on "The Prayer", the panicked flow of André 3000 on "the ends" or the violent banging and screaming of "Meadow Creek".

ASTROWORLD entices visitors right off the bat with a slow, haunting melody. It's like a finger beckoning the listener to come closer, as they find themselves standing in the empty parking lot in unbearable anticipation. The night sky is glistening, adorned with swirling colors and flashing lights - the first half of this song is utterly psychedelic, taking listeners on a blissful trip as they prepare to roll through the entrance to this park. The vocals weave as Travis uses his vocal range and auto-tune as an instrument, just as much as his drums and synths. Scott's high-pitched lamentations about Kylie are absolutely otherworldly, even to those accustomed to his catalog. There is an unsettling chill in the air as an icy breeze ebbs and flows around you like a river. You shuffle your way through some litter and tumble weed, still enthralled with the vivid sights above. As you get closer to the intimidating entryway - a massive bust of a demonic fire breathing Travis - you feel the warmth of an invitation inside.

You start spinning. Your orientation and scale in the universe shrinks as you begin your free falling descent into ASTROWORLD. You are no longer confined to the restrictions of gravity as you plummet through time and space. The beat switches to urgent and anxious, transitioning viewers from the mystery of the outside world into the throttled and thrashing land of ASTROWORLD. Travis lays some serious bars here, gloating and flaunting of his affirmed spot at the top. No longer is this the kid from Houston pining for the top spot. He's here with "new enemies", but with that at the top is the "amenities": The fortunes and burdens of success.

Enjoy the ride.

CAROUSEL

After a thrilling entrance, the album lets up for a second to breathe with a cosign from Big Tuck, a rapper based in Dallas. Travis truly represents his roots throughout this project whether it's samples, features or entire track devotions. The voicemail endorses the park and hypes listeners for a journey they are totally unprepared for: ASTROWORLD is now in session. 

This track is appropriately titled as the beat bobs up and down, moving in a loop just like a carousel, mashing a sample of intense vocals with the distorted tune of a merry-go-round. Travis continues to flex his ability to rap, which persists throughout the album. His decision to ditch listing his features on the track titles pays off, as listeners are greeted early-on with an incredible (and unsuspecting) hook and verse from Frank Ocean, who demonstrates his range in both singing and rapping. There are surprises and thrills around every corner at ASTROWORLD, taking listeners hostage. If I could describe this track in one word, it would be hypnotic. Like riding a carousel, it's dizzying. You try to focus on the vocals, but the production makes it difficult to avoid falling into a trance.

Travis Scott might be the main event of this festival, but he has come prepared with an entire sideshow of performers eager to perform. Frank is just the beginning.

SICKO MODE

Who didn't expect this track to be the most popular attraction? When you combine the most influential trap artist right now, the immense popularity of Drake and his undeniable ability to create viral sensations from his lyrics ("half a xan", "like a light") with one of the hottest producers in Tay Keith, whose instantly recognizable beats and tag are everywhere in rap at the moment, you have a mega-hit on your hands. This rap is a true thrill ride, a roller coaster between not one but two beat switches. Travis seems to have an affinity for throwing curve balls at listeners, and he one-upped himself on this anthem.

Travis is a master at utilizing his features. Drake might have more clout on this recording, but the strongest feature is Swae Lee, with his subtle two-line bar: "someone said". His smooth vocals and a dip in the aggressive production provide a refreshing breather from Travis' gravely vocals and the heavy hitting drums of the beat. Swae Lee's entrancing vocal interweave with a sample of Big Hawk, whose vocal feature sounds like the menacing boss villain in a video game. The production present on the middle portion is incredible because it bangs like crazy, but it’s incredibly alien, unique, and fascinating. it truly feels extraterrestrial, and it’s here to abduct everything you knew about engineering trap beats before. It lurks and thumps and sounds absolutely evil, if not demonic, especially as it breaks down and distorts while transitioning into the next section, like a blown out speaker from hell.

Then it switches AGAIN, to the section of this track that has gained it so much popularity across the mainstream. The beat and Tay Keit’s tag are familiar and hot, ushering the success of tracks like Blocboy JB’s “Look Alive” and Drake’s “Nonstop”: Heavy bass and icy beat cadences. Drake is soft and he knows it, end of story. But he loves it and the viral fortunes that come with it. There is no way he (or whoever) wrote that lyric about xanax and didn't expect it to go viral in the same vein as "kiki". This is the weakest portion of the song. It's hype as hell but the production is relatively generic when compared to the alien middle portion of the song, and Drake just does what he’s used to. The highlight of this portion is when Drake and Travis switch off rapping "like a light", resembling two rap Avengers taking turn punching the listener with unbridled aggression. 

R.I.P. SCREW

Three rides into ASTROWORLD and viewers are exhausted. Until now it's been uptempo and in your face - a fitting entrance for a raging Travis project. As Travis laments on this track, "rest in peace to Screw tonight we take it slowly". After riding carousels and roller coasters, visitors get to relax on a bench sitting under a dim streetlight, watching other ghostly visitors float by. The sky is tinted purple and casts a haze upon the park. Swae Lee is back, his voice echoing throughout the track and unites with the airy production to create a wavy and drippy atmosphere paying homage to legendary DJ Screw. The vocals mesh with the production seamlessly, with the voices of Travis and Swae contributing to the instrumentation just as much as the drums or synths. As the track slowly fades, listeners ponder what's next, and muster the energy to stand up and continue their trek through this otherworldly place.

STOP TRYING TO BE GOD

Every Travis Scott album has a ballad. "90210". "through the late night". The Cudi hums are back, and as viewers stroll through the park, they enter a house of mirrors adorned with intimate reflection of Travis' ascension to god-like status in the hip hop world. 

This song is the ultimate proof that Travis Scott may be the most skilled artist when it comes to using his features in ways that are unique, contribute to the overall production of a song, and truly highlight their individual strengths. He doesn't slap on arbitrary verses or hooks, but deliberately dissects and arranges the tools an artist has to offer. James Blake provides the vocals on a beautiful outro, serving as my personal highlight on ASTROWORLD, but the aforementioned Cudi hums and Stevie Wonder (the most lit feature on this whole enchilada, no debate here) playing the harmonica. This is a song that demands to be admired as a masterpiece and more than the sum of its parts. It’s vulnerable, and it’s an incredible contrast to his earlier works such as Rodeo where he was an up-and-coming, certainly not a God . This song is a proclamation of his position at the top, but unlike G.O.O.D. mentor Kanye’s affirmation that he is a God, Travis reminds himself to be humble in the wake of his super-stardom. It’s the centerpiece of Travis’ first project that sees him in a position of such influence and power in hip-hop, and it’s a fat middle finger to anyone who doubted his ability to create poignant deep cuts after the reception to Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho. This song is cinematic, sounding more like composition from a soundtrack or score to an epic film than a cut from a trap album.

NO BYSTANDERS

If “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD” was the ballad of this album, this is the banger. Underrated? Maybe. “SICKO MODE” is more popular after all, but this song is an true Travis rager refined to a tee. It begins with a serene subtlety, with the crooning of Juice WRLD melodic voice lulling listeners, only to have La Flame light the stage on fire, screaming “SPENT 10 HOURS ON THIS FLIGHT MAN!". The production boasts Travis chanting like the crowd at a Rockets game and a serpentine-like baseline blowing your speaker. Another new kid on the block, the prodigal Sheck Wes, contributes the highlight of this track: the unforgivingly simple, repetitive, and absolutely throttling “FUCK THE CLUB UP (BITCH!!!)”. The energy on this track is unmatched anywhere else at ASTROWORLD, as the rock is tossed back and forth between the aggressive hook and the most impressive flows from Travis on the album, as he rhymes with unrelenting urgency and panic. This track is a testament to the sound that ascended Travis beyond his peers. It’s the sound of crowd surfing, jumping from the nosebleeds, rowdy tour buses and throwing up outside the venue. It’s a song that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and a reminder - especially after the previous track - we are still here to rage.

SKELETONS

After the shot of adrenaline that was “NO BYSTANDERS”, "“SKELETONS” is a necessary palate cleanser. This song is an driven by the dream-pop production of the legendary Kevin Parker, otherwise known as Tame Impala. Therefore, it is no surprise this track is incredibly complex with the amount of layers swirling together to create an experience which imitates floating through the clouds in a sunset, drifting through the sky weightless and free, unrestricted from the confines of the rest of ASTROWORLD. The chemistry is incredible between Parker and Scott, both artists who have wielded major influence on their respective genres in a way that has bridged the gap between them. It makes sense why many in the hip-hop community identify with or actively listen to Tame Impala projects as well. These artists are ahead of their time, and the sound present here cannot be shoehorned into one corner, but rather is a myriad of colors sailing over a canvas. The subtle vocal contributions of The Weeknd and Pharrell Williams complete the all-star lineup, and like any fantastic movie, every time you revisit this track you’ll notice something wonderful you missed before.

WAKE UP

The electric guitar riffs of Rodeo have been replaced by acoustic strings on ASTROWORLD. This track is comfort food: A smooth R&B track with a low-key beat allowing the Weeknd’s natural falsetto complementing Travis’ gravelly vocals - until, of course, that incredibly satisfying high-pitched permutation of La Flame takes over the chorus, affirming T-Pain’s infamous proclamation that Travis is the best to have ever done auto-tune. This is a love song, but this is Travis’ amusement park, so of course it’s fitting the lyrics of the chorus describe thee “pussy so good/And her pussy so sweet”.

5% TINT

Every great amusement park has a haunted house, and this utterly spooky track is just that. “Who’s that creeping through my window?” is the perfect hook for this track, as the booming and snarling bass line accompanied by the spooky piano keys echoing throughout this track is absolutely captivating and unsettling, with the sounds of creatures growling in the background reminding listeners they really don’t know what’s lurking in the dark. Travis sounds like the Crypt Keeper, his vocals noticeably distant on this track as he narrates your nightmare through this ghastly attraction. Only the worthy are permitted to peer into the lair of rap’s fire breathing super-star. The floor boards beneath you creek as you tiptoe through the cobwebs and around pitch black corners, always kept on edge about what is to come next…

NC-17

“Me and my bitch I swear we like the same sex/Fuck with all my chains on, let’s have chain-sex”. ASTROWORLD isn’t just for the kids. There’s an attraction here for adults. It’s a place of excess and sex, distant from the roller coasters and carousels. ASTROWORLD in its entirety removed from the outside world. Everything here is darker, grander, and inspired by the hyperbole of ordinary life. Whereas your typical night shows on the Vegas strip would be a burlesque or exotic striptease, ASTROWORLD raises the bar and allows visitors to enter a world of taboo sex and indulgences in sexual deviance. The jingling chimes complemented by the eerie, whisper-like vocals of Travis paint a picture of smoky rooms, neon lights, shining poles and private rooms furnished with red velvet and black leather. Oh yeah, and legendary lyrics from 21 Savage: “nutter on her face/Her new nickname Baby Face”. The addition of the infamous “murder rap” star lends to the unrated aesthetic of this song. This is the VHS tape they lock in the back stock of the store.

ASTROTHUNDER

This is an intermission. This is an interlude to the album and a break during your visit to ASTROWORLD. It’s standing in line for a concession, disoriented by the series of fantastic events that have transpired since you entered this incredible place. You’re still riding the high, quietly pondering your own existence and how your life moving forward cannot and will not be the same. The colors are still shifting, the walls are still moving, and the flashing lights are still raining down from the stars above. You look up to see comets streaking across the galactic night sky. To make things weirder, this was written by John Mayer. Trippy.

YOSEMITE

This is an absolutely beautiful song. Like the park it is named after, the views here are scenic. The guitar and production as a whole are breezy and flow just as freely as the cadence of Travis, Gunna, and NAV. Listening to this track transports visitors of ASTROWORLD to a peak overlooking the park and the surrounding landscape, as you feel on top of the world. Nothing can stop you at ASTROWORLD (“I feel like I’m chosen/I’m covered in gold”). The Yosemite National Park is a thing of awe and beauty, and the inspiration present in nature and the grand feelings of conquering mountains and traversing valleys is conveyed here.

CAN’T SAY

The winding flow and laid-back, chilled sounds of “YOSEMITE” continue. This track flows freely and is not abrasive or rigid, but the airy and hypnotic beat is punctuated by thumping bass, and Travis initiates the track with absolute swagger. His vocals enter low and deep, proceeding to slowly climb higher and higher into the chorus, where his cadence drips with a dramatic level of swagger and confidence, as if he is a preacher leading the gospel in a church of sinners. Then comes in Dan Tolliver, a (now) upcoming star, whose voice is absolutely, incredibly unique and complements the production on this track perfectly. For a track about pulling women and doing drugs, the production, flow of both artists, and their vocal pitches makes the content matter seem more inspiring than what is truly being said.

“Gang too wavy move like Navy SEALs””. Legendary.

WHO? WHAT!

This track is just classic and hard as hell. It’s thumping bass, an infectious hook, an ad-libs galore. After the acid trip of the previous three tracks, this song is a refined Huncho Jack collaboration, with a beat that is distinctive enough to separate itself from the pack but familiar enough to lend itself to fans of trap music. It’s nothing particularly inventive, and frankly a kiddy-coaster in comparison to tracks like “SICKO MODE” and “NO BYSTANDERS”, but it’s comfort food: It’s the bread and butter of Travis. The Migos are utilized effectively. After the drawn out, overly long project that was Culture II, they are on this track long enough to have a noticeable impact without becoming a tiring snooze. This isn’t an attraction you come to ASTROWORLD for, but it’s something you can ride while you wait for the lines in other rides to die down a bit.

BUTTERFLY EFFECT

Similar to “WHO? WHAT?” this song is the established mood of La Flame, especially in the mainstream. Even if you had never heard of ASTROWORLD before and have no intention on visiting, you have probably heard this. It’s like seeing a commercial: You’re getting the abbreviated, watered-down peek of the full experience. The trippy, airy, wavy aesthetic of ASTROWORLD is still present here and accompanied by a catchy chorus and sing-a-long verses (the flow remains consistent and accessible throughout) that the whole family can enjoy.

Also, it literally isn’t explicit. This song was manufactured to be a hit. Similar to a corn dog at a concession stand, you always know what you’re gonna get when you eat this. You just probably won’t be blown away, ever.

HOUSTONFORNICATION

As your trip to ASTROWORLD nears an end, it’s fitting to have one last hoo-rah. This song is like revisiting that one awesome thrill ride from earlier in a quick attempt to squeeze as much fun out of this place as possible before you have to leave. This song oozes confidence and high energy. It’s a track that sees Travis with his head held high. It’s the satisfaction of a hard day’s work. After all, you did it! You survived ASTROWORLD, so who can really fuck with you now? “I might need some ventilation/A little vacation/Houstonfornication”. You, like Travis, recognize you are the absolute shit, capable of enduring thrill rides, haunted houses, and a dizzying array of creature features - and you’re badder for it on the other side. Sometimes it’s okay to leave humility at the door and acknowledge that you’ve been popping off, and this song flexes those muscles with no apology.

COFFEE BEAN

The sun is rising. You find yourself in the parking lot once more, dragging your feet and hanging your head in utter exhaustion from the night spent at ASTROWORLD. The park fades away behind you in an eerie haze as you stroll back to reality. You fumble around for your keys in your pocket. You unlock the car, put your key in the ignition, hands on the wheel, and look out your windshield to the orange horizon ahead as the sun peaks out over the hills. The credits roll.

This track is unlike anything else on the album. It’s subtle and beautiful in its minimalism. It’s a stream of consciousness. It’s an attempt to organize the life you’re returning to and the road ahead. It’s existential contemplation. It’s an overwhelming array of sobering thoughts in the midst of the fame, the successes, the women the money and the drugs, in everything places like ASTROWORLD offers in abundance. It’s sitting in a small coffee shop in the corner on a rainy day, looking out the window at souls passing by on the sidewalk. This song is the epilogue of this epic adventure, and its the scribbling of Travis in his own diary at the end of the day. It’s the sweetest hangover ever.

I wish I could visit ASTROWORLD for the first time again.

Bold Stars: 5 incredible, beautiful, successful and highly influential solo Travis Scott projects out of 5